So the Islanders have not gained a point on this second leg of their first real road trip of the season. Tonight the Islanders and John Tavares make an appearance in Toronto. And of course, the media is going to have all their attention on JT’s first return to his home on ice.
Hopefully Tavs will put on such a good show that Brian Burke will want to find Garth Snow and start a fight in one of their press boxes for not trading away our first overall pick.
We will also be getting to witness a not-as-exciting match-up of Luke Schenn and Josh Bailey. The Islanders passed up on Schenn for Bailey, which so far hasn’t proven the Islanders mistaken in doing so, but there is still plenty of time to see how this will pan out. Personally, I am happy with Josh Bailey and Calvin de Haan will hopefully become a top-four defenseman for us, but only time will tell.
Speaking of what “time” will tell, I think there a few players on this current roster that need to prove their worth with the remaining ¾ of the season.
So far he has not been nearly as productive as the coaching staff and fans would like with only two goals, four assists, and six points in 23 games played. Sean is not 19, 20, or 21. He’s 25, turning 26 in February. He has been fighting for a spot with the Islanders since 2003-04. The kid has lots of talent and a very strong work ethic that cannot go unnoticed. He hustles his tail off in the corners and is not afraid of being physical either, but he has been struggling to find the net. To me it just seems that he does not shoot enough, and that’s a shame, because when he starts scoring goals he usually goes on a streak for some time. I am not saying that the Islanders should necessarily give up on him. Some players take a very long time to come into their own, but at the same time, Sean may only be a third-line forward at best. If the Islanders can make peace with that then maybe we will see him stay. The remainder of the season will probably determine his future with the club.
Since Gordon has taken over behind the bench, Comeau has seen himself down in Bridgeport and in the press-box numerous times. His attitude has come into question and he has not produced offensive numbers. At the age of 23 he has only put up fourth line numbers between 20-25 points in his past two seasons in a little over 50 games played in each of them. He has very good hockey sense but does not get himself as involved in the play as he should. If he continues to play this way he may only find himself getting fourth line playing time. In fact, that’s where Gordon has had him recently, playing wing on the other sides of Nate Thompson and Tim Jackman. Like Bergenheim, if the Islanders can make peace with Comeau, with him accepting that role, maybe that’s all he will be.
Just when you thought this guy was going to start scoring some goals, he turns invisible again and finds himself out of the line-up. He recently was re-inserted to the roster in the game against St. Louis but was not much of a factor. He is also at the age of 25 and will be 26 by the end of the regular season. Guys like him and Berg are losing their “youth” status and are soon going to be looked at as veterans on this club. If Jeff doesn’t assume the role that he was supposed to have, the Islanders can say that they honestly tried their best with him and move on. He has been given lots of chances to show his worth, and the games in which he has scored, including his hat trick, highlight that he can be a goal scorer in this league. He needs to find consistency.
For the second half of last season, Bruno began showing significant signs of improvement after being paired with Mark Streit. So far this year has not been anything close. In 19 games played he has four assists and is a -4. At times he has been caught out of position and unaware of the opponents’ position in the Isles defending zone. This has led him to missing a few games after Gordon would decide to bench him. A kid like Jack Hillen, who has been playing excellent ever since his season debut, will give the Islanders relief if they try to part ways with Bruno at the end of the year. He has also been playing with the Islanders now since 2005-06 and is 25 years old. However, when Snow started this youth movement he signed Gervais to a four year deal. I am starting to think that he did this in the hopes that by the end of this contract, Bruno will have emerged as the offensive defenseman that he was in Bridgeport. Defenseman do take longer to develop, so maybe Snow will eventually look like a genius. Right now I’m sure many fans are losing their patience like I am and hope to see Gervais take the next step sooner rather than later.
I won’t include Frans Nielsen or Josh Bailey in this cluster of players that need to be watched, even though I’m sure they will have close eyes on them as well. Nielsen missed the start of the season due to injury but has bounced back with 9 points in 17 games played and is a +4. He has great hands and good vision on the ice and is showing the capability of playing as this team’s third-line center. Bailey is the guy the Islanders want to be as their second-line center but has been having a slow start. But keep in mind this is his first actual full season since last year was delayed to injury. And throw in that this is also the typical sophomore slump season that many young players like Bailey go through. Lately he has scored two goals in two games and has 8 points in 22 games played. I expect that he will turn things around by the second half of the season much like Okposo did last year. Kyle had me worrying that the Islanders rushed him before he really started taking charge on the ice after game 41. I am confident that Bailey will do the same.
Although I highlight these four players as the ones that really need to prove something by the end of the year, I am not suggesting that Garth Snow is on the verge of cutting ties with them. What I am saying is that just because this is a youth movement doesn’t mean that just because you’re 25 and under means you should be playing no matter the circumstance. Soon these guys will be too old to be considered kids in the middle of a growing process, if they aren’t already.
And just because I didn't mention Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Jack Hillen doesn't mean I think they have done everything they need to do in order to improve themselves. They still have plenty of maturing to go through and lots to learn on the ice, but so far they have shown the most progress.
But it’s time for them all to show that Snow made the right choice in investing seasons of development and take the next step in producing on the ice.
They can start tonight in Toronto.