Monday, November 3, 2008

Islanders are down, DiPietro is out

Well, at least the third jersey is a hit.

Scott Gordon's first 10 games as head coach are among the worst in team history, down there with Earl Ingarfield and Phil Goyette, who posted their stanky stretches in the inaugural and historically bad 1972-73 season. But you can't completely blame Gordon for what's gone on so far.

Yes, the team has had its troubles adapting to a completely new system after a tough training camp, and those growing pains were expected. But injuries -- to defensemen Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek and Freddy Meyer, and goalie Rick DiPietro, who will be out 4-6 weeks after surgery to repair an unidentified damaged meniscus -- combined with an inability to capitalize on scoring chances when they present themselves have conspired to sink the Islanders to the bottom of the standings and dampen whatever enthuiasm the fans had at the start of the new campaign.

Regarding DiPietro, whether the meniscus in question is in his right knee or his left, it really doesn't matter. Let's say the injury he suffered was unrelated to his previous injuries, as the team has stated. It doesn't change the fact that DiPietro has had three surgeries in the last seven months and is looking as stable as a one-legged stool.

We're willing to give DiPietro a chance -- he played 62, 62 and 63 games the previous three years -- to get healthy and be the team's horse. But there may not be much of a race left to run by the time he gets back.

Getting a point on the road in Philly is something, but the overtime loss is still a loss. What happened Saturday night, in the third jersey's debut, was just awful and sort of typified the Islanders' young season.

You just cannot blow a 4-1 lead at home. I understand the Canadiens are a popular choice to win the conference, but after playing so well for 40 minutes, to allow four unanswered goals -- regardless of who was or was not in the net or on the ice -- is unacceptable. That third-period collapse is the kind of thing that can rip the heart out of a team, and here's hoping the Islanders learn from it and not let it drag them down any further.

What made it worse was the sound of so many Canadiens fans cheering the outcome. Watching the game on televison, it sounded like the game was being played in Quebec. Fellow Blog Boxer Frank Trovato has an excellent point -- many Islanders home games are almost like road games with so many fans of opposing teams buying available tickets at the Coliseum.

It's disheartening and it sucks and I can imagine what it's like as a player to hear that in your own arena. But I cannot condemn Islanders fans for not filling those seats, considering how much tickets cost, especially in this economy, and considering the team's recent lack of success and amount of turmoil the franchise has experienced.

Put a winner on the ice, and fans will come.

As for the third jersey, I was unsure about it at first glance, but having watched the Montreal game and seeing the jersey "in action," I am sold. Getting one with 27 TONELLI on the back is a given at this point. I've added it to my Christmas list.

That, and a couple of victories. Please, Santa?

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