PB THE MAGAZINE: Lighthouse, Zherdev, Joensuu, Ness, DP, Smitty, Parrish, top prospects and KJ

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So what’s next for the Lighthouse Project?

 

The Public Comment period on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) ends August 17. That’s when the lead agency, aka the Town of Hempstead, has to turn the DGEIS into a Final EIS. Although Tuesday’s hearing was a clear victory for the Lighthouse developers, the Town will likely hear over the next ten days from many groups, including:

 

  • The Department of Transportation
  • The Department of Environmental Conservation
  • The Department of of Public Works
  • The Department of Health

and more!

 

The developers should also hear from the ToH staff in the next few weeks about a date for – wait for it – a “zoning” hearing. Oh, brother. If they’re not going to have it on a Saturday in September so students and the working world can participate, no one should expect another jam-packed auditorium.

 

The hosting of more than 200 community outreaches by the LDC is probably the biggest reason for the shocking lack of public opposition on Tuesday. That said, there is still time – and Garden City is the one village in the Town of Hempstead to hire outside attorneys to examine what the project means to them.

 

“This is why the pressure on the politicians cannot cease,” said one observer. “Just because the hearing is over, that doesn’t mean the developers and supporters of the project should feel the work is done. It’s not.”

 

This is why I continue to believe October 3 will pass without Charles Wang getting “certainty” from the Town of Hempstead. This is why I continue to believe the Lighthouse Development Corporation will be accepting calls on October 4 from outside the 516 area code.

 

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NIX ZHERDEV

Nik Zherdev an Islander? Tough to see the point, or it happening.

 

The argument for the Islanders’ acquisition of the Rangers’ walk-away is that he’s very gifted offensively and he’s only 25 in November. Got it.

 

Then you have to question if this is a player you want as a cornerstone of your rebuild. No matter how you want to view his four-year career, two teams have already decided they could do without him. Believe me: if Cup-winning head coach John Tortorella really wanted the Russian wing, the Rangers would have found a way to keep him. As for the Blue Jackets, Scott Howson could not get rid of him fast enough.

 

Yes, Zherdev is young, but if the Islanders chose not to make big offers to free agents between the ages of 26-31, I find it hard to believe they will dig down for $3-4 million a year for Zherdev. This isn’t about the Islanders being stingy, just sticking to a plan. Does an enigmatic (there’s that word again) young man who takes the long way to the net, has trouble putting a good week together and has one eye on the KHL sound like a part of this plan?

 

Of all the moves the Islanders can potentially make to bring in top young talent, Nikolai Zherdev should be far, far down the list.

 

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HOME OF THE FREE AGENTS?

I disagree with Garth Snow’s statement that the Lighthouse Project will be a lure for free agents. No, the Lighthouse Project will enable the Islanders to simply compete with the rest of the league.

 

Still, the project must be approved for the Islanders to have any chance to flourish as a major league operation. An all-star player with plenty of options is not going to commit the prime of his career to the depressing parking lot on Hempstead Turnpike. You wouldn’t.

 

And oh by the way, this doesn’t just relate to other teams’ unrestricted free agents. This is as much about keeping Kyle Okposo here. This is about keeping John Tavares…assuming he’s any good.

 

(Settle. Just some August humor with those last four words).

 

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NYI ON…JESSE JOENSUU

Jesse Joensuu is one of the top 5 young Islanders to watch when training camp opens in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan next month. (Boy, it would be so much better on many levels if the team, you know, set up Camp Tavares a few thousand miles closer to home. But I digress, again).

 

If Joensuu has a first-rate September, an NHL lineup spot is available to him – no matter how many forwards the Islanders have on one-way contracts.

 

“I’m definitely going to camp with the intention of making the Islanders,” said Joensuu, who said he now lists at 6-4, 215 pounds. “I have that motivation. I believe in myself. Last season I learned a lot with the Sound Tigers. There were ups and downs, but I felt like everything was working for me in the second half.”

 

Joensuu, who turns 22 during the NHL’s opening weekend, also earned seven games last season with the Islanders – more than he or the team planned for his rookie year in North America. The native of Finland scored his first NHL goal, was credited with a pair of assists and learned a whole bunch.

 

“Best thing that could have happened for me,” said Joensuu, who must prove his modest totals of 20 goals and 19 assists in the AHL were the results of those ups and downs. “I saw that I could keep up, that I belonged. There is a lot I need to improve, but the experience last season with the Islanders was enough to put in my mind that I can make the team this year.

 

“If I don’t make it out of camp, it will be a disappointment but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ll go to Bridgeport believing that my chance with the Islanders will come if I do my part.”

 

JJ’s Improvement Needed: Joenssu’s commitment to his personal development is such that he has hired three-time Olympic speed skater Janne Hanninen as his personal skating coach. I asked Joensuu what he feels he has to work on to be an everyday NHLer.

 

“Maintaining my speed and tempo. I have the skating. A big thing I worked on with the coaches in Bridgeport was keeping the legs moving. Because of all the work they put in with me, I feel I’m an even better athlete than before I came to the United States.

 

“I have to use my legs to make a hit. And if I’m hit, I have to find a way to keep driving. It is a physical skill and a mental one.”

 

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AARON NESS IN NEW YORK

Lake Placid, that is. The Islanders’ 2008 second round pick and – according to this blog anyway – a major prospect, will be at the evaluation camp for Team USA at the World Junior Championships.

 

Joining Ness will be fellow Islanders draft pick Matt Donovan (4th round, 2008). Other notables at the camp include potential 2010 top-3 pick Cam Fowler (joining the Windsor Spitfies this season) and 2009 Team USA returnee Jordan Schroeder. Many members of the gold medal-winning Under 18 team will be there, including Drew Shore, Ryan Bourque and Jeremy Morin.

 

Ah, Lake Placid. I could get at least two book chapters out of my memories of Islander training camps there. Maybe even a complete chapter alone on the story behind the writing of Peter Botte and Alan Hahn’s classic “Fishsticks” and how I almost lost their manuscript. (Speaking of which, there are rumors there could be a shakeup on the Islanders’ beat).

 

For a few years, one of the best times of the year was going to the site of the “Miracle on Ice” for training camp in September and loving every minute of the sunny-and-70 weather. A few tips: bring your bikes, a camera and, if you can do it, stay at the gorgeously rustic Mirror Lake Inn. Saskatoon has a lot to measure up to.

 

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TOP 10 JUNIOR, COLLEGE OR EUROPEAN PROSPECTS

August, 2009 edition

1. Calvin de Haan: Could make it to the end of training camp. Could make it to the middle of October.

 

2. Aaron Ness: Minnesota sophomore probably can’t wait to get to the NHL. This way at least he’ll get paid to answer questions about his size.

 

3. Corey Trivino: The most intriguing prospect from this group, because now he gets his chance at the BU second line under the legendary Jack Parker.

 

4. Travis Hamonic: Probably the most likely bet among the ten to have a long NHL career.

 

5. Kirill Petrov: Oh, just trade his friggin’ rights already! Kidding.

 

6. David Ullstrom: You’ll him him in Bridgeport in 2010, maybe even April of 2010.

 

7. Rhett Rakhshani: Passes up the cash to be the captain of the U. of Denver Pioneers. Makes you realize how much you miss the college days.

 

8. Matt Martin: As of this publication, no news to report.

 

9. Kevin Poulin: They like him. They really like him.

 

10. Anders Nilsson: One last time – goalies with the first picks of the second and third rounds?

 

Worth a Mention: Blake Kessel, Jason Gregoire, Matt Donovan, Casey Cizikas

 

 

TOP PROSPECTS IN BRIDGEPORT

1. Mikko Koskinen: Not saying he should, but it’s possible the 2009 second rounder could play some games in the ECHL this season.

 

2. Jesse Joensuu: It’s a long way from 39 points in 71 AHL games to a regular job in the NHL, but the Finn has a chance.

 

3. Trevor Smith: All he needs is consistent intensity and he’ll be an Islander.

 

4. Mark Katic: Requires at least one full season in the AHL, and probably more, before he’s under consideration for the bigs.

 

5. Justin DiBenedetto: Coach Gordon certainly seemed to go out his way to show some Dibo love.

 

6. Robin Figren: The most intriguing Sound Tigers case study this year.

 

7. Andrew MacDonald: Teddy’s boy is now a man with a chance.

 

8. Joel Rechlicz: A fascinating combination of Sound Tigers healthy scratch and Lighthouse rally leader, the Wrecker has as good a chance of making the big club as any of the above.

 

Worth a Mention: Dustin Kohn, Tomas Marcinko, Tony Romano, Mark Flood, Matt Moulson

 

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IMPACT FREE AGENTS STILL AVAILABLE (2 1)

Between now and the opening of Islanders training camp, the Islanders will sign a few players and invite one or two other veterans to training camp. Some may even incite some cheers from the faithful. Count on none being worthy of the chatter. The reality is, the unrestricted free agent list is down to very few players who could a) make the Islanders a better team in 2009-10 or b) at least give the young players some talent to work with. Here’s the list:

 

1. Alex Tanguay

 

2. Jason Williams  (signed today with Detroit)

 

Nope, didn’t leave anyone off. That includes Afinogenev, Prospal, Sykora, Bertuzzi (sure, let’s have him before and after he was really good), Satan, Pyatt, Seidenberg for the defense. None of those players improve the Islanders enough to make it worth even a minimal salary.

 

Prediction: if the Islanders go back to the well for some veteran power play help, it won’t be for Satan. It will be for 32-year old Mark Parrish. For not much more than the league minimum salary they can trust him to be a leader for the kids, plus he could maybe pop in 15-20 goals again. He made it to the Island for the recent Nickelback scrimmage at Iceworks, so he’s obviously still part of the family. I would pass. Love the guy, but if you’re not going to sign a difference-maker, then there really is no point.

 

As for a legitimate tough guy, the Islanders would have to add one via waivers or a trade. No one in that category of value left on the UFA list either.

 

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LEFTOVER Q & As

Found a few of these from when we last did some Q & A…

 

Jared: Hey Chris, with the Isles not expected to contend next season either, assuming we get another top 5 pick is there anyone eligible for next year’s draft that we should keep an eye on?

 

Point Blank: Respectfully, Jared, with the Islanders being out of the playoff race last season before Christmas and the subsequent non-stop Tavheduch discussion, I can’t even think that way right now. Let’s see how Scott Gordon’s 2009-10 Islanders look 30 games in. For next summer’s draft, all I know is what you know: Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler, Kirill Kabanov, etc.

 

 

#13: CB, any good tales of Battlin’ Billy Smith?

 

Point Blank: Legend has it that the wife of an Islanders doctor put her hand on his shoulder when she saw him in the hallway an hour before a big playoff game during the dynasty. As you know, Smitty was known for not wanting any human communication on game days. Without even looking to see who was there, Billy whipped around and whacked her hand with his goalie stick. Merely a flesh wound.

 

Smitty was a good guy when I got to know him at the end of his playing career, but the DiPietro character assassination by comparison is amusing. Billy didn’t have much time for anyone. DiPietro would stay an hour past the end of the season ticketholders party to make sure everyone got an autograph, after the rest of his teammates left. Smitty won big. Rick hasn’t won anything. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.

 

 

Jason: What was your first reaction when you were shown the Fisherman logo?  Any interesting stories to tell about trying to pitch that to the writers?

 

Point Blank: Here’s my story from the early days of PB on the subject.

 

 

Hextall72: Hey CB, any Ron Hextall stories that come to mind? How was he in the locker room? On the road?

 

Point Blank: If you ask anyone who’s ever worked with Ron as a player or now during his front office career, they’ll tell you there’s isn’t a better person or professional. I had the privilege of getting to know him when I was with the Flyers and he helped carry the team to the Stanley Cup Final as a rookie and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Another nut on the ice who was completely different out of uniform.

 

It’s really unfortunate that he’s known around Islanders Country for his poor play in the first round sweep by the Rangers in 1994, but that’s hockey. As I said at the Lighthouse hearing, it’s a humbling game. Fact is, the Islanders were out of their league in that series and didn’t have a chance even if Smitty was in net. If the LA Kings successfully complete their rebuild, Hextall – their VP/assistant GM – will get a GM job. He has that level of credibility and respect around the game.

 

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KENNY KILLING ME SOFTLY

Must be something about the grace, intelligence and skill of world-class athletes from the beautiful country of Sweden.

 

Reading “Strokes of Genius,” L. Jon Wertheim’s wonderful book about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, I started to day-dream. How much would I pay to be transported back to watch Bjorn Borg play tennis in Queens again?

 

And then that led to another daydream. Oh, how I wish I could watch Kenny Jonsson play a few more games in the National Hockey League.

 

Yeah, I know. Borg won 11 Grand Slam tournaments, Jonsson played for the Islanders and Maple Leafs. Borg retired prematurely to a world of excess, Jonsson left the NHL and big money early to play more great hockey back home.

 

I can try to explain Kenny’s brilliance when he was healthy and at the top of his game. I can mention that he won the gold medal with Team Sweden at the 1994 and 2006 Winter Olympics. I can point out how he was named Best Defender in the latter. I can write that the recently-retired Jonsson was such a winner, in the last competitive hockey game he ever played he captained Sweden in May to the title at the World Championships.

 

Or I can just accept the fact that you are either in the cult of Kenny, or you are not.

 

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BOARD-UM

At 3:20 pm on Tuesday at the Lighthouse hearing, Charles Wang was given the floor to make a final statement after five hours of speakers. As Wang spoke with intensity about the next steps, he looked up and saw – as I and many other speakers did that day – ToH supervisor Kate Murray not listening. Waiting for Murray’s aide to stop whispering in her ear, the Islanders owner stopped and said, “It’s okay, I’ll wait” without a trace of bitterness. Murray looked up like a kid in second grade and said, “I’m listening.” Wang continued. Murray’s aide went right back to chattering.

 

The Hempstead Town board and staff have done some outstanding, hard work over the last few months. However, they are going to have to live with the fact that in maybe the most significant hearing they will ever host, hundreds of people came away with the memory of many of them playing on their Blackberrys or looking like they had something else to do.

 

One board member reacted angrily to the accusation of indifference, using the defense that they have to rule on the Lighthouse. Another said they were there only to listen to environmental concerns, although they pre-approved a long list of speakers. What a cop-out, what an utter crock of BS.

 

And faced with the only heckling of the day, one Town Board member cracked. Dorothy Goosby defended the honor of the panel by sharing a scoop with the 50 audience members still around. Goosby broke the news that the hearing was supposed to be August 11, but Charles Wang could not make the date so they all changed their schedules around. Look how cooperative they are! Cue Artie Lange yelling, “Wah-wah-wah”!

 

Confidence in Town of Hempstead leadership took a hit.

 

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WRISTERS

Individual game tickets for the entire 2009-10 season will go on sale next Saturday, August 15. The sale begins with an exclusive two-hour window from 10 am – noon at the Team Stores in the Sunrise Mall and Broadway Mall. The Islanders will have players at both stores. At 1:00 pm, tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster outlets…

 

Fair column by Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News wondering if John Tavares has enough help…

 

Hey, I thought Tanguay signed with someone weeks ago!

 

This just in for the die-hards: Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic have been paired on D for parts of practice at Team Canada WJC evaluation camp…

 

You won’t get a more thorough review of Tuesday’s hearing than this piece by Nick of Let There Be Lighthouse…

 

The Islanders Business Club is hosting its second annual golf outing benefitting the Islanders Children’s Foundation. All golfers are put in a foursome with an Islanders player, coach or distinguished alum. It’s at Tam O’Shanter Country Club, now famous for being the place where Garth Snow took John Tavares out for 18 holes. Call 516.501.6764 to book your spot.

 

If I could add one more thing to that spirited dialogue with Seth Everett of 1050 ESPN Radio about the viability of the Islanders, it would be this: “Just because baseball-loving sports editors don’t think hockey is worthy of a lot of coverage doesn’t mean the Islanders are not the world to a lot of people.” And then I would add, “You dope,” because I know Seth does care…

 

I stand by my Rick DiPietro projection of Thanksgiving at the earliest for his 100% return to regular action. As I said on XM Radio, with the acquisitions of Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron, there is no urgency to DiPietro’s return, no big whoop to any “setbacks” in his rehabilitation. All the Islanders have to do is tell the truth and communicate with their fanbase in a timely and accurate manner. The only way the Islanders mess this up is by being loose with the updates and the facts. I’m sure that will not happen.

 

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PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND PIMs

 

On December 15, 2007 Islanders enforcer Chris Simon came off the ice after the pre-game warmup. Spotting my twin sons Luke and Cole (the first two heads), he took off his right glove, wished them a happy 7th birthday and warmly shook their hands.

 

A little more than an hour later, Simon slew-footed and then stomped on Jarkko Ruutu. You know the rest.

 

Troubled man. Not a bad man. There’s a difference.

 

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(The 4 people I live with got a dog. Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Molly.)

In my Emmy-winning video from the weekend, aka “The You Tube Panic on the Pier,” I said the following:

 

“Give me a month to find a home for Islanders Point Blank. Give me a month. It’s on me. It’s not on the team. As I wrote, the team offered to sponsor me. The team offered to support me in making it my own business. Step away from the team and put this on me.”

 

I’m proud of the work the readers and this blog did for Tuesday’s Lighthouse hearing, from the promos in the media to the Comment-tators keeping the focus where it belonged. Now I ask for that month.

 

Thanks to the incredible support this blog has received from its readers, there may be some opportunities out there. I will continue to touch on this on Twitter if and when it’s appropriate. I’m also knocking on a few doors to see if there are any other options for the next act of my career.

 

I promise to keep you posted and to keep it honest. If Islanders news breaks in August, I don’t know if I’ll be around to immediately write about it. There’s no way I can do thrice-daily updates until I figure something out, but hopefully a long-form post like this is a good read for you. I’m going to at least try to do what’s right for as long as I can.

 

I appreciate the support and understanding and thank you for everything. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated ranked you No. 10 in his Media Power Rankings for July. Please stay tuned and stick by me, at least for a little while. See you down the road…CB

 

 

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