Final Post

I guess when you look at this simply, my career as an Islander blogger will end just as it began one year ago, following a fishing trip. Last year, the excursion was out of Orient Point, east of Plum Island, gunning for stripers. Last week, another Captain brought us back into the Sound, this time well north of Greenwich, Connecticut. We hit a bluefish feeding frenzy which made the one and a half journey out of New Rochelle well worth the hike. The rain fell without remorse as a ravenous bluefish hit my jig one out of every three times it hit the water.

This past year blogging amongst the other founding members of the blog box brought with it too many memories to relive in one post. But I'll hit on a few I hold dear. Like the time in February I went to Hooters on Hempstead turnpike for a drink after a game with fellow bloggers, Tom from the Tiger Track and Mike from Islesblogger, and had to order a glass of red wine from the waitress because I had given up beer for Lent. Red wine at Hooters. I don't know if I can ever repair my reputation in that place.

Then there was the night in the locker room after a game when during a player interview Richard Park's shoulder pads dripped sweat on and ice water on my head. I didn't think anyone noticed my situation, until the following week Ken Rosenblatt from Islander's Outsider remarked "Jim, I wish you could have seen your face when that sweat was dripping on you from Park's pads". I wish I could have too.

As I said, there are countless other stories I could touch on, but the theme remains the same. What really made this experience remarkable for me was the friends I made amongst my fellow founding members of the blog box. The ability to attend many home games and have semi press access will not surpass in fondness the memory of carefree exchanges with my friends in the blog box during game intermissions, over drinks, or at an Islander event.

I am moving on from the New York Islander Blog Box because I do not feel I currently have the time required to do this thing right. This is primarily due to work and personal commitments. Can I watch the games and write a good post at least weekly? Sure. But can I find the time to read all my fellow blogger's posts and comment on their unique and impassioned viewpoints? Sometimes. And sometimes is not good enough. They deserve better, as does the vision of the blog box as a whole. While I love my Islanders, and I love to write, its time to give someone else a shot at this.

To the Islanders, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks. Everyone, from Charles Wang, Garth Snow, Ted Nolan, Chris Botta, and Corey Witt through the Islander players took a very big risk with this thing. They enabled a group of dedicated fans to take the love of their team to the next level and generate greater exposure for the organization. In time, I believe the Islanders will be viewed as having had great vision with the Blog Box. I also believe this little experiment demonstrated their commitment to the first amendment. Never once was I contacted about content or my viewpoints. Never.

As far as my parting thoughts on the team and its future? Pretty simple. One- they are on the right track rebuilding. The '08 draft strategy will take a few years to assess, but good decisions by management through this development period can create a contender in 3-5 years. Two- The jerseys have to go. Return to the royal blue of the mid eighties. I wrote at some length about this back in May- keep it simple and restore seriousness and nostalgia back to this franchise. Finally- they need a new building. Period. If the Lighthouse Project fails, we'll be getting fitted for Hamilton jerseys. New building + new jerseys = new era.

If any of you guys ever want to keep in touch, just drop me a comment and I'll get back to you. I'll keep this open so when anything big happens (Lunqvist ice girl incidents, Isles promote Sillinger to assistant GM, etc.), I can opine. Thank you all for reading and supporting this blog!

As for me, I'll be working, fishing, firing up the 360 for Fallout 3, and keeping up with my favorite Fall pastime of all...

I'll go on being a Potvin loving, blue bleedin' Islander fan.

And they'll bury me that way.

Right Man, Wrong Team

After the Islander home opener in October, I stood with my fellow bloggers in the midst of about a dozen credentialed journalists such as Greg Logan and Dan Martin in a small room near the Islander locker room. A podium stood in the center of the room, and a blue curtain with Islander and Allstate logos hung on the wall behind it. Against a wall to the left, catty corner to the shower stall, electrical wires of various colors lay on the floor.

The chatter amongst the beat writers ceased immediately when a rear door opened. Quietly, Ted Nolan, led by then VP of Media and Communications Chris Botta, approached the podium. Nolan, wearing a dark suit, perhaps navy, stood over six feet tall. He was an imposing figure. There was a moment of silence before Greg Logan approached with his first question. A few minutes later, after a brief silence Botta asked "that it guys?", and then it was all over. Nolan left, taking the same route as he had on the way in. And there ended my first exposure to the man.

One year ago, the thought of attending opening night for the 08-09 season with someone other than Ted Nolan at the helm of the Islanders would have seemed unimaginable. Yet, here we are again. Another Summer, another PR disaster. Another reason for Islander fans to endure abuse from those affiliated with other local hockey clubs.

The Islanders absolutely had to make this work. The organization could ill afford another blow to its reputation. Separating with a very popular and talented coach should never have been an option. Snow and Wang should have addressed their issues with Nolan, while expressing confidence in his ability to coach this team. The magnanimous approach would have been the appropriate one.

While we can fault all parties for missteps, some of the blame placed on Nolan is not justified. You coach what Nolan had in the Spring and see how many times you utter "you have to do the best with the players you have". I bet it would slip from your mouth once or twice. And Nolan played too defensive of a style toward the end? Alternatively, would you preferred to have seen the Isles lose 8-0 at home to the rangers? Would that have been good for youth development and instilling confidence in the likes of Kyle Okposo?

Sure, Nolan didn't fit in with the organization's vision. Either did Neil Smith. Do you sense a pattern?

One opening night, this year, or perhaps next, hockey fans of another team will be watching Ted Nolan's tall frame walk with confidence as he approaches his podium. There might be a few more journalists, or fewer bloggers and less electrical wiring in their room. But there will be a special coach, a player's coach, whose time to shine may have finally arrived.

Goodbye Ted. You'll be missed.

"She got me a Witter"

I am sitting in my living room having recently returned from a full day fishing trip out on the LI Sound. I am sun burnt on the right side of my left forearm, and I have those awful lines on my head from the sunglasses. So if I go to work Monday wearing a long sleeve shirt and sunglasses I'll look perfectly normal.

My buddy nailed two sizable blues, while I simply returned with the joy of knowing "I caught a few bud lights". And fortunately, we returned from a trip during which our sharp toothed predator friends didn't maim any fishermen as they flopped around on deck. So all in all, it was a good day.

The contract extension offered to expert surfer and renowned shark hunter Brendan Witt this week reminds me of a story from Christmas. An Islander Holiday tale. My buddy at work came over to my desk the first business day after Christmas and simply smiled. He said "my girlfriend got me a jersey for Christmas", and then he paused briefly, "she got me a Witter". What better gift can any red blooded Islander fan ask for? Brendan Witt is a monster. His leadership is invaluable. His toughness is unassailable. Some games it seems he takes more pucks off his ankles that DP takes off his leg pads. And fans love him for that.

So thankfully, Snow realized all of this and got us a "Witter" for another 2 years. Two more terrorizing ranger forwards.

Christmas in July.

(Editor's note- I am going to post an entry from earlier in the year about Brendan Witt. I received some nice feedback from it, so I am going to re post it now. The timing is right. Enjoy!)

Top Ten Reasons why people don't mistake me for Brendan Witt

Number 10- It takes Brendan Witt less than 3 weeks to grow visible facial hair

Number 9- If I get sucker punched at work, I don't walk away laughing when my co-worker gets penalized

Number 8- Brendan Witt can call Rick DiPietro's cell phone on a regular basis without having a restraining order issued against him

Number 7- When Brendan Witt gets hit on the ankle with frozen hockey pucks he doesn't scream "Oh, the humanity!" as he lays twitching on the ice

Number 6- When walking outside the Islander locker room, Brendan Witt doesn't hear the equipment manager ask under his breath "who the hell is this guy"?

Number 5- If I come limping home with a black eye and stitches on my forehead my wife doesn't scream "I told you to wear that damn visor!"

Number 4- The thought, "That was a pretty nasty paper cut, looks like a sick day for me tomorrow" has never crossed Brendan Witt's mind

Number 3- Brendan Witt played for the Washington Capitals

Number 2- If I cross checked Sean Avery, I would be arrested (after my lengthy hospital recovery)

And the Number One Reason people don't confuse me for Brendan Witt- I can't tell my wife "I'm going to Ottawa honey, see you in ten days"

A Bailey, with ice please


Like most of you out there in Islander Country, I found myself eagerly reading each of Logan's recent posts which discussed the Islander's myriad options for tonight. What I do not remember reading was a scenario where the Isles would trade down twice and select Josh Bailey. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with it, but I'm just trying to get my thoughts around what happened tonight.

As speculation swirled today I thought back to number 5 in '72. The draft pick, a defenseman, upon whom our dynasty was built. I came into this draft hoping to secure a solid d'man you could QB the powerplay. Contenders are cornered around such individuals. The possibility of trading up to LA's pick and acquiring Bogosian or Doughty intrigued me. However, it was not meant to be.

My initial reaction to Snow's moves was disappointment. A top 5 pick is exciting, and its an opportunity to put people in the seats. It was the silver lining this April. Was this truly, however, an opportunity lost?

If this draft is a strong as they say, then having the 9th , 40th , and possibly 60th pick could yield strong dividends. If nothing else, it shows a commitment on Snow's part to develop a young team into a contender down the road. There have been a few bananas out there that have suggested Snow's moves were Miburyesque. If that were so, we would have picked up McCabe and taken his curse of a contract off the Leafs hands. No.

Snow had a plan, and he executed it. This was not, I believe, an impulsive decision. Snow saw something in this center, and he went for it. And in doing so, he added some picks that can help him fill some of the other holes the Isles have.

Only time will tell if this was a brilliant draft, or an unmitigated disaster.

I am going to have a beer and mull it over. Until then, I stand behind the man who broke his ass preparing for this draft and navigating infinitely complex scenarios to do what he felt was best for this organization. I stand behind Garth Snow.

And in this corner...

I am sitting here on my couch, having recently returned from my vacation, watching the Ultimate Warrior wrestle Bobby the Brain Heenan on MSG classics. The Brain is comically dressed in Andre the Giant like black tights as he unveils a hidden pair of brass knuckles. If he loses, he will be stuffed into a furry weasel outfit. Frankly, I feel this is a terrible mismatch. Poor Brain.

The One Man Gang just lost to Hacksaw Jim Duggan before the Warrior/Heenan match and Lord Alfred Hayes is speculating that Slick's job could be in jeopardy. And we think Baseball managers have it tough?

The Million Dollar Man will take part in tonight's main event. Talk about a guy who has it all. Good head of hair, lots of money, confidence, a Summer home in Hyannis Port, Mass., fancy gold tuxedos. What more could any woman want?

OK, a little hockey. I, along with a few other bloggers from around the NHL predicted the Pens in 6 games in the Cup finals, and perhaps in doing so, showed a lack of appreciation for Detroit's masterful puck possession game. In any event, game 3 is tied nil-nil as I write this. (Never mind, Crosby just scored of a Wing turnover).

Jeff Klein at the Times asked us recently for our thoughts regarding the length of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Finals, for example, have the potential of running 3 Saturday's in length. A schedule clearly attempting to capitalize on ratings. Check out this link for our thoughts.

I'm going to enjoy the rest of game 3 now, of course, only after the weasel suit comes out at MSG.

Worst Fishing Story Ever

You'll forgive a brief non-hockey related entry, as I touch on one of my favorite off-season pastimes. A co-worker recently told me about something she witnessed after work one night last week. It was a terrifying story, one which I could not keep to myself. It's a third person account, but here we go.

My co-worker lives in Bay Ridge and went for a jog one night after work. She noticed a fisherman casting out into the Atlantic, likely looking to hook one of the monster flounder that now qualifies as a "keeper" in the state of New York. (Its up to 21 1/2 inches...good luck with that). Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the fisherman pulling a fish over the wall. As she paused a moment to see what he had landed, it became clear that this was one of those fish with a long skinny tail, pointy mean face, and brown fur. Oh #%*@!!! That's a rat!!!

Well my co-worker (smart girl) absolutely bolted. Before she did, however, she saw this fisherman flip this brown thing on the ground and step on it. It was big and bloated and its wet pointy fur made it look like a porcupine. (She did not stick around long enough to determine if the rat was even alive or not when he came over). Now this fisherman, brave bastard that he is, should probably have a television show lined up. "Furriest Catch", or "World's Scariest Angler".

Now if that had been me, I would have just thrown the whole damn rod into the ocean, rat and all. No cutting the line. No sticking around to think about what just happened. Rat over, me gone. Never to fish in Brooklyn again.

I am going on vacation guys, so I'll catch you next week.

Until then, if you plan on going fishing, be sure to check for the catch limit is for the elusive rat fish... and don't wear your nice sneakers.

An Island Unto Itself

Prior to the second to last home game this season against the Devils, participants of the Blog Box were invited to a meeting attended by members of the media relations department of the Isles, specifically, Chris Botta and Corey Witt. I remember at the conclusion of the meeting a fellow blogger had asked "do you anticipate any changes to the blog box next year?", to which an answer was wryly returned "we are the Islanders after all." As if to imply, with the Islander organization, you should know to expect the unexpected.

And this past week, the unexpected appeared in the resignation of Islander VP of Media Relations, Chris Botta. I, like my fellow bloggers, was shocked. My shock gradually turned to frustration after reading Greg Logan's blog, which indirectly placed the blame (if that's the right word, I don't know)on VP of Sales Marketing and Operations, Chris Dey, son-in law of owner Charles Wang. Logan was hesitant to argue the connection to Mr. Wang mattered. I'm not.

In an April 14th, 2007 article in the New York Times discussing past accounting irregularities at Computer Associates, Mr. Wang's management style was summarized as follows by a report issued by company's board:

"Mr. Wang created a “culture of fear” at Computer Associates — now called CA — and deliberately put inexperienced executives in senior positions so that he would have more control, according to the report. He discouraged executives from meeting with each other and arbitrarily fired managers or employees who disagreed with him." According to the Times, the report also said “Under Mr. Wang, CA was known as a ‘one-headed’ dragon, and no significant decisions were made without his participation and approval.”

True? I do not know. For the record, Mr. Wang very strongly disagreed with report's findings.

Reading that quote however, gives me pause. I think immediately of Neil Smith. I think then of Garth Snow. I think of Pat LaFontaine. I now think of Chris Botta. I read the quote above, and am haunted by these names.

I do not know Chris Botta. At least on a personal level. But I did observe him on many occasions in the locker room and the surrounding area in the Coliseum. He was always professional. Cool under stressful circumstances, such as after the stomping incident with Chris Simon. He accommodated beat writers with their requests concerning availability of players, and would, for example, make sure a player was there if the Times was writing a special article, perhaps about face washing. He was respectful to members of the Blog Box. He didn't have to be. I recall leaving the locker room after games and him saying "thanks for coming out". Really? Thanking me for coming to an Islander game and enjoying the experience of being in the locker room for post game interviews?

Thank you Chris.

And now, faced with another embarrassing loss of a key member of its personnel, the Islanders no longer have the one guy who could have helped them find the silver lining. That person, 20 years with the organization, is gone.

Will he be the last?