Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drew Rosenhaus & the Cats?

I’ve never liked super agent Drew Rosenhaus before today. He always annoyed me. Next Question!

But that changed today when I was alerted about this story via Puck Daddy’s Tweet.

The Panthers are in a tough spot. They’re not in a traditional hockey market and the odds are stacked against them to turn Sunrise, FL into one. That’s another problem they have. Their fairly new and beautiful arena is located a ways away from Miami and the crowds just don’t have a reason to flock to the area.

But I’ll give them props for thinking outside the box. A guy like Rosenhaus is hard to ignore and he’ll make people at least hear what he’s going to say in support of the Panthers.

Rosenhaus calls himself “A longtime Panthers fan and a person who believes in giving sports fans the value and the atmosphere they deserve.”  I have some reservations about believing that.

As an agent and a hockey fan, I would like to think he would have at least one hockey player as a client. I know a large hockey contract can be a fraction of what other athletes make, but I would think he would at least have one.

The other part of his quote, if true, would contradict representing high-talent, low-class players and demanding outrageous contracts for them, which in turn drives up ticket prices in the first place.

But that’s all debatable.

I’ll give credit to the Panthers for an innovative idea and am interested in how this plays out. For the Panthers sake, I hope Rosenhaus doesn’t embarrass them. Next Question!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Draft Observations – Part 2

The Goalie Odds

The Islanders drafted two goalies early on Saturday morning with Mikko Koskinen at # 31 in the second round and Anders Nilsson at # 62 in the third round. Add Stefan Ridderwall, a sixth rounder in 2006, and Kevin Poulin, drafted in the fifth round in 2008, the Islanders most likely have a starting or back-up goaltender of the future in their system.

Why am I so sure about that? Because teams are just as likely to find an NHL goaltender in the first or second round of the draft as they are in rounds three or four or five, six or seven.  Most goalies do bust before they get signed by their draft team, but by playing their odds over the last four draft, the Islanders have put themselves in good position to beat the odds.

Look at the 2001 draft:
- The Islanders drafted Rick DiPietro with the first overall pick. For better or for worse, he started an NHL All-Star Game and was the No. 1 goalie on the US Olympic team.

- The Calgary Flames drafted Brent Krahn ninth overall that year. He has played in one NHL game.

- Ilya Bryzgalov was drafted by Anaheim in the second round, 44th overall. Mathieu Chouinard was taken with the very next pick by Ottawa. That’s 189 NHL games vs. 1 NHL game, respectively.

- Peter Hamerlik (Pittsburgh, third round), Jean-Francois Racine (Toronto, third round), Stefan Liv (Detroit, fourth round) and a dozen more goalies were taken before the NY Rangers took Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round, 205th overall.

All four Islanders prospect goalies I spoke about above could turn into busts. But with a wide selection of goalies, chances are one of them will make it. And with three of them European prospects, the Islanders will hold onto their rights for a long time unless a transfer agreement gets ratified by the IIHF.

Advantage: Islanders.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Draft Observations – Part 1

The reason why I didn’t comment on the this year’s draft before it began or during is two fold: 1) I had no idea what was going to happen and 2) If I guessed right, I didn’t want to be accused of actually knowing and spilling the pot. Bu it’s over now, so here we go.

Jordan Nolan, son of former Islanders head coach Ted Nolan, was finally drafted today by the Los Angeles Kings in the seventh round, 186th overall. This was Jordan’s third and final year of being draft eligible.

In 2007, Jordan’s first year of eligibility, father Ted told me he would be a mid-round selection. Unfortunately for the Nolan family, he went undrafted.

Last year, Ted told me he thought he would be a late round pick. He was a year off.

But this might be a good sign for the Nolan family as Jordan is 20 years old and teams do not usually draft 20-year olds if they do not intend to sign them sooner rather then later. This is somewhat reminiscent of when the Islanders drafted Chris Campoli in 2004 in the later rounds and had him playing in the AHL a few months later. Ditto for Steve Regier that year.

Actually, both Chris and Jordan both went undrafted in their first two years of eligibility, so you never know what can happen. 

Congratulation to the Nolan family.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Other Players from the ’03 Draft

Looking at the Islanders draft picks from the 2003 Draft and you can think to yourself what could have been. Jeremy Colliton (2nd round , 58th overall) still has potential to be an NHLer (even though he’s now in Europe) and the team struck gold with Bruno Gervais in the sixth round. But looking at where the team picked and who was picked right after, you can’t help but wonder what-if.

Aside from the Nilsson-Bernier-Parise slide in the first round, there are three more occurrences very similar later in the draft.

In the second round, the Islanders took a flyer on a Russian named Dmitri Chernykh at 48. Nashville picked Shea Weber at 49.

In the seventh round, the Islanders drafted Denis Rehak at 212. At 214 Edmonton grabbed Kyle Brodziak.

In the eighth round, the Islanders selected Cody Blanshan at 238. Atlanta took YoungStar Tobias Enstrom at 239.

Any draft could be labeled as missed opportunities for almost any team. If a team drafts two players that make a significant impact per draft, they did well. But the 2003 draft just makes you scratch your head. Probably just bad luck.

Luckily for the Islanders, it seems like they’ve righted their drafting ship in recent years, a big credit to Assistant GM Ryan Jankowski.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

TSN.ca: Feuding Owners in Tampa


For the past few seasons, it doesn't seem like the Lightning can get it together. Steven Stamkos is a wonderful kid and in the few times I met him, you get the feeling that you want to biuld a franchise around him. But last year they basically hyjaked his rookie season with over-marketing and over-hyping him. The team also let go of a lot good and long-time staffers like PR man and my colleague Jay Preble, but have not replaced them with adequate replacements.

There is no doubt the lockout hurt this franchise more than any other.

The Lightning have a really good arena, a pretty good area surrounding the arena and a fan base that will support the team. Hopefully this ownership group can right the ship after this meeting with the Commissioner and find a way to make it work.

If the team has good leadship from above, then Tampa Bay will become a strong team on the ice again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

E5: Mets Targeting Ryan Smyth?

One of my frequent stops in the blogosphere is Metsblog.com. It’s a great blog for Mets fans like myself and I would recommend it for anyone.

This morning, Metsblog creator Matthew Cerrone blogged that Jon Heyman of SI.com and Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote that the injury-riddled Mets can add payroll to their roster to help improve their chances of winning this season. Example: Trade for a high-end talent that will probably cost prospects.

Cerrone then went on to comment on the trade target possibilities that could be on the Mets radar. To sum it quickly, the Mets would have to give high-end prospects for a player who could only be on their roster for just a few months and/or could create a backlog on the roster for the young, up-and-coming players when the veteran, injured players come back.

The reason I bring up this topic and the Mets on a hockey blog is to comment on the notion if giving up prospects is for a short-term solution is worth it.

I guess it all depends on what the status of the franchise in question is. Is a team currently in the middle of a rebuild or towards the end of it -- probably still a season away from the end of the tunnel -- but wants a jump start? Is the team heavily comprised of veterans and have a win-now mentality? Is this a must-win season for the team because of aging stars, stars with contracts running out or a GM and/or coach on the hot-seat?

A lot goes into the decision on whether to mortgage the future with prospects for a veteran. It doesn’t always work either. Some time it does.

The 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins had to give up one of their top prospects in Eric Tangradi to acquire Chris Kunitz from Anaheim. For the production on and off the ice they got from Bill Guerin, they made it up with a steal in that trade (a rare win-win for both teams).

On the other side, Calgary had to give up a defenseman with some promise in Ryan Wilson plus a valuable second round pick for Jordan Leopold who is slated for free agency this summer. That trade did not work out well for the Flames.

Trading away prospects is a risky business.

And while I was looking over what I wrote above, Cerrone blogged again quoting another Heyman report that a Mets official said they will not mortgage their future for a short-term solution. Not that I doubt Heyman, but it’s always easier for a team to say that now when the trade deadline is still more then a month away.


P.s. I'm working on setting up a comments section.
Edit (3:22 PM) If you have any suggestions, please e-mail me at CWittBlog@gmail.com. Thanks!

Monday, June 22, 2009

’03 Draft Wasn’t Just About One Player

The 2003 NHL Entry Draft will always be remembered among Islanders fans as the draft the team passed up Zach Parise for Robert Nilsson. The first round of that draft might go down as one of the best ever. Corey Perry was drafted at 28, Mike Richards at 24. Anaheim, then Mightier, probably scored the best value picks with Ryan Getzlaf at 19 and then getting Perry nine selections better. Only one player has not played in the NHL from the first round of that draft -- Hugh Jessiman who was picked by the New York Rangers at 12.

To say the Islanders missed because they didn’t grab Parise isn’t wrong, but it’s not 100 percent correct either. The team missed back then because Steve Bernier was drafted right after Nilsson (and right before Parise), because of Getzlaf, Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Richards, Perry and Patrick Eaves (29th) all went after Nilsson.  It was hard to miss in that round and unless Nilsson (a fine person off the ice) finds his desire to play in the NHL for an entire season, the Islanders did unfortunately missed out -- but not just because of Zach Parise.

Islanders fans gravitate toward Parise because his father J.P. once played for the team. It would have been a nice story to go along with a solid selection, but that cannot factor in to a team’s decision on a draft pick. It can’t even be a tie-breaker. Every team needs to draft the player they feel is the best available. Unfortunately, the team made a mistake. It’s not the first time that’s happened to a team – Hello Ryan Leaf and San Diego Chargers.

The Islanders are currently in a rebuilding phase. Everyone is in agreement that it was necessary for the franchise to resurrect itself. The fan support was tremendous this season, a year where the team finished dead last in the league. To say the fan base was onboard with the rebuild would be an understatement.

But when a team rebuilds, it must move on from previous mistakes. The San Diego Chargers aren’t dwelling on Fred Taylor or Randy Moss anymore – Just two guys they passed up when they selected Leafs and both have had NFL Hall of Fame careers. The Chargers rebuilt, got their new quarterback, fixed their mistake and have been a successful franchise.

While it hurts to see Zach Parise succeed only because he could have been Islanders and isn’t, it’s time for everyone – myself included – to move on.

You can’t move forward with the rebuild until the past has been let go of.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Colliton to Sweeden

Credit to Mike Fornabaio of the Conn. Post for finding this.

Jeremy Colliton, one of the Islanders' three 2003 second round draft selections but the only one to ever be signed by the Islanders, is leaving North America to play for Rogel in Sweden -- The same organization Kenny Jonsson left the Islanders for a few years ago.

(More on the the 2003 draft coming soon)

According to the Google translation, it's a one-year deal. I'm not sure if the Islanders will retain Colliton's rights or not.

Jeremy is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. He's very cerebral and quiet, yet was a great leader on and off the ice for the Sound Tigers over the last few years. The best of luck to him.

Billy G. = Winner

In the year and a half I worked with Bill Guerin, we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but more than 95% of the time we did. He’ll always be one of players that I’ll look back to and remember him for teaching me a few things about the hockey community.

I’ll also remember Billy G. as a winner. Looking back, that other 5% that I spoke of before probably had to do with winning or lack thereof at that particular moment.

Billy would take every loss harder than most others and it would take him a little bit longer to get over one. Maybe a winner shouldn’t be judge on victories, but how he handles losing. And how Billy dealt with losing, showed what type a winner he is.

I have zero doubt that the Penguins would not have won the Cup if it were not for the Islanders’ former captain. The same could be said about Dan Bylsma and dozen other Penguins. But I’m positive Billy taught that team how to win and maybe even more importantly, what losing really means.

If you had asked me in December if this was Billy’s last season, I would have guessed yes. And I was surprised when he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he plans on playing next season. Who knows, this could all change.

But what I do know is that Bill Guerin in a winner on and off the ice. He did so in a small way with helping me (and I wasn't the only one like this) and he did so in a big way helping the Penguins.

Even if Billy doesn’t retire this summer, plays more hockey and doesn’t win another Cup before he hangs up his skates, he’ll go out a winner no matter how or when he decides to leave the game… whatever the circumstances are when he chooses to do so.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So, What's New?

So, it’s been almost a month since I was let go by the Islanders and I’ve been doing a lot thinking over the past few weeks.

But first things first, I would like to thank Greg Logan for his blog entry. It was very touching and personally meant a lot to my family and myself.

Second on the agenda: Part of my lost in thought moments over the past few weeks is what I was going to do with my blog. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started with the Islanders as an intern writing for the team’s website and publications. When I moved over to Public Relations, I didn’t have the opportunity to do the free-form writing I was doing previously. When I started this blog, I was able to start writing again, but was still limited by my position with the team.

But now, with most of those restrictions and strings no longer attached, I’m going to give it a shot. I don’t know the ultimate direction that I’ll take or how long I’ll write for. I have some pieces that I wrote when I was still working for the team, but never published. I’ll throw those on and go from there.

What I won’t be doing right now is trying to break any news and trying to scoop anyone or anything. I’m just going to take the opportunity to write and comment on a few things around the League that I wasn’t sure if I could before.

So, we’ll see where this goes and see what happens.