12:02 am - In this age, show business is as big a part of coaching as, well, coaching. When you’re losing, sometimes it’s not a bad idea to go to outlandish lengths to show the fans you care. In New York, we’ve had some legendary actors: Billy Martin, Bill Parcells, Al Arbour. When Al compared Kevin Hatcher to Paul Bunyon, you think he really meant it?
The MSG Plus cameras almost never fail to show Scott Gordon after an opposing goal. Tonight for the 3-2 game-winning goal by Edmonton, the camera went from Andrew Cogliano to Joey MacDonald to Gordon in under five seconds.
When the calls are going horribly against your team – as they did tonight from Ontario to Alberta - Scott might want to consider drawing the cameras to him. There is no downside to freaking out on the officials. The refs will understand. The fans will see the heart beating.
That may be unfair, but it’s the truth. It’s the difference between Shrugging Eric Mangini and all the men Jets fans now want to coach their team.
(12:12 am, P.S.: Gordon did well in the post-game, showing some fire in his press briefing. Next up, he might need an Instant You Tube Classic wig-out within a game).
I called Islanders European scouting director Vellu-Pekka Kautonen tonight with a few questions about 2008 fourth round pick David Ullstrom of Team Sweden and snuck in one about another guy.
Point Blank: Do you get the sense from David Ullstrom that playing in North America, playing in the NHL, is very much in his plans?
Kautonen: I’ll tell you what happened last night. I went with the rest of our scouts in Ottawa for the WJC out to dinner at The Keg (a sort of Friday’s in Canada). We get there, and it turns out David’s father, mother and sister are at the table next to us. His father told me that David is so excited about the opportunity to come to North America and be part of the Islanders organization.
David has been blown away by the incredible excitement at the WJC and he’s following all the hockey since he got here two weeks ago. His father said that David can’t stop talking about how much he wants to make it to the NHL. His dad told us he was going to do everything in his power to make sure his son is doing everything to get to this level. It was a real nice moment.
PB: Do you think Ullstrom’s style would be a good fit for the Islanders and at the NHL level? Is he what you would call an NHL-style player?
Kautonen: Absolutely. He already has the size (6-3, 205) and his skating gets better with each year. He has the willingness to pay the price and is not shy in traffic. He has very good potential at this level.
PB: There’s been a sense since you drafted him in the fourth round last summer that Ullstrom may have been the Islanders’ biggest steal.
Kautonen: You’re always happy with your picks in the days after, but it was nice when 4 or 5 of my European colleagues came up to me at the NHL Draft and said David was right in their sights with their team’s next pick.
Ullstrom’s a good player. Since we selected him, he has played in the Swedish Elite League and seen some time in the second league. (Former Islanders dynasty member and current scout) Anders Kallur sees him a lot and is very happy with him, and I know (Islanders scout) Eric Cairns was pleased with his progress when he traveled to Sweden last month to see Ullstrom and some of our other European draft picks.
PB: Any idea of a timeline for Ullstrom coming to play in North America?
Kautonen: Probably too early right now to be sure. I don’t think we can rule out him coming here next season, but I’ll also say that if he could play a regular shift on the third line of HV-71 of the Elite League next season, that would a very good option for his development. We’ll have a better idea of a good plan for David after this season.
PB: Okay, I fibbed about talking Ullstrom-only. I’m doing a bad job if I don’t ask the Islanders Director of European Scouting about Victor Hedman.
Kautonen: He’s real good. It’s been an interesting time for Hedman at this tournament. Because of the hype around Victor, people are disappointed when he’s not as flashy as they expect of him. That’s not the type of player he is. He may not “wow” you every shift. He may not even “wow” you every game. It’s not fair for anyone to compare him to John Tavares. Hedman’s going to be fine. He is an outstanding prospect.
PB: I’m curious. When NHL scouts go to the World Junior Championships, do they spend time with their draft picks or do you leave them alone to focus on the tournament?
In most cases, you don’t meet with them. You want them to be able to concentrate on the hockey, and you want to show respect to their teams. After David’s first game in Ottawa, Eric Cairns gave him a quick call on behalf of all of us to tell him we were proud of the strides he has made. David has always been very good with the puck, but now he has come a long way in his play without the puck. David appreciated the call and since then we have kept our proper distance. This was an important time for him and for Team Sweden.
PB: How did Ullstrom do in the final tonight?
Kautonen: It was Canada’s night tonight, but David played very, very hard. He had an excellent tournament and gave everything he had tonight. We’re proud of the way he played.
PB: Will you go visit with Ullstrom after the game?
Kautonen: Part of you wants to, but it’s always complete mayhem down there after the championship game. David knows we’re proud of him. We will definitely make contact with him soon.
Since we’ve had to change our focus to The Big Picture about ten games ago, here’s your mid-season report.
Tonight’s loss in Edmonton takes the Islanders to 12-25-4 at the 41-game mark.
That’s 12 wins in 41 games. That’s 13 games under .500 just 41 games into a season in a league where only 7 of 30 teams are any games under .500.
In the interest of balanced journalism, the Islanders entered tonight’s game with an astounding 253 man-games lost to injury.
After 41 games, the Islanders have won only 8 of them in 60 minutes of regulation play.
Believe me, I wish it were different. I really was looking forward to writing about hockey games. But 12-25-4 is the answer to the question why our coverage will continue to focus on trade deadline and prospective UFA decisions, the Tavheduch Watch and the development of young players in the NHL, AHL, Europe and junior hockey. It is why one of tonight’s lead stories was about a fourth round draft pick from Sweden playing in the final of the World Junior Championships.
Good point by Jiggs McDonald: when the rosters for the Young Stars Game on All-Star Weekend are announced on Friday, Kyle Okposo should be part of it. Here’s hoping the Islanders have campaigned to the league on behalf of Okposo. The Islanders assuming the NHL has got it covered would be a mistake.