Eyes on Isles Presents: The Deke Squad — Episode 1

1 of 3

 Welcome to the Deke Squad.

Rich Dias-Rodrigues and Chris Triantafilis take a week’s worth of social media conversation, as well as in-house blathering, and bring it altogether for you, the reader.

Be sure to leave a comment below, as the point of it all is to organize a place for hockey fans, especially Islander ones, to come and have an intelligent discussion.

How it works: One question. One screen. One poll. Click ‘Next’.

Three in total.



This week’s topics:



Jan 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs players Phil Kessel (left) and James van Riemsdyk (right) are introduced as members of the U.S. Olympic hockey team after the 2014 Winter Classic hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

 Will the February hiatus hurt or help teams who’ve recently found themselves on a momentum uptick? Is it a case of much-needed rest for the remaining three-month push to follow, or will the iron cool and disrupt the order of things?

CT: It could hurt. Good teams are good teams, but hot teams that are making a push for those final playoff seeds can be adversely affected. If the Olympic break started tomorrow, I’d be unhappy as an Islanders fan, for example. After a terrible start to the season, the Islanders are getting hot, and you never know how they will respond afterwards. Sure, rest is good, but you don’t really want to interrupt a team that is in the zone.

RDR:  But couldn’t we say that for all the teams out there? Think of it as a truncated season all over again. Or, for dramatic effect, let’s call it the “Sochi Syndrome” because, what’s an article without some alliteration.

But I’ll say this much, Chris. I’m of the belief that if you’re on a roll, don’t stop. But if you take a look at the Islanders roster, one that is riddled with injury in key areas, this hiatus will benefit them.

Understanding full-well that what we’re doing here is speculative at best, I’ll take it a step further: I almost think that snubbing Kyle Okposo may benefit him and the team.

CT: Really?! All that fuss…

RDR: Now don’t cringe, because as you well know, I was incredibly irate to find Okposo off the USA roster, but now that John Tavares and Thomas Vanek are heading to Sochi, the Isles’s top line will be taxed heavily. With Okposo at home, we should expect a fully-rested and eager top line winger hungry for some ice time come late February.

Vanek is sure to see an early exit from Sochi, as he, Michael Grabner and Team Austria aren’t poised to do much after the Round Robin stage.

But Tavares and Team Canada are certainly constructed to reach the medal round. And as compacted as the schedule will be, the Islanders’ star player will have little in the way of downtime.

So, will it hurt Tavares and other NHLers? Not really. Because they’ll continue their surges, but just on a different stage.

Again, just being purely speculative, right: but I don’t believe it’ll hurt guys like Okposo and one Travis Hamonic, who could benefit from some healing.

I know that Okposo is known to be streaky, but he’s shown himself to be anything but this season.

What do you think?

CT: At this juncture, time to get healthy is definitely a positive, but whether players get healthy in time for a playoff push depends where Isles are in the standings when the injured regain their health.

Now, can the break set-off Kyle? I think he’s already been set. Kyle’s playing the best hockey of his career. If it drives him to be even better, then the Isles have one superstar line.

RDR: Agreed.


Dec 29, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald (47) shoots the puck during the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Preliminary contract discussions have opened up between Andrew MacDonald and the Islanders. Hefty pay raise notwithstanding, should the Islanders hold onto the NHL’s leading shot-blocker, knowing he will be shifted into a role more suited for his playing abilities once the defense situation is organized, be it now or next season? 

CT: Quality defensemen aren’t easy to come by in the NHL. Once you have one, you want to hold onto him.

Of course, not many would agree that MacDonald has been a quality d-man this season, but for $550K, I think the Islanders have a steal of a deal, a player that can play upwards of 20 minutes per game.

Now, if you say he should be played less, I would agree, as his sub-par play has been indicative of this.

RDR: I’m saying that. Yep.

CT: But wait. MacDonald leads the NHL in blocked shots, something that was praised a ton last year. In a reduced role (which he should get for any team he signs with), and not at $5M per season (which he may ask for), the Islanders would benefit from bringing him back. A lot of “ifs,” though.

RDR: Lots of “ifs” and some “whys” and perhaps a “No, thank you” for good measure.

Well, the whole “blocked shots” stats is quite misleading, Chris. On the surface, owning the record for most blocked shots in a given season is quite a feat, but reveals deficiencies that may otherwise be glossed over to those who don’t bother looking deeper.

Yes, I’m all for defensemen, and all players really, sacrificing themselves inside their own zone to a degree. Great.

But like we’ve all said on the Dump and Chase podcast, here on this site, and in private, if you’re blocking shots that means you’re chasing pucks and you’re out of position, scurrying back to avoid a high-percentage scoring opportunity from occurring, or worse, on the PK more than you should be.

Much rather have the likes of MacDonald, Hamonic, and to a lesser extent Matt Martin, et al. clearing pucks cleanly out of the zone, rather than risking their bodies.

But do I think the Isles should re-sign MacDonald? At a hometown discount. Not at 5M or anything that close.

But then again, if you think about it, what you’re really hoping to get is a much better Andrew MacDonald, because you’re sure as heck not getting a PK Subban, Pietrangelo, and the like. So, why not see what happens when the likes of Griffin Reinhart arrive, and see if lessening ice time improves upon Andrew MacDonald’s overall game.

CT: Valid points, and I agree that he is definitely biting off more than he can chew.

RDR: Right? And to touch upon one thing: fans can clamor about MacDonald’s glaring errors, and there are many, but this man is definitely taking on too much. No business does he have being on that Power Play, for starters.

CT: Oh yes. No business being out there with the man-advantage. AT. ALL. Let me say one thing about what you call a “misleading stat”

RDR: Okay. Shoot.

CT: Was it not Dan Girardi who made an All-Star appearance solely for his ability to block shots in front of Lundqvist? I agree that the statistic can be misleading, and I would much rather have a defenseman clear the puck smoothly than risk his body/injury by getting in the way, but sometimes, you need to block that shot. A shot that is blocked is a puck that doesn’t reach the net. It’s easy to go after MacDonald for that statistic being his “best,” but I think it has been diminished by his poor play otherwise.

Whether or not he stays here for the remainder of the season depends on the team’s success come trade deadline time. As we have seen, if the Isles are in the conversation, they will stand pat rather than ship A-Mac off. I could live with keeping him if the Isles are still in the hunt, but if not, I’m sure they can get a nice return for a player that many think has regressed in 2013-14.

RDR: Agree with you on one thing, for now: if the Isles are in some semblance of a playoff run, then you stand pat, just like they did with Mark Streit. Wait and see.


Dec 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders center Ryan Strome (18) takes a shot against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Strome has been returned to Bridgeport. Good move? Bad move? Explain the logic here.

CT: It’s an “okay” roster move, Rich. I don’t love it because I want to see Strome continue playing in the NHL. In my opinion, he’s ready, and has looked comfortable throughout. But I also understand that it was necessary.

The Islanders really had no other option because of the game-limit that would allow/prevent him from playing in the AHL during the Olympic break.

Chances are, we will see Strome back on the Island after the Olympic break, but in order to be permitted to return to the AHL during it, he can only play 7 more games (max) leading up to February 9th. And Strome has to play during those two weeks off.

RDR: You know, Chris, when I initially read about this move, my thoughts were: Hmm, strange.

And like you mentioned, Mr. Art Staple tweeted at 1pm on Wednesday that all NHL teams received a memo stating that any player who plays more than 15 of 20 games prior to Sochi cannot be sent to the AHL.

But he had, like you said, 7 games left before he would be ineligible, so why do it now? But I gave it some thought as the day drew to a close.

If you were to ask me whether or not Ryan Strome was as significant a factor in the manner of a Calvin de Haan, I’d have to say, “No.” Not that much of a difference maker, but not necessarily that detrimental, either.

Let me explain the aforementioned before #islestwitter shoots my dog, burns down my house, and blows up my car:

He’s got the goods, for sure. But, a bit more AHL time, all in preparation for a full-time gig with the Islanders in 2014-15, would be highly beneficial.  But suffice to say, most fans have disagreed, or are at the most, puzzled that Strome is heading back to the Bridge so soon.

I was never behind bringing up Strome in the first place, simply because I thought the situation he was coming into at the time was counter-intuitive to his development. And yes, losing is a part of playing sports, but I didn’t want to see him on the 4th line, and the 3rd line isn’t why this lad was drafted.

But I’m glad that he proved me wrong, to an extent, and proved his worth for a bit while here. All that said, Strome wasn’t a glaring addition to this team. But he will be. No. Doubt. No doubt whatsoever. Loads of talent.

Hey, let’s put it this way: the Isles aren’t ready for him. How’s that? Ha! I think he’s coming back, though. This season. Simple as that.

What do you think in the end Chris? Oh, and one has to wonder when exactly we see the return of one Pierre-Marc Bouchard. He’s about due, no?

CT: I’m not so sure about Bouchard, solely because I don’t believe the “demotion” had anything to do with performance.

I expect Strome to be back before February (sometime around the game vs. the Blues), and for him to remain on Long Island for the rest of the season.

RDR: I wouldn’t mind either move, in my opinion. Bouchard or Strome, either one has to step up and help continue this current surge of chemistry and success.

And both have or will benefit from some fine tuning.

I will say this: Strome was much more noticeable in his short tenure with the Isles than Bouchard. But I’m hopeful that if and when he reemerges, Bouchard can prove his worth on the Island.


--Follow Rich Dias-Rodrigues @RDNHL
--Follow Chris Triantafilis @christriants