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Preview: Maple Leafs v. The Fishsticks

Editor's Note: In a continuing effort to present a varied view of the Leafs and their opponents (read: I forgot there was a game today) I enlisted the help of a colleague to give us a glimpse at the current state of affairs with the future Hamilton Tigers. Please welcome Domink from Lighthouse Hockey.

I was confused when PPP asked for a preview, because I thought fans in the Hockey Center of the Universe [screwe Queene's Englishe] knew everything about anything remotely related to hockey. I mean, I have no trouble keeping up with the Leafs just by reading the Gospel of Damien Cox, so I figure you guys could find his equal in Intestinal Fortitude, Larry Brooks. But whatever ... I guess we teams in the Kuiper Belt are hard for The Center to keep up with. 

A Run-Down of the Islanders Lineup in Very Little Detail (I don't know who these guys are, either)

Everyone is hurt, so don't even bother figuring out who the Islanders are dressing. Wait! We do have Doug Weight and Captain Bill “McNulty” Guerin, who you might remember from some 1996 tournament Canada used to own. (I know, I know ... Hull high stick, kicked puck, yada yada. Right, and the Leafs would've beat the Habs in '93, too) [Ed's Note: Yeah, in three games] 

And you may have heard of Josh Bailey, since apparently every young hockey player with a tendril of talent is covered up there by a blood-sucking media horde from age 10. I think I'm 11 years older than Sidney Crosby, yet when I was 12 I remember you people discussing what brand of diapers he was wearing. Give these kids some space, people! I mean, what does your society do with all the failures? [Editor's Note: If you ever need a new car then the failures are more than willing to pretend to actually be the person that sold it to you] Is this why Pro Beach Roller Hockey suddenly came about?

Anyway, Bailey is why Garth Snow traded you the Schenn pick (well, that, and we needed extra draft picks something fierce). A lot of fans were ticked -- mostly because they showed up for a draft party and got two trade-downs instead (when you plan your party for the 5th pick, then have to wait until #9, well…that’s a lot of extra beer). But now that fans have seen Bailey play, they're appeased. Bailey has passing skill and vision and that is something the Islanders sorely lack.

But Kyle Okposo, who we wanted to watch grow this year, has missed 8 games and will now miss 4-6 weeks more. Frans Nielsen was a budding young center before a Devil tried to take his head off, so maybe we'll see him in February. We have other prospects, but they're a secret -- much like our actual injuries. (Islanders injury reports are all "upper body" or "mild hormonal" or "general cantankerousness," etc.)

Expect to See a Milestone Tonight

Doug Weight, who's 4 years younger than your backup goaltender, is 7 away from 1,000 regular season NHL points. Since your foliage gave up six(!) to the freaking Coyotes last week, I think you guys just might see a milestone tonight. However, since the Islanders couldn't finish a pop-up book, I take it back. They scored one goal against Atlanta Saturday; Vesa may shut them out. [Editor's Note: If one team scores 8 it's probably going to be the team in blue and white...]

 Here's an Offer You Can't Refuse

With 15-Year DiPietro out, Joey MacDonald has been a pleasant*, steady** surprise in his place. [*subject to change; **has already changed]

MacDonald plays every game, because the next in line is a former Hab. You guys should probably make an offer for MacDonald. We'll take Antropov and call it a deal. Actually, MacDonald has now started 16 in a row and is showing signs of why this is his first major stint in the NHL. I hope they rest him tonight.

Aside from Bailey and (sort of) MacDonald, the other bright spot on the Islanders this year is Trent Hunter. According to the “Trent Hunter” I created in NHL 03, he should be a 50-goal, 200 PIM guy by now. Turns out I overhyped him like Brett Hull hypes Sean Avery stock. But this year Hunter's back in form: Still hitting everything in sight, still sticking up for teammates since we don't dress a goon (really, who is there to protect?), and now picking up goals again with his wrist shot and by sticking his butt in front of the net. He's not overly fast, but he fits Scott Gordon's system just fine. After just 12 goals last year, he's turned it up to 11 so far this year.

The Coach: Prepare for 'OVERSPEEEEEEED'

Oh, that's right: Scott Gordon. He's got a system which he sort of calls "overspeed." (Apparently "overspeed" only refers to how he runs practice: i.e. at a tempo a little higher than players are comfortable skating, so that they have a built-in urgency during games. And ideally don't lose an edge and crash into the boards.) But generally, Gordon's system is what makes the Isles worth watching this year -- when they actually play it. It's basically an aggressive forecheck with constant skating and defensemen pinching in a lot -- even when maybe they shouldn't -- and forwards constantly cycling back to cover for the pinching D.

When it works, it's cool, though it doesn't make up for the finishing thing. When the Isles decide they're tired or just feeling disobedient, it's awful and I end up drinking. When the Islanders use the system to build a lead going into the third, they abruptly abandon it as 18 players each return to whatever separate passive trap systems their last suffocating coach taught them. Oh yeah, baby: Islanders! Leafs! Tonight could be ugly.

The Part Where "I Apologize If My Comments Offended Anyone, but I'm now Seeking Anger Management."

In all seriousness, I enjoy your puppet community here and even conjure some semblance of empathy for your team's plight, which is why I occasionally wade into your conversations like the annoying neighbor who Just.Doesn't.Get It. My wife is a teacher and I only wish her retirement fund had a historic NHL franchise with which to toy for idle financial entertainment. Enjoy the game, hope you lose in OT, and keep your filthy hands off Tavares/Hedman/Whichever Teenager Your Media Is Stalking This Week. We deserve them more. [Editor's Note: Apparently you have forgotten about how the 80s treated both franchises. When you're having ceremonies celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the 1983 Stanley Cup Champs talk to us about 'deserving' a franchise saviour]