Friday, September 17, 2010

Game 2: A Better Showing

SB Nation's Lighthouse Hockey called this group of Isles prospects "Hatchlings." I thought that was truly funny, I'll just call them "rookies." Some of these young men have never played in an NHL arena, so these two exhibition games were very exciting for them.

When I spoke with Scott Gordon on Tuesday, before the games, he didn't expect big crowds for these games, but knew they would mean a lot to his young squad.

"You're playing on NHL ice and treated like an NHL player for a couple of days." Well, almost. They did take the bus to Boston, but everything else was NHL caliber. The estimated 7,000 tickets sold turned into over 11,000 on Wednesday and a whopping 14,180 on Thursday. Basically, as many patrons as you'll see at the Coliseum.

The Isles prospects seemed a little less anxious as pointed out in this quote from goal scorer Tony Romano in the Islanders post game report on their website:

“I felt like a lot of us were in our comfort zone tonight rather than last night,” said Romano. “I know myself, last night I was just a bit hesitant. Tonight I definitely felt like I was playing with a lot more urgency, using some more hockey sense and it definitely made a difference in my game.”

When I asked Scott Gordon what they would have to do to impress him, he told me "Just go out and play their game. We know mistakes are going to be made. They're not really a team. They haven't had the opportunity to play much together so I think that every player has their own special abilities and it's important that they show those. If you fight, you fight. If you score, you score."

Travis Hamonic showed his. As Lighthouse Hockey said "Hamonic will eat your children." Whoa! Okay then. Yes, the kid has grit and spunk -- and he got tossed out of last night's game because of the fight rule. But many of the rookies showed their "special abilities."

Kevin Poulin made some excellent saves and many noted the score would probably not have been kept so close if not for his heroics. Many of the names that have tested the waters on the Bridgeport squad stood out last night as well still trying to impress both Scott Gordon and Jack Capuano. With cut day looming large, the older prospects are hoping to make a line up somewhere within the organization.

The younger prospects will be heading back to their junior clubs, but this camp and these games gave them a good taste of what is to be expected of them. When I asked Gordon if he watches those who have returned more closely than the younger prospects, he said "Realistically, the guys that are going to go back to junior, we have a better idea of what they are doing and what their progress is. The guys that have the potential to make our team; whether it's a draft pick or a player from Bridgeport, we'll be more in-tune with those guys and watching them closer."
With rookie camp about to end and Training camp starting this afternoon, I wondered what Scott Gordon hopes to accomplish in his third year as head coach of the Islanders.

"Obviously, we improved from the first year, and we want to continue to improve. The whole process that we've gone through in the last two years is going in the right direction and you want to make sure we continue to go in that direction. I think a good measure for us will be the way we finish the year in the standings. The objective is for every team to make the playoffs and certainly you hate to think you went into the season not thinking you had a chance to win the Stanley Cup and hopefully our players feel that way."

I read that as heading into the season looking to create a positive attitude in the dressing room that will carry out to the ice.

Scott Gordon has his work cut out for him. While the Islanders improved by 18 points last season, their record must continue to improve whether they earn a playoff berth or not.

As far as this being the last year of Gordon's contract, I have read much speculation on whether he will be extended or if he will play out the remainder of the contract and not be renewed. If anyone remembers what Scott Gordon told the press when he was first hired as a rookie coach, he approaches his employment knowing that any day could be his last in this business. He just works his hardest and does his best.

The saying "The Best is yet to come" somehow comes to mind here.

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