New York Hockey: James Wisniewski

Isles facing shots (shots, shots, shots!)

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
3:27
PM ET
If the DJ out at Nassau Coliseum is looking for a fitting soundtrack to Isles games, he should consider cuing up Lil John and LMFAO.

Over their past 14 games, the Islanders have given up an average of 38.9 shots per contest, allowing over 40 in five of their last nine. Considering the league-high for shots-allowed average since the lockout has only once topped 35 for a season, that’s a pretty astounding volume the Isles’ netminders are facing.

Remarkably, Jack Capuano’s group is still 8-4-2 in those same 14 games, which is a massive testament to the team’s goaltenders. But Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators, Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin couldn’t withstand the barrage, yielding six goals through two periods and ultimately falling 6-4.

Though their goalies have often successfully faced those firing squads, this is a trend the Islanders need to solve. Two factors make this particularly important: 1.) The goalie that carried the Isles to four of those eight wins, Dwayne Roloson, now plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 2.) This is no way to build the confidence of kids the team sees anchoring the crease in years to come.

Through their first 42 games, New York has faced an average of 32.8 shots per game. That’s not good, but it’s not atrocious either. But if the Islanders continue to average 39 shots against for the remainder of the season they’d finish the year with a shots-against average of 35.8. That would be the highest season average for any NHL team since at least 1997-98 (which is earliest season I could find team stats on NHL.com). The next closest would be the 35.5 endured by the 2000-01 Atlanta Thrashers, the franchise’s third season in the league.

Are these statistics surprising given a young defense corps that lost its top member to injury (Mark Streit) and had its second-best traded away (James Wisniewski)? Probably not. And are these numbers just a short-term spike as the team adjusts to the absence of Wisniewski and Roloson? Possibly. Is this a small sample size? Absolutely. But it's a trend that seems to be heading in the wrong direction. In those last 14 games, all but one opponent (Edmonton) exceeded their average shots per game when they played the Islanders, so it's not just one or two fluky games.

Now, this isn’t meant to kick the Islanders when they’re down. Rather, I think it’s pretty darn notable that the team has been able to weather this kind of peppering and win eight times.

On the other hand, I sincerely doubt this is a trend the Isles are happy with and they will want to turn around forthwith. Something to keep an eye on in the days ahead.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Red Wings

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
8:23
AM ET
The Islanders battle their second consecutive first-place opponent when they take on the Red Wings in Detroit on New Year’s Eve. Here are three factors to watch when the puck drops before the ball drops.

Double Dose of D?

The Islanders bottled up the Penguins last game, holding Sidney Crosby and Co. to one goal. That feat is doubly impressive considering the adjustments the team had to make in the wake of trading defenseman James Wisniewski. But the formula the Isles employed Wednesday -- have G Rick DiPietro stand on his head -- probably isn’t a good one for long-term success. You just don’t win too many games giving up 38 shots on goal.

Roloson Rebound?

Head coach Jack Capuano has an interesting choice on his hands when he selects his netminder tonight. Does he go with the hot hand and stick DiPietro back in goal? Or does he saddle up Dwayne Roloson and see if his best goalie this season can rebound from that suspect 7-2 showing against the Rangers. My logic? Go with DiPietro. If he’s streaking, he might be able to steal another win Friday night, and if the Isles are going to trade Roloson at some point this season, you want DiPietro to start getting comfortable. Besides, if the Islander D still isn’t too strong, the Red Wings aren’t an opponent that allows goalies to regain their confidence.

Penalty Problem?


The Isles took 23 minutes of penalties against Pittsburgh, 10 of those a game misconduct to Zenon Konopka. On the season, New York is averaging just shy of 17 penalty minutes per game, the second highest average in the NHL. On one hand, that’s problematic since the Islanders PK operates at a middling 81 percent. But on the other, it may not be so bad. All but one of the penalties taken against the Pens were aggression penalties. Those are the kind of whistles that show a team playing right on the edge, and frankly, that’s where the Islanders need to play to win games. They need to throw some shoulders. They need to play the body. They need to get their opponent out of their comfort zone. If the Islanders start taking whistles for hooking, interference, tripping -- that’s when it becomes a problem because those are penalties taken by lazy defensive players.

Wiz trade doesn't add up for Isles

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
10:28
AM ET
As you’ve no doubt read by now, the Islanders dealt D James Wisniewski to the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round pick in this coming draft and a conditional fifth-rounder the following year.

The move has some Islander fans frustrated that this season's top defenseman -- who was also tied for the team lead in points -- was being shipped out, in December, for more draft picks. Yes, it’s yet another step in a seemingly never-ending rebuilding project, but everyone knows the Islanders aren’t going anywhere in 2010-11, so adding chips for the future makes sense. You can’t fault GM Garth Snow and the Islanders for that.

You can, however, fault the team for getting less than top value for one of their most coveted trade assets. And it certainly appears the Islanders sold a little low on Wisniewski.

The value of any tradeable asset is always relative to the market and already this season we’ve seen one team trade for an established blueliner, with the Washington Capitals acquiring D Scott Hannan from the Colorado Avalanche. In return for the veteran stay-at-home blueliner the Avs received Tomas Fleischmann one of the top young talents on the Caps’ roster (51 points in 69 games in 2009-10). That’s an NHL-ready contributor who has been a point-per-game player in his 12 games with Colorado.

As their career stats indicate, by any points-based comparison Wisniewski (.41 points per game in 286 games) is a better asset than Hannan (.23 ppg in 788 games). And Wisniewski seems to be flourishing with all of the power play time he’s received, already posting a career-best in the power-play points department. Such offensive skills have traditionally improved the value of a player on the trade market, so maybe Wisniewski's defensive shortcomings sapped his stock.

Defensive metrics are tricky to pin down and seldom tell an accurate story, but Wisniewski’s +/- was a very suspect minus-18. Pretty wretched. But considering he spent 70 more minutes on the ice than the next closest Islander and his team allowed 3.3 goals per game, while scoring just 2.3, that’s not as terrible as it could be. There are four other skaters and a goalie out there with him after all. For his career, Wisniewski’s +/- stands at plus-1, a figure that stood at plus-19 before he joined the Islanders.

Both Wisniewski and Hannan have contracts expiring after this season (as does Fleishmann’s) but Wisniewski is younger and any team acquiring him will have extra time to ink him to an extension, if they so choose (and with injured D Andrei Markov approaching free agency as well, that makes some sense for the Habs).

Compared to the Hannan trade it sure seems like the Isles got the short end of the deal, but that’s just one example. Take it back to last season’s trade deadline and the picture doesn’t get much better.

Last season, the Isles’ Andy Sutton was dealt for a second-rounder. And while the Islanders may have thought they’d stick to that price range for their top tradeable D commodity this season, it seems the Isles undersold last season as well. Other D-men switching teams at the trade deadline included Joe Corvo and Lubomir Visnovsky. Corvo netted Brian Pothier, a prospect and a pick from the Caps, while Visnovsky (and a sixth-rounder) returned Ryan Whitney.

While the Isles acquired Wisniewski for a conditional third-round pick in July, it certainly seems that D-men of Wisniewski’s caliber have yielded NHL-ready contributors in the recent past, which is obviously more than the Islanders received for him yesterday. But a rebuilding team doesn’t necessarily want talent ready to contribute immediately, more or less a pending free agent like Fleischmann, so draft picks make sense. But it’s tough to draw a conclusion until we know the value of a second-round pick. So exactly what is a second-round pick worth?

Last season, Alvin Chang of ESPN’s NHL Draft Blog studied that topic after we noticed second-rounders were common coin at the trade deadline.

While the Draft Blog is part of ESPN’s Insider package and you may not be able to see it in full, he found that since 1996 second-round picks have a 59-percent chance of reaching the NHL and a 25.8-percent chance of playing more than 82 games. Fifth-rounders? A 9.9-percent chance of playing 82 games in the league.

Draft picks are all well and good for rebuilding teams, but the Islanders essentially just traded their biggest chip for two lotto tickets with a 1-in-4 and 1-in-10 chance of winning a player that might give them equal production to Wisniewski. On average since 1996, defensemen taken in the second round average 20.9 points per season, forwards 31.9. Both totals are lower than what Wisniewski puts up on an annual basis. The Islanders would have to hit on both picks in order to better his production levels.

GMs have their own math for how they value picks, and I’m no GM, but from our math, this deal doesn’t add up for the Islanders.

Donnie Pucks: You should know better!

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
12:51
PM ET
Monday afternoon the Islanders beat the Rangers 6-4. That should be the story. With John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Mark Streit injured, the Islanders have produced 3 points in the standings in just two games and have scored 10 goals. The story, however, is James Wisniewski.

In the first period Wisniewski got into a verbal spat with, who else, Sean Avery. What happened next shocked some, entertained others but can't happen in front of 11,748 fans, many of them kids. He made an obscene gesture that can't be described on this site.

Wisniewski claims to not remember. Yeah right! James, if you want to refresh your memory just go to YouTube.

Avery certainly recalled the incident. He said, "It's pretty obvious what the guy was doing, but I'm sure nothing will happen to him because nothing ever happens. It's interesting, he'd get a warning for something like that." Sean must not remember that in the preseason Nick Boynton of the Blackhawks fought Blair Jones of the Lightning, lost the fight and committed a throat slash gesture. He was suspended for one game.

Apologies to Avery but there is no way Wisniewski will get away with this. Look for a one game suspension.

It's a shame. A great day for the Islanders lost in a gesture.

Two down, 80 to go for feisty Isles

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
8:44
AM ET
While the Islanders skated away with a 6-4 comeback win yesterday, one of their number suffered a loss. In the game’s lone fight, Zenon Konopka came out on the short end of the decision against the Rangers’ Brandon Prust, according to hockeyfights.com.

I suspect the Isles faithful won’t let that impinge on their jubilation over yesterday’s thriller, however.

The Isles are 1-0-1 to start the season, despite missing just about all of their top contributors from last season due to injury. There are 80 more games to go however, starting with Wednesday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals. Here’s some reading to tide you over until then.

Morning Links

Isles' Comeau heroic as Rangers blow lead

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
5:33
PM ET
There is just something about the Rangers that gets Blake Comeau's engine revving. The Islanders forward has averaged a good, not great, .45 points per game over the course of his career. When he suits up against the Rangers, however, suddenly he's Superman.

Coming into the Columbus Day grudge match with the Isles' rivals, Comeau had put up seven goals and 11 points in 13 games against the Blueshirts. That hot streak continued today, as he recorded an assist and two goals, including the game-winner in the Isles’ stunning 6-4 comeback victory.

Box Score

Plus

+ Comeau

Easily identifiable by the red cape fluttering behind him, I put the Isles forward in the plus column midway through the second period. At that point he "only" had the Isles' first goal -- capping a strip job from Michael Del Zotto deep in the Ranger zone -- and an assist on the team’s second marker. But it was more than the offensive production that caught my eye today. Six minutes into second, he blocked a Steve Eminger shot at the point and started two on one that almost led to goal by linemate P.A. Parentau. Comeau epitomized a tireless Islander team that refused to be outworked.

+ E (and W) for Effort

Building off that last point, the Islanders played like the hungrier team today. They came out faster and kept firing all game long. They were outshot and stoned more than a few times by Henrik Lundqvist (whose performance wasn’t really 5-goals worth of awful). If Lundqvist wasn’t as sharp as he was, the damage would have been much, much worse. Islanders head coach Scott Gordon has to be thrilled with the way his team has responded in the wake of injuries to, well, everyone. The next question is how long the Isles can sustain the effort level.

+ The Rangers' Second Line

Brandon Dubinsky (1 G, 1 A), Artem Anisimov (1 G, 1 A) and Ryan Callahan (1 A) were dynamic on even strength and special teams. Dubinsky and Callahan logged more ice time that even Marian Gaborik. There was one big blemish on Callahan though, as he took an offensive zone tripping penalty with just under six-minutes remaining. That began the downward spiral that ended in the Rangers’ loss. Since the trip was a borderline call though, I’m still slotting the unit in the plus column.

Minus

- Ranger Giveaways

Del Zotto turned over the puck twice deep in the Rangers’ zone, which directly led to both early Islander goals. He and his partner, Dan Girardi, finished a combined minus-3, though both scored for the Blueshirts. That’s the double edged sword that Del Zotto wields. He giveth, but he also taketh away. And when the Rangers taketh the loss, you have to put it in the minus column.

- Gaborik’s All Alone … And … Oh…

It’s astounding how an amazing goal scorer like Marian Gaborik can be so completely awful at penalty shots. He was stoned by Rick DiPietro in the first period today after getting hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway by Doug Weight, an event that first ignited the fire for Islander fans. I’m trying to track down Gaborik's career penalty shot percentage, but in overtime shootouts he has just 2 goals in 18 attempts. How is that even possible for a 40-goal scorer?

- Isles Special Teams

This was a hard call. Until the final Islander PP goals that tied and won the game late in the third period, the Islanders were 0-3 with a man up and yielded goals on first two Ranger PPs and another just after the third penalty expired. When the Isles had their first man-advantage, they had to haul down Gaborik to prevent that shorthanded breakaway. If the Rangers/officials weren’t so accommodating with two late-game penalties, this thrilling win could have ended quite differently. It won't dampen the mood today though.

Notes and Quotes

* As pointed out elsewhere, Islanders D James Wisniewski made a lewd gesture towards Rangers pest Sean Avery near the end of the first period. (Here’s a YouTube link, but if you don’t want to watch, imagine Wisniewski kindly encouraging Avery to really scrub that hard-to-reach plaque off his back molars.)

After the game however, the D-man seemed to experience a bout of temporary amnesia “I don’t remember making any gesture,” Wisniewski said to reporters. I’m sure the kind folks at the NHL’s Hockey Operations office will jog his memory soon enough.

In the other locker room, Avery added his two cents: “Can you imagine if I did that?” Avery asked rhetorically. “[Expletive]. Last time they sent me to rehab. That’s crazy.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance, said he didn’t see Wisniewski’s gesture and had no immediate response when he fielded questions during an impromptu media scrum between the second and third periods.

“I didn’t see it, but I heard about it,” Bettman said. “My guess is Hockey Operations will look at it and do what needs to be done.”

* Comeau says his confidence is rising after a solid end to last season. “I’m just shooting the puck more. I worked hard this summer, came back in shape and I'm still feeling good. My confidence is rolling.”

As for his affinity for playing the Rangers: “I don’t know what it is. I always seem to get some bounces and play well. I guess I just like to feed off the rivalry.”

When a reporter noted the Islanders have struggled playing the Rangers at the Coliseum in the recent past, Comeau gently jabbed back, “This year we haven’t.”

* During Bettman's Q and A with the media, when a reporter prefaced a question by stating the Islanders needed a new arena, Bettman piped up, “Ya think?” The commish went on to say the team was in desperate need of a new building, but that the next move lies with local government officials.

Per Bettman, there are currently no plans to relocate any NHL franchise or to expand the league. He added that Quebec City, one rumored destination for a relocated team, would need a new arena to be considered a viable market.

* "Entourage" actor Kevin Connolly was in the Isles locker room after the game and was rather pumped about the win.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Islanders

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
8:30
AM ET
I wonder if Christopher Columbus knew that part of his lasting legacy would be bringing daytime hockey to Long Island? The blog is heading out to Uniondale to check out the clash between the Rangers and Islanders today. Here are four blips to put on your radar.

Encore

The Rangers' Derek Stepan was going to get a lot of attention early in the season because he's all shiny and new and the team's youngest addition. But after scoring three times in his Blueshirt debut for a goal-starved team, the spotlight is officially on. I'll be watching to see how he follows up his sublime first game. And I doubt I'll be alone.

Is the best yet to come?

Marian Gaborik didn't score a single goal in the Rangers' 6-3 win over Buffalo, though the top line got on the scoreboard thanks to Erik Christensen. If Gaborik and linemate Alexander Frolov can get on track early in the season, and the secondary lines keep clicking, the Rangers could have a far more potent scoring attack than most anticipated.

Who's No. 1?

The bubble wrap didn't work. John Tavares suffered a mild concussion in the Isles' season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars and will most likely miss this afternoon's game. Who will step up in his absence? Newsday reported that Josh Bailey centered the top line at practice yesterday, so expect him to get the nod today. As for Tavares, Chris Botta says he should be held out all week. I have to agree with him on that score. There is no sense risking the future of your franchise unnecessarily.

Another powerful performance?

For at least one game the Islanders didn't miss Mark Streit at the point. The power play, abysmal in the 2009-10 campaign, was clicking on all cylinders Saturday night. The team potted three goals on eight attempts with the man advantage, including one by newcomer James Wisniewski, who will need to stay strong without Streit. The Rangers' PK is a solid unit and will provide a good test. But there should be more than a few opportunities, because, hey, it's Rangers-Islanders. Someone should make sure the penalty box doors are oiled.

Morning Links

Weekend update: Streit, Redden and more

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
8:33
AM ET
Here are some quick hits to get you caught up on the big news over the weekend. Check back later today for some more on the Isles, Rangers and Devils, including a glimpse of the ESPN The Magazine Power Rankings that will be released today.

Islanders

The Islanders’ playoff hopes took an enormous hit during Saturday’s practice as Mark Streit reportedly suffered a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff that will sideline the team’s top do-everything defenseman for six months, according to Newsday. A TSN report lists the Swiss D-man as out indefinitely after falling awkwardly into the boards following a check by teammate Matt Moulson.

Last season, Streit was the Islanders’ ice-time leader by a wide margin, and given his offensive skill set, replacing him may be altogether impossible. Blue line depth was already a problem for the Islanders, who brought in D James Wisniewski to help over the summer. Now Wisniewski and his fellow blueliners are all moved up a peg. Whether or not they can handle that responsibility will likely tell the Islanders’ playoff fortunes for this season.

If the Islanders look outside the organization for help they could turn to the Edmonton Oilers, who are still shopping Sheldon Souray. The Devils’ Bryce Salvador is no replacement for Streit, but he’s on the market as well, as the Devs look to free up cap space after signing Ilya Kovalchuk. And given the latest roster move by the Rangers, there’s always another option …

Rangers

The inevitable happened Saturday as Wade Redden was placed on waivers without even suiting up for a preseason game. He missed the first game against the Devils to be with his wife while she gave birth to their first child. He was waived before the second game on Saturday -- another win for the Blueshirts.

The move gets the Rangers below the salary cap for this season and gives them an additional $2.45 million of room. As for Redden, he will clear waivers at noon ET Monday. If he goes unclaimed (more than likely) he must report to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford to protect the remaining $23 million (and four years) owed to him on his contract.

Devils

Also on the salary cap front, there may finally be some movement as the Devils try to get below the ceiling. According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, the Avalanche are reportedly interested in acquiring Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner if GM Lou Lamoriello were to make him available.

With a young roster, the addition of Langenbrunner would add some veteran leadership and the Avs have more than enough cap space to absorb Langenbrunner’s $2.8 million hit for this season. Langenbrunner already has some chemistry with the Avs' Paul Stastny; the two skated on a line with Zach Parise at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Any deal would require Langenbrunner’s approval however, as he has a no trade clause.

Langenbrunner did not play in the team’s third preseason game Saturday, with Alex Vasyunov replacing him on the line with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott.

The season closes in

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
8:37
AM ET
Now well within a month of the start of the NHL season and mere days before veterans report for training camp, the media is starting to roll out its pre-season power rankings. Blog conglomerate SB Nation released its rankings, placing the Devils third in the East behind Washington (No. 1) and Pittsburgh.

As for the Rangers and Islanders? Well, there’s always next year.

Morning Links

  • Speaking of next season, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is already looking ahead to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
  • In the name of all things synergistic, here’s ESPN’s Gare Joyce’s first cut at the top 10 prospects from the 2011 (Insider) field from earlier this summer.
  • As a cap to the summer, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek takes a look at the best and worst offseason moves in the Atlantic Division. On that Kovalchuk signing you may have heard about? Not a fan. (Insider)
Islanders
Rangers
  • After losing 5-4 to Minnesota’s prospects Tuesday at Traverse City, the team’s site writes that winning isn’t everything at the tournament. Evgeny Grachev notched his third goal of the tourney, while 2010 third-rounder Andrew Yogan tallied as well. After the game, Rangers player development director Gordie Clark spoke highly of several of the prospects, particularly the defensive tandem of Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath. Clark labeled the duo the tournament’s “best pair by far.” The Baby Blueshirts wrap the tournament Wednesday against Dallas. You can follow the action here.
  • The Rangers and restricted free agent D Marc Staal continue to negotiate, according to the New York Post. Larry Brooks says the talks should conclude in a positive fashion before the opening of camp on Friday, with the discussed deal extending into Staal’s first few years of unrestricted free agency.
  • Blueshirts by the Numbers touches on No. 22, Mike Gartner.
  • Head Coach John Tortorella said newly-acquired netminder Martin Biron will hopefully start around 20 games this season. That would shed about 10 games from Lundqvist’s total last season. Tortorella also discussed the status of Chris Drury, who needs to prove he can still produce, according to the coach. The bench boss also conceded that Wade Redden’s contract affects how he looks at defenseman. Honestly, if the nails aren’t already hammered into Redden’s coffin, a new big deal for Staal should take care of that.
  • The Daily News caught up with Ruslan Fedotenko, who will fight for a job at training camp.
  • Ranger Rants examines the training camp battles on the right wing.
  • Lundqvist was among a slew of NHL stars in New York for the league’s media tour. Though I can’t seem to grab the link, on NHL.com right now there’s a video interview of the Rangers’ goalie getting asked about his super-dreamy locks. This is appointment viewing, I assure you. If you’re waiting for an actual hockey question though, you can probably save the 30 seconds.
Devils

Commissioner Gary Bettman tells Tom Gulitti that there will not be an appeal on the league’s punishment of the New Jersey Devils.
“The arbitrator found that there was a circumvention in this particular case and I’ve been very clear to the board that in the event that there’s a finding of circumvention it has to be punished,” Bettman said. “It’s that simple.”

I would argue that there has been nothing simple about the Kovalchuk signing/circumvention and that the league itself is to blame for previously allowing contracts of absurd length, padded with low-rent years to alleviate a salary-cap hit.

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