Oh what the heck. Blog Box Round Table Discussion, Chapter 1
“Kirill! You’re late! Go skate!” Garth Snow barked at me from his chair at the conference room table. Yes, I was late again. I hadn’t seen the text message asking “WHERE ARE YOU???” until I sat down and unloaded my things on the floor and the table while the blackberry totters snickered.
This was the first Blog Box Round Table discussion and I was seven minutes late. Tony Stabile from Hockey Independent thought it would be a fitting punishment for me to start the Q&A. Okposo Net’s Ken Dick agreed with him. They probably shouldn’t have.
I opened up my note book to two pages worth of questions I thought were more difficult than my usual ones. No, there would be no “softballs” today.
Question one: “After the media had made such a big deal about the Islanders sending out an email to certain agents regarding their available free-agents inviting them to training camp for a try out, are you disappointed that no one you up on the offer?”
He squinted to challenge me. “What email? Do you have a copy of it?” I was there to play “hardball” but he was doing the pitching. There are five full seconds of silence on my tape as we stared waiting for the other to crack a smile and the others in the room held their breath.
“You KNOW which email. We HAD this discussion.” I was defiant. Not only did we have the discussion, I did a spot on a Vancouver radio show about it. Don’t ask me WHAT email??? On the inside.
He pitched two more curve balls at me and when he felt I had sufficiently “struck out” at the plate he turned to my Blog Box buddies and chuckled. “We do this all the time.” He had set the stage for them. This would be an informal exchange of questions and answers. Garth Snow is a comedian -- when he’s not dead serious.
The short answer to the question was “No” he was not disappointed. “We explored different options of invitations to camp for certain players. And there were a few reasons why we wanted to explore inviting players to the camp.” Long story short: Bodies. Veteran bodies. With the split squad schedule, looking at the roster in August he wanted to be sure he had enough bodies. “You have to have eight veterans to play in a pre-season game. So to keep up with that rule, we thought that injuries that could incur during camp, we may end up being in a position where we needed to invite some veterans and we wanted to fill out our roster.”
It would have been nice if I knew about the “eight veterans” rule. That would have played well on Vancouver radio.
He continued saying they haven’t invited any other players to camp as of yet, but that scenario may change. “I want to leave the door open just in case we get into a situation where we need more veterans.”
If that statement doesn’t underscore the current “Youth Movement” of the New York Islanders, I don’t know what does.
The conversations were heavily tilted toward the younger players and how they are selected and developed. With today’s news of Kabanov’s second tardiness to camp, Garth’s disappointment in the Russian bad boy was evident. The kid was given a chance to succeed and he was blowing it quickly.
He also discussed his concern over Kirill Petrov’s development in the KHL. During the mini-camp in July, Petrov was clearly a mature and talented player with a desire to play in the NHL. As much as the Islanders are willing to do whatever it takes to bring Petrov to North America, they will abide by the rules of the KHL and leave this situation up to Petrov’s agent and KHL club to decide. (He dismissed my idea of an unmarked car and duct tape.) They will wait patiently for Petrov but I’m sure there are already two jersey’s with Petrov’s name on them hanging in Shakey’s equipment room.
While we were on the topic of youngsters, I asked about one that I have personally been patiently waiting for to join the Islanders roster: Blake Kessel. That other Kessel brother that was drafted in 2007.
Granted, the current crop of Islanders hopefuls is very deep on defense, so Blake is better off staying at UNH and continuing his education. But when I didn’t see him at mini-camp, I was concerned. (He had actually declined because the Wild Cats training camp was the same week.) I asked Garth if they were still keeping a close eye on Blake.
“Absolutely. I think we have a tremendous support group in place with not only our player development guys, but the relationships that our coaches on the Island here and in Bridgeport have with the coaches at UNH. So for us, it’s another situation where we have a college player where time is on his side and on our side. We’ll let their coaches do their thing and develop him. If he needs even more help, we’re there for him.”