Friday, October 26, 2007

Back to the grind

*The Islanders take on the Hurricanes Saturday for just their third game in two weeks. They will then get back to the rigors of an NHL schedule, though they don't leave the Metro Area until mid-November.

*Following a pair of wins in which the powerplay went 5-for-11, the Isles now rank first in the league in that department (27%). Their penalty killing unit has also been phenomenal and is ranked third in the league (91%).

*The down side to that is nearly the entire team has a minus rating. Sean Bergenheim is the lone exception (+/-E). The worst? Andy Hilbert with a -4.

*Bryan Berard will sit for the next few weeks with a groin injury. Marc Andre Bergeron will presumably take his spot as the powerplay quarterback. Bergeron, who had been a healthy scratch the last three games, is a safe fantasy pick-up right now since he will be relied on in Berard's absence. Despite his -3 rating, Bergeron has three points (1-2=3) in five games.


Rick DiPietro has won two straight while allowing five goals on 57 shots for a .912 S%. Overall, DP is 5-2 with a 2.27 GAA and .914 S%.

Bill Guerin (4-6=10,-1) has finally broken his scoring drought after failing to score a goal in his first six games as an Islander. He had a hat trick Thursday in Washington and followed that with a dramatic overtime winner against the Devils. Guerin has proven to be a streaky contributor in the early-going. He had five assists in his first two games, one assist in his next four, and then four goals in the next two. Half of Guerin's points have come on the powerplay.

Mike Comrie (5-5=10,-3), like his (former) linemate, has also been streaky. He followed his six-point outburst in the opening two games with just one assist in his next four. In his last two games, Comrie has contributed a goal and two assists. Half of Comrie's points have also come on the powerplay.

Miroslav Satan (1-4=5) turned it on the last two games with four points (1-3=4). This after going six games with just one assist. Satan may be available in your league if there are any impatient GMs. Despite the slow start, he is always good for at least 55 points.

Josef Vasicek (3-1=4) has points in three straight games, including a pair of goals (one shorthanded).

Chris Campoli (2-5=7) has five assists, including four on the powerplay, in his last two games.


Ruslan Fedotenko (2-5=7) has just two points (1-1=2) in his last six games after opening the season with five (1-4=5) in his first two. Three of Fedotenko's points have come on the powerplay.

Mike Sillinger (0-2=2) has not been able to get it going so far this season. Granted, he failed to muster a point in his first four games as an Islander last year and went on to score 59 points. The only concern is Sillinger is averaging just a shot a game, half of his average. But the points will come as soon as his line starts clicking.

Trent Hunter (1-1=2) has gone six games without a point after tallying a point in each of his first two games. He ranks second on the team with 22 shots so the points will eventually come.

Chris Simon (0-0=0) has averaged just over five minutes of ice time in the three games since his return.

Projected lines:
Extra: Bootland

Extra: Johnson

PP1: Satan-Bergeron-Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin
PP2: Gervais-Campoli-Hunter-Sillinger-Satan

On the mend:
*D Bryan Berard (groin) will miss two-to-four weeks.
*F Shawn Bates (groin/hernia) has resumed skating and is expected to return soon.
*F Jon Sim (knee) is out for the season.

Upcoming schedule:
Sat. 10/27 vs. Carolina
Thu. 11/1 vs. Tampa Bay
Sat. 11/3 vs. Pittsburgh
Tue. 11/6 vs. Rangers
Sat. 11/10 vs. New Jersey

Direct questions and comments to

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Floundering Isles shuffle the deck

*After opening the season with a home-and-home sweep of the Sabres, the Isles have now lost three of their last four, a span in which they have managed to score just five times.

*Wade Dubielewicz was shelled by the Maple Leafs Wednesday, allowing all eight goals in an 8-1 blowout. The first-year full-time backup received little help from the Isles defensemen, but certainly didn't do anything to rectify the situation. Regardless, he shouldn't have been left in the net for that long. Don't expect Dubie back in goal for the foreseeable future.

*Bad news for fantasy players who were counting on a strong performance in the early-going from Marc-Andre Bergeron. Bergeron was scratched in the Philly game and recent signee Bryan Berard took his place in a pairing with Andy Sutton. Bergeron has been a disaster in his own end this year. But, he's not known for his defense (in fact he is known for his poor defensive ability) and can certainly be useful as a PP specialist. However, dressing seven defensemen causes a short bench for the forward units and confusion ensues.

*Jeff Tambellini had his fleeting opportunity on the second line, but was quickly demoted. Sean Bergenheim was then promoted to his spot, and has filled in nicely.

*Chris Simon returned to game action against the Flyers and picked up where he left off, dropping the gloves with Riley Cote. Simon can be a rewarding pickup in a league that credits PIMs. He's also proven to occasionally chip in on the offense.

*In an effort to jump-start the offense, Ted Nolan has broken up the top line for the first time since camp broke. Bill Guerin will be swapped with Trent Hunter, who has just two points (1-1=2,-3) in six games. Nolan's logic here is questionable. Besides breaking up the only line that gave the Isles any hope so far this season, he is also disassembling the most consistent line from last season. Time will tell if his instincts are warranted.

*The player who really needs to step it up is Miroslav Satan (0-1=1,-3), whose line is the only one that won't be altered for Thursday's game. The Bergenheim-Vasicek-Satan unit was clearly the best the team had to offer in Philly Saturday. Josef Vasicek scored the loan goal that night.

*Shawn Bates is rumored to be making his season debut Thursday. If so, expect Darryl Bootland to be scratched or demoted and a fourth line of Simon-Park-Bates.

Projected lines:

Extra: Bootland

Extras: Bergeron, Johnson

PP1: Berard-Satan-Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin
PP2: Gervais-Campoli-Hunter-Sillinger-Satan

On the mend:
*F Shawn Bates (groin/hernia) has resumed skating and is expected to return soon.
*F Jon Sim (knee) is out for the season.

Upcoming schedule:
Thu. 10/18 @ Washington
Sat. 10/20 vs. New Jersey
Sat. 10/27 vs. Carolina
Thu. 11/1 vs. Tampa Bay
Sat. 11/3 vs. Pittsburgh

Direct questions and comments to

Thursday, October 11, 2007

3-1 Isles march on up to T.O.

Save for the Olaf Kolzig show on Monday afternoon, in which the Isles out-shot Washington 31-12 but managed to lose, 2-1, the Isles season has been a success in the early-going. The top line carried the team in the home-and-home series with Buffalo, but has since cooled off. The defense led the offense against the Rangers Wednesday with powerplay goals from Bryan Berard and Marc-Andre Bergeron. But, if not for Rick DiPietro, the team would be at .500. DP bailed out his defensemen time and time again while accumulating 36 saves on 37 Ranger shots.

No surprise here, but Freddy Meyer was finally waived and subsequently picked up by Phoenix. If he gets some powerplay time in the desert, which is likely, Meyer can be a key contributor from the blueline. Personally, I would wait to pick him up to make sure he is indeed getting PP time. If your league penalizes poor +/- ratings, Meyer may not be the best addition since Phoenix is expected to struggle on both ends this season.

Unfortunately, Meyer never got his game together for the Isles. Last season, he played with a broken finger, but that was no excuse for his frequent defensive lapses. Perhaps being traded for Alexei Zhitnik put a lot of pressure on him and he just tried too hard. Regardless, Garth Snow made the right decision and it paid immediate dividends as Bryan Berard scored the game winning goal in his first game.

Speaking of Berard, he should now be available in your fantasy league since he played his first regulation game of the season. He played just over eight minutes Wednesday night, including 5:43 on the powerplay. In time, Berard will likely take a chunk of Bergeron's even strength minutes.

The Isles will undoubtedly miss the hard work and all-out play of Jon Sim, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, but the reunited line of Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter is picking up where it left off last season. The trio can cycle with the best of them, and is capable of keeping the puck deep in the offensive zone for significant periods of time. It’s only a matter of time before they put the puck in the net.

The Sim injury will also force Ted Nolan to utilize Jeff Tambellini on a long-term basis. Hopefully for all involved, Tambellini is given ample time on a scoring line and proves his worth. The youngster hustles and drew two Ranger penalties Wednesday night.

Nolan’s bench follies

Since Nolan opted to dress seven defensemen against the Rangers, Darryl Bootland was scratched and the lines were tinkered with the exception of the Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin and Hilbert-Sillinger-Hunter units. Nolan will use the same lineup tonight in Toronto, so expect more of the same.

Does Nolan plan on playing Bergenheim this little all season? He's arguably the most consistent hitter on the team, yet he sits all but four short shifts (2:35) vs. the Rangers. Meanwhile, despite all that happened in the preseason with the Blueshirts, Nolan sits his only full-time enforcer, the aforementioned Bootland. True, many players on this team will drop the mittens if the situation calls for it, but the Isles can't afford to have Bill Guerin and Brendan Witt sitting in the penalty box.

Marc Andre Bergeron was on the ice for 22:14 against the Rangers, including over 15 minutes of even strength, nearly twice the amount of Bruno Gervais and Chris Campoli. Included in these 15 minutes was a terrible defensive play on Brendan Shanahan. Not only did Bergeron miss his initial check, he floated away and watched as Shanahan was able to unload another couple of shots. Despite all of this, he played over a minute on the penalty kill as well.

If Bergeron doesn't learn to pick his spots to carry the puck up the ice, he could, and should, find himself as strictly a PP specialist. On one play against the Rangers, he attempted to beat just about the entire Rangers squad, all hanging back in the neutral zone. The end result was a 2-on-1 for the Blueshirts, and luckily for Bergeron and the Isles, a timely save from DiPietro.

And not for nothing, but the top scoring line and least defensive defenseman (Bergeron) should not be on the ice in the final minute to hold a one-goal lead.

On the topic of last-minute personnel, what was Andy Hilbert doing on the ice when the Isles were in dire need of a goal late in the game vs. Washington? (Besides flubbing yet another golden opportunity.)

Wake up, Nolan!

A sampling of the lines used vs. the Rangers:
(* denotes permanent unit)


Bergeron and Berard spent some time paired with Bruno Gervais.

PP1: Berard-Bergeron-Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin
PP2: Gervais-Campoli-Hunter-Sillinger-Satan
Nolan also utilized Berard and Satan on the point.

On the mend:
F Jon Sim (knee) will likely undergo season-ending surgery. He hurt his knee while forechecking as he slipped on bad Coliseum ice Saturday night.
F Chris Simon (suspension) will have served the remainder of his suspension following tonight's game in Toronto. Expect Simon in the lineup Saturday in Philadelphia.

Upcoming schedule:
Thu. 10/11 @ Toronto
Sat. 10/13 @ Philly
Thu. 10/18 @ Washington
Sat. 10/20 vs. New Jersey
Sat. 10/27 vs. Carolina

Direct questions and comments to

Sunday, October 7, 2007

What a weekend!

Needless to say, a spectacular way to start the season--a home-and-home sweep of the Sabres.

I will have a full fantasy update following Wednesday's matchup with the Blueshirts, but for now, here are a few notes:

*The Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin line is on fire. While Mike Comrie (4-2=6) and Bill Guerin (0-5=5) were likely drafted in your league, Ruslan Fedotenko (1-4=5) is a safe waiver pick-up. The trio lead the team with +3 ratings.

*Gerard Gallant has experimented with a number of PP combinations, among them:

*Despite providing energy and hard hitting, Sean Bergenheim played just 3:11 Saturday. Ted Nolan has got to find a way to utilize him more than that. He had an assist in just 7:18 the night before.

*Jon Sim sprained his knee when he missed a hit on his signature all-out forecheck. He will be re-evaluated before Monday's game. If Bryan Berard is signed by then, look for the Isles to dress seven defensemen. Otherwise, Jeff Tambellini or Blake Comeau could get their first shot of the regular season.

*With the Sim injury, Nolan put Andy Hilbert back on the Sillinger-Hunter unit and Richard Park skated with Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek. Neither line missed a beat.

*Freddy Meyer has been waived, opening a spot for the signing of Berard, though nothing has been announced yet. If he's available, you might want to grab him before word gets out.

*With two PPG in two games, Chris Campoli is making a strong case to assume his spot on the top PP unit. He has looked strong in both ends of the ice, and leads Isles defensemen with a +2 rating. His well-timed pinches have resulted in hits and offensive opportunities. Campoli could be a solid fantasy pick-up, but if Berard takes his spot on the top PP unit, his production will falter. Obviously, don't expect him to maintain this goal-a-game pace regardless.

*Garth Snow followed up his signing of Radek Martinek by extending Richard Park's contract two more years. Another good decision by Snow. Park provides much more than he is often given credit for, including stellar PK play and versatility.

Friday, October 5, 2007

An unnecessary question mark

What are the Isles waiting for with Bryan Berard? Sign this guy!

If Garth Snow thinks he's going to get anything for Freddy Meyer right now, he's dead wrong. What GM in his right mind would trade for a guy he could pluck off the waiver wire in a few days?

Solution: Waive one of Aaron Johnson or Meyer, regardless of how they played in camp. This team needs a PP QB at any cost--and Freddy Meyer isn't exactly a steep price to pay.

This waiting game is only hurting the team. Brendan Witt said so himself.

"We're trying to get ready for the season and trying not to let it be a distraction for the guys that are still uncertain," Witt said. "It's a lot of pressure for those guys. It's sort of like a mini-training camp for them still to win that job. It becomes very competitive."

Would it really be a big loss to lose Meyer on waivers? Snow and Ted Nolan should be more concerned with fielding the best team from the get-go than holding on to a depth defenseman.

Meanwhile, Snow signed Radek Martinek to a 3-year contract extension. Great news for both the Isles and Martinek as long as he can stay healthy this season and beyond.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lineup set: The Hilbert/Tambellini debate; 2008 projections

Well, the roster is set. I'm guessing everyone has seen it, but if you haven't, see the bottom of this post.

For the second season in a row, Andy Hilbert finds himself on a scoring line ahead of the much more deserving Jeff Tambellini. Last year, Hilbert started the season on the top line, ate up a lot of minutes playing with Alexei Yashin, Miroslav Satan, Mike Sillinger, Viktor Kozlov, etc. (the top scorers on the team), and took 22 games to notch his first point--an assist.

Granted, Hilbert is a hard-working player (though he sometimes misses his check), but he just doesn't have the talent to warrant second-line minutes, especially when the team is looking for offensive production from all four lines.

According to Ted Nolan, this is about putting a defensive guy on a line with two offensive-types in Satan and Josef Vasicek. If this is so, why not put Bergenheim or Park up there? True, Park is not a second line player, and he doesn't pretend to be, but he's certainly a better defensive player than Hilbert. Bergenheim has some offensive upside and hits everything in site. He's also terrific in his own end. If defense is what the Isles are going for, that's the kind of guy to put with two soft/offensive types.

But Tambellini is the man for the job. He can forecheck with the best of them and in his 23 games last year, he created chances on just about every one of his rare shifts. That's no small feat considering he averaged just over seven minutes a game on a line with Aaron Asham and Richard Park.

The guy has paid his dues in the minors, has done all he can do down there (30 goals and 29 assists in 50 games last season), and has had nothing negative to say about playing a fourth line/press box role. Now he finds himself back in the minors in favor of Andy Hilbert... again. Something is wrong here.

If they want to put Hilbert on the fourth line, that's fine. But they can’t get carried away with rewarding "Nolan players." You have to draw a line somewhere between hard work and consistent production. Tambellini provides both, while Hilbert provides fourth line energy and, at best, decent two-way play.

When the decision to demote Tambellini was made, it may have been the product of a maxed out lineup. Darryl Bootland is holding the enforcer's role until Chris Simon returns from suspension. Simon, meanwhile, takes up a spot. The team is carrying eight defensemen while Garth Snow presumably attempts to work out a deal in order to make room for the still-unsigned Bryan Berard. It all adds up to 23 players on the roster.

Speaking of Berard, his future with the team is a growing concern with each passing hour. There are other teams that want him and he is still an unrestricted free agent, but he has emphasized that he would like to sign on with the Isles. Regardless of his desire, it comes down to wanting to play and if the Isles can't provide that before the season starts, there's no reason for him to stick it out.

Perhaps when Simon replaces Bootland in the lineup and Bootland is demoted, Tambellini will be recalled, but don't hold your breath. If he's back, based on his history on Long Island, he likely won't be put in any position to succeed. Hell, he'll end up on a line with Andy Hilbert.

On a positive note, the top line of Fedotenko-Comrie-Guerin has shown a lot throughout camp and preseason and will only get better in time.

The Slovakian combo of Vasicek-Satan also looks solid. Both players have much to prove and are in the final years of their contracts. Satan should have a productive season and his country mate will only help him. Vasicek looked strong throughout the preseason, oftentimes out muscling defensemen to create his own opportunities.

Adding Jon Sim to the Sillinger-Hunter combo will make that line a more dangerous threat in the offensive zone, not to mention a stronger checking unit.

And although Bergenheim is beginning the season on the fourth line, he will likely move up through the lineup as he proves himself to the coaching staff. He won't (or shouldn't) be stuck on the fourth line for long.

The Isles decision to fill Simon's spot with fellow enforcer Darryl Bootland is a bold move and shows the team’s desire to stand up to the toughest of them--starting with Andrew Peters in Buffalo, Donald Brashear in Washington, and the numerous participants in the Blueshirt circus. But don't count on Ryan Hollweg to engage in an honorable battle. Mr. Snow has assembled a nice crop of tough guys at Bridgeport as he continues to make his top-to-bottom mark on the team.

On the blueline, the Isles have some familiar pairings. Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek played well together last season. The combo provides a good balance as Witt brings toughness and shot-blocking while Martinek hones a good transition game/breakout pass combined with solid defensive play. Andy Sutton will provide his share of booming body checks and protection for Rick DiPietro, while partner M.A. Bergeron will supply a few booms of his own with his 100 MPH shot. The youngsters, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais, played together much of last season and will look to continue their development at the NHL level, barring the imminent Bryan Berard signing and a possible trade. More on this as it develops...

Alas, here are my projections for the season:

Mike Comrie 34-43=77
Bill Guerin 29-45=74
Miroslav Satan 30-30=60
Mike Sillinger 21-25=46
Josef Vasicek 20-23=43
Trent Hunter 16-15=31
Ruslan Fedotenko 17-14=31
Jon Sim 16-14=30
*Chris Simon 11-18=29
Richard Park 9-14=23
*Jeff Tambellini 12-10=22
Sean Bergenheim 11-10=21
Andy Hilbert 4-16=20

*Bryan Berard 7-40=47
M.A. Bergeron 16-23=39
Radek Martinek 3-22=25
Andy Sutton 3-16=19
Bruno Gervais 3-14=17
Chris Campoli 4-12=16
Brendan Witt 0-11=11

Team total =266 goals

* Currently not in the lineup

Off topic, but here are my predictions for the NHL season:

Tampa Bay
New Jersey
NY Rangers
NY Islanders

San Jose
St. Louis
Los Angeles

Eastern Champs: Pittsburgh
Western Champs: Colorado
Stanley Cup Champs: Colorado

Hart: Roberto Luongo
Vezina: Roberto Luongo
Art Ross: Sidney Crosby
Richard: Sidney Crosby
Norris: Wade Redden
Calder: Jonathan Toews
Jack Adams: Ted Nolan

NYI current roster and line combinations
Extras: Simon (suspended), Bates (IR)

Extras: Meyer, Johnson (healthy scratches), Berard is expected to sign.


Comment away—debates welcome. Email me at for fantasy advice or just to talk Islanders hockey. Don’t forget to vote on the polls.