Hey, long time, no blog! Back after a hectic few days with some observations and updates that could not fit in the main story from Syosset today:
-- Unless there’s a drastic shift in Jack Capuano’s thinking after Wednesday’s scrimmage, don’t expect lots of changes before opening night. That means the line combos are pretty well set, as are the defense pairs, though the Lubomir Visnovsky fiasco may change the D combos.
So that means it’s Matt Moulson-John Tavares-Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner-Frans Nielsen-Brad Boyes among the top six to start. The Isles don’t have a traditional third line at this point; the David Ullstrom-Casey Cizikas-Colin McDonald line and the Matt Martin-Marty Reasoner-Eric Boulton line are probably interchangeable, to a degree. I don’t see Boulton playing key defensive minutes, so maybe you take four or five of those guys and mix and match depending on situations (defensive-zone draws, etc.).
-- Where does that leave Ryan Strome? Back in Niagara, I believe. There just isn’t enough time to do serious evaluation on him, and reading between the lines of Capuano’s comments already (“It’s a big leap from junior hockey to here”) my feeling is this is just a bad spot for Strome to try and make a push. He won’t get top-six forward minutes with such a short camp, and he can’t prove he will earn such time without real competition.
There’s also the factor of burning a contract year for 48 wobbly rookie games. Some may think “Same old Islanders” on that front, but wait and see how many teams send their top prospects back to juniors after camp. Simply not enough time to take that sort of leap.
-- Monday’s pickup of Joe Finley off waivers from Buffalo is strictly a depth move, and unrelated to the Visnovsky situation. Finley is the second-biggest NHL D-man, at 6-8, 247, and he’s bounced around a bit, so he can fill a spare defenseman role. Ty Wishart was waived to make room for Finley.
-- Amazingly, the starting six on D right now would include Jon Landry, the 29-year-old who defines “journeyman.” He’s a terrific story, having played Div. III hockey at tiny Bowdoin College in Maine, then bounced around in every minor league imaginable: AHL, CHL, ECHL, even the British League, playing for the Braehead Clan.
Now, he’s got a stall next to John Tavares after playing the steady veteran’s role in Bridgeport.
Travis Hamonic told me Landry is as reliable and smart as they come. “He reminds me of Reeser,” Hamonic said of Dylan Reese, the capable veteran who filled a few spots the last three seasons for the Isles and went home to Pittsburgh to play this season.
Landry has been third-pair with Matt Carkner the first two days of camp. If Visnovsky doesn’t report, Landry may get a sweater for Saturday, the culmination of quite an odyssey. I’ll have more on him later in the week.
-- Josh Bailey is walking well, with just a small bandage over his left knee scope from five days ago. If he’s skating by this time next week, he could be ready by the tail end of the Isles’ five-game road trip. Tough spot for Bailey, who finished last season playing his best hockey; he may have to slide into a third- or fourth-line role to start and work his way back up the forward ladder.
-- We’re having a live chat on Wednesday at noon. Come by and hit me with all your questions, complaints, compliments -- we’ll be open for our usual hour and I know you’ve been saving up for this season.