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"Off The Post: Inching Closer to the Future"
Long Island, NY • United States • 25 Years Old • Male
We're 21 games into what has been a very up and down youth movement. This team started off with a 1-1 start, losing a close battle to the New Jersey Devils for a season opener, then winning their first home game of the season against the Blues, before being dismantled by the Buffalo Sabres a few days later. Fans got to see their beloved Isles at the bottom of the standings as the worst team in the league...but after 21 games some may have reason to believe this team might somehow squander into the playoffs.

Whether or not that's a reasonable thought will more or less be determined over the next 20 games.

Currently the Isles sit 10th in the Eastern Conference just one game below .500 and only four points out of the final playoff spot. With that being said, let's take a look at player production thus far:

Doug Weight: Who honestly expected this guy to be a point per game player at this stage of his career? I thought the Isles would sign him over the summer and that he'd be a good guy to have around for a youth movement, but leading the way in points? Will he get 82? I doubt it, but the fact that he's been this consistent and leads the way for the forwards says a ton and deserves a lot of respect. Hopefully he can keep it up for the long-haul.

Bill Guerin and Trent Hunter: I put these guys together because their stats are identical. Eight goals and seven assists for fifteen points. Last year our captain only potted 23 goals but is on pace to score 30+...although they might not be the most flashy pair, you can bet that playing with Weight has led to these results on the ice. Hunter seemed to have lost a little bit of his scoring flair last year but has become one of the more reliable skaters as he's always crashing the net looking for loose pucks, and his shot is just uncanny when it's on net.

Mark Streit: Let's just thank the Canadiens for letting this guy go. He has been our best defenseman from the start of the season and is a breath of fresh air after having Marc-Andre Bergeron lead to one-to-many odd-man rushes and shorthanded goals. This guy has a canon from the blue-line and has been very responsible in his own end. And yeah, he's fourth on the team in points with 14.

But now more importantly as to what I want to focus on, let's look at the kids:

Frans Nielsen: We all know he's hurt at least for two months and I can't say how disappointed I am about that. Not only do I hate seeing players get hurt, but Frans seemed as if he was starting to come into his own as he leads the young guys with nine points in 15 games. I seriously hope that it will not take long for him to pick up where he left off when he returns.

Sean Bergenheim: He gives an honest, hard working effort every night and at times shows flashes of brilliance with his stick...but overall it seems as if he hasn't upped his game to the next level. Last year he didn't really do that until the final 10-15 games of the season so that may be the case this year as well. With that being said, he is still a very physical and hard-working player that opens up the ice for his teammates. He also leads the team in PIMs with 35. For a guy that doesn't fight he needs to be much more disciplined.

Kyle Okposo: I would not go as far as saying that he's been a non-factor, but his production has been a bit of a concern for many. Last year, in nine games he put up 5 points. This year he has the same numbers but it's taken him twice as long in 18 games. Despite his slow start, he still is finding ways to generate scoring chances. What he needs is a two-goal game or a goal in two consecutive games so his confidence continues to rise. He seems to raise his game when he scores but lowers it when he doesn't. I can see him ending up like Bergenheim last year: a bit of a slow season before turning it up at the very end. This is why I am not too worried about his progress. He's only twenty years old in his first full NHL season. I said that the so-called "experts" were a little too generous when saying he had a shot at the Calder. He has the potential to be our next power-forward star, but it will not happen overnight, and probably not even this season.

Chris Campoli: After missing a chunk of playing time due to injury, Campoli has fit in nicely on the blue-line and has modestly contributed offensively with five points. It didn't take long to get him going and now that he's in good health I expect to see more from him over the rest of the season. How good does he look paired with Streit on the power play? That could turn into a lethal combination over the next few years.

Bruno Gervais: He works hard but frustrates me. He only has five points in 21 games and is a -10. I really didn't understand why Snow gave him a four year deal over the summer as opposed to one or two. The kid does have potential but he seems very reserved in the way he plays. In Bridgeport during the 2005-06 season, Gervais tallied 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points. Understand now why I am frustrated? He really needs to make that offensive transition to the NHL in order for him to refine his overall game.

Josh Bailey: I have to say that I am very impressed with this kid. Straight from the draft and he has created several scoring chances for himself and his teammates on a nightly basis. After only three games played, Gordon called him out as a our second most-talented center in the lineup. Although he only has three points in his seven games played, he hasn't seemed out of place on many of his shifts. He's even gotten significant power play time on the top unit. I really hope he stays for the remainder of the season. He's shown that he belongs to play with the big boys and if given the chance I really think he might develop quicker than some of the other guys who have been here longer than him. He seems to also have the ability to make those better around him which is another reason why the Isles should seriously considering holding off a demotion.

Jeff Tambellini:...where do I begin. He's got speed. He's got hands. He did get ice time. What doesn't he have? Points. He only has 2 in 19 games. Just two. If he didn't score 76 points in 57 games for the Sound Tigers last year, no one would care that much...but this team traded for him because they thought they were getting a future star. For Tambs the future is now. If he doesn't turn his game around by mid-season I would be very surprised to see him stick around for the full 82. It's not even like he's making a lot happen on the ice. At times I almost forget he's out there because he truly doesn't do much at all. I know these may be harsh words, but he's the rotten egg in this youth movement thus far. Just because they're young doesn't mean they have to stay, and that has reflected in the minutes he gets every game. It's really up to him.

As a whole, Snow's youth movement has been moving along nicely. The young guys are gaining experience with a good core of vets that are contributing on their end as well. Plus the team collectively seems to be playing Gordon's overspeed system much better than they were in the first 10 games or so.

We don't have a superstar, but we knew that wasn't going to be the case this year. When a team rebuilds it can take years for the "future" players to turn into what impatient fans want for the present. If they continue to play as well as they have through Gordon's system over the past few weeks we should only start to see better results.

-Rob McGowan
Filed Under:   NHL   Islanders   Okposo   Bailey   Weight   Guerin   Bergenheim  
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