Apparently, Glen Sather is saving Hockey

Here we go again. Its early Fall and we're already starting to hear the the rumblings. The NHL needs the New York Rangers to win a Cup. Take, for example, Lindsay Berra's recent piece from ESPN the Magazine, "Two for the Show" (referring to new Rangers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury). This is one example of universally positive Ranger coverage prior to the start of the 07-08 season. After reading Berra's article, you would not have thought a more harmonious pair of free agents had ever been signed by an NHL club.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Although league officials would rather eat a puck than admit to rooting for the red, white and blue, a successful Rangers Cup run would thrust hockey back into the spotlight in the biggest media market in the world at just the right time."

I have some difficulty with this statement. For starters, instead of secretly pulling for the Rangers, shouldn't NHL brass be doing something proactive to fix the current state of the sport? Perhaps they might revisit some of the monumental decisions they've made in the recent decade. There are a growing number of teams that may very well be hosting their opening night games in cities where temperatures may exceed ninety degrees. If NHL exec's are unhappy with the fact that several of these teams have hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup in recent years while overall interest in the sport has waned they may want to consider their contraction. Additionally, they may look back at their tacit approval of horribly boring trap hockey that they allowed to proliferate without limit in the mid to late 90's. Yes, there have been rule changes enacted after the lockout that have helped improve the pace of the game, but whether or not its too little, too late, is a matter of debate.

Berra continues the theme by touting the ratings of the NY Rangers Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 in '94, as well as the state of the sport in its wake. What she neglects to mention is the fact that the Rangers second round playoff game last year which aired on NBC on a weekend afternoon was beaten in the ratings by both Yankee and Met regular season games played on the same day. That's not a knock against the Rangers, but rather an observation of the sport as a whole.

The league waiting for the Rangers to win a Stanley Cup is the least proactive, and likely least productive way to improve the popularity of the sport. If you disagree, feel free to pick up your new Gomez jersey and enjoy the red and blue kool-aid.

The Writing is on the Wall for Berard

As I've followed the Isles through camp via the Islander site and Newsday, one player has been noticeably absent in the coverage. While guys like Tambellini, Bergenheim, Meyer, Comeau, Sutton and Sim, for example, have received attention, Bryan Berard has played the part of Colonel Kurtz. He's out there somewhere, but good luck finding him.
I, along with seemingly myriad other Islander fans reacted positively to the news that Berard would be invited to camp this year. Looking past the fact that he was a minus 57 in the last 3 years combined (as reported in Evan Grossman's blog), the ability to stir up offense and nostalgia generated enthusiasm.
However, if you read between the lines of the Islander post from a few days ago "The battle for the blue line heats up", the enthusiasm may fade into reality. The Isles speak of the 4 probable sure things on D, namely Witt, Sutton, Martinek and Bergeron. Fighting for the final 2 spots are Meyer, Berard, Campoli, Gervais and Johnson (who by the way is the only D-Man besides Gervais with a 2 way contract). So here's how I see it. Gervais and Campoli have shown too much development and promise- they stay and comprise the final pairing. Nolan will, by his own admission, dress 7 to start. That leaves the door open for Meyer. Johnson to Bridgeport and Berard, well, Berard is the odd man out.
I do not know what they are seeing in Berard that is causing their apathetic coverage of his play, but I'm guessing he may be a step behind as he is recovering from injuries and consequently a lack of ice time.
The Isles, effectively admitting the odds are a little stacked against Bryan, wrote "Berard will be given a fair opportunity to prove he can be a contributor before camp is over". Although I would have loved seeing the Riverboat gambler back in an Islander uniform, that tepid statement speaks volumes against its happening.

Comrie, Cairns and...Strahan?

Its nice to hear that newly acquired center Mike Comrie is having a good start to camp in Moncton by tallying a hat trick this week in scrimmage. Although it is a little too early to get terribly exited about such accomplishments, it is an encouraging thought that he might me developing some chemistry with probable line mates Guerin and Tank. As far as lines 2- 4, Nolan will be busy determining how guys like Hilbert, Simon, Tambellini and Sim, amongst others, will fit in support of centers Vasicek, Sillinger and Park. Similarly, Nolan will be experimenting with his defensive pairings while ensuring there is good communication between DP and his D-Men. Its exciting to talk about line combinations now, although a little premature as the ups and downs of a typical hockey season will force Nolan to mix things up occasionally, plus there's always the constant unknown of injuries. But most importantly, it is only the beginning of camp.

Chris Botta is reporting in his blog that GM Garth Snow has invited former Isle D-Man and certified pugilist Eric Cairns to camp in a supporting role. I met Eric many years ago with Mark Parrish at an Islander skills competition and he looked like one of the most intimidating hockey players I have ever seen. However, anyone following the Isles in recent years will know what a big heart the guy had. He always took great pride in sticking up for his teammates, and served an invaluable role for the team. It is great to see him involved with Islander hockey, as he was, and will always be, a fan favorite.

Finally, in an unrelated note, my wife and I were in a mall in New Jersey this Saturday. We walked into a high end store (translation - a store with terribly expensive designer bags that I couldn't afford to buy for my wife in a million years) when NY Giant Michael Strahan walked in. He seemed like an affable guy, and no one bothered him. I am a Jet fan, but as I've become partial to living, I avoided a confrontation.

Have a good week, and enjoy the developments from Moncton.

The Quiet Times

Aside from the invitation to training camp extended to Bryan Berard and the fact that 07-08 tickets go on sale this Saturday, Islander hockey news has slowed from from a crawl to a near collapse as of late. It's just that time of the year.
Fans are therefore encouraged to occupy their time in other areas. So as the heat begins to break, I (along with countless other hockey fans) will pursue some of my other passions. My highlight of this past Labor Day weekend was the fishing trip I embarked on with family and friends off Orient Point. We hauled in our limit of stripers east of Plum Island (the same made famous by author Nelson DeMille). This weekend my TV will be tuned to the Jets- Pats opener. In addition to a victory by Gang Green, I'll be hoping Pennington survives game 1 unscathed in the wake of Pete Kendall's departure. I'm similarly looking forward to rounding up a sizable crew for a trip to the Land of Meadows this Fall, likely for a game against the fins or the bills.
The rest of the weekend will be devoted to watching the Shield and perhaps a little Entourage, while hoping some giving soul may be inclined to buy an XBOX 360 for my birthday (Halo 3, anyone?).
I'll indulge in these activities only for a while because after all, opening night is less than a month away.