Having the camp on Long Island is such a great treat. We get the opportunity to see the guys in their ‘getting to know you’ phase, working on the systems that the coaching staff want to implement, get the ‘summer rust’ off and get into hockey shape.
With some Sunday plans shot, I had the opportunity to get to camp, and see how this year’s version of the Islanders is shaping up. There were some pre-conceived notions in my head concerning some players coming into camp, and I wanted to see if those thoughts were incorrrect or not.
Robbie Schremp: There are no effects of the knee injury on him. He was skating on a line with Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, and did not look any worse for wear. “I want to build on last year, I finished off pretty good. So just want to build on that and get my confidence going’, said the new number 44 after his practice session this morning. Schremp, knew what his expectations were for this season and knew that he would have to work hard in the summer to get back to that level. “I worked on my knee during the summer, and got as strong as I possibly could for camp.”
Doug Weight: The captain looked not only healthy, but is looking forward to the expectation on this team as camp opened. “We really want to play hockey in April, May and June,” said Weight. “Legitimately, we still have a lot of people to prove it to, but we are a year older, a year stronger, and I feel that we are going in the right direction. I worked my butt off this summer, and got myself in good shape, and I really think this is more than a ‘hump’ year for this team. I really expect some great things, and I think we will grow this confidence in the room, and I really think that we will be able to play some games in April.” One thing I definitely noticed, is looking deep into a players eyes, you can see what kind of passion exists in him. You see that in #93. He is a man on a mission, and with his years of experience and determination, I really feel that he will be able to move in a positive direction.
Radek Martinek: I have always been a supporter of him. I think that when he is on his game, and is in a healthy state, he can make a team dramatically improve. Another season of injuries behind him, he is one of 9 potential NHL defensemen that this team can have. He not only has to work extremely hard, but have toshow something extra in the tank to move him up on the food chain. I did not see a compairson to Bobby Orr with Martinek, but he looks solid on the back line, and I feel can make contributions to the team, if called upon. With the salary not an issue (just over $1 Million per season), he does not have any extra pressure than usual. The next 10 days are going to be critical to Martinek’s survival.
Josh Bailey: Year 3 in the career project of number 12, Bailey has put on some weight and does not have the ‘baby face’ look of a young player. His skating looks much better than the last two seasons already, and a great deal will be expected of him. He needs to keep that focus and hard work ethic, that we all know that Garth Snow expects from his young chargees. The character is there, now the results need to come. That ‘extra year older’ mentality that the Captain talked about, will need to not only be seen but heard.
Travis Hamonic: Another of the young prospects on the horizon, Hamonic was hurt at the end of his junior season. But the just turned 20 year older, feels ready to take on the pressure of a full training camp. “My body feels great. The summer is there to do a lot of injury prevention. I feel right now as strong as I have ever been, and it is definitely showing on the ice so far.” You can see that the confidence is there with him, and you can see on the ice, that he does not look like a 20 year old. Hamonic, along with fellow ‘sub legal’ Calvin deHaan both looked comfortable out there, and can make the decisions by Islander management on who to keep and who to let go be as tough as who should be the next American Idol.
Rick DiPietro: First of all – Happy Birthday DP! He turns 29 today. He got a birthday hug from Charles Wang today before his shift on the ice. There is no effects of any past injury on him right now. He looked comfortable going side to side, as well as coming out to challenge shooters. Is he in mid-season form? No one is. However, he does not look out of place, and should be able to start the season comfortably with Dwayne Roloson as the two starting Islander netminders. The question on the minds of the bloggers, as well as the fans, is that how will Coach Gordon play him. You can not expect DP to play 16 -18 of the first 20 games. You have Roloson, still a proven commodity, even in his fifth decade of life, so you work DP in, but not like an amateur in a poker tournament that will go all in on a 3 of clubs and a 5 of diamonds. As the tortoise proved, slow and steady wins the race.
Nino Niederreiter – A lot is being expected of this young man. He has only just turned 18 a few weeks ago, but as some of the other younger players, he just does not have the appearance of a boy, wet behind the ears. He looks strong on his skates, strides so well. He has a great snap shot, capable of picking corners with ease. “I am just trying to figure out the system and how it works on the Islanders. The pace can be a little hard,” said Niederriter, “but at the end, I feel comfortable out there.” Surprisingly, he has not really talked much to his countryman, Mark Streit, since camp opened, but he feels quite comfortable with the rest of the guys, and his command of the English language is exemplary.’
John Tavares: The expectations on this young man, is overwhelming for sure. But just as the we see from the other young players, we just don’t see any apprehension, just calm confidence. He has used his summer to work on his skating, and does look much stronger on his skates than he did last season. He had a couple of moves at camp that shocked Tony, Chris, Cristian and myself (the four bloggers on the job today). I did not get to talk to him after practice, but I believe that he is making this camp another opportunity for his continued growth.
For people that know me – I am always an eternal optimist. I will find any way to see the positive, and go with it. This group of guys, in the opinion of this author, does not have to do anything to sell me the goods on how this team can be a much more improved team than the one whose season ended in April. “I have no complaits on anybody. We are happy with the effort and execution of the drills. I think that everybody has done a good job,” said Islanders head coach Scott Gordon.
It may be quite early for fans or bloggers that have seen the team to say that the Islanders are going to win the division or be playing meaningful games in late May. But to my somewhat trained eye, I see things with this team that have opened my eyes a little. I am hoping that this progression will continue, and the team will move in the direction that we all hope that they will.