The Islanders are in the middle of a playoff chase, but have recently gone on quite a skid.
Continue below for the interview...
Better forwards, better goaltending. Dwayne Roloson really stabilized the position and stole some games, particularly in the first half of this year. Last year the Islanders weren't getting that from their goalies, both of whom were career AHLers. But also: the top two goal scorers, John Tavares (17 goals) and Matt Moulson (21 goals), are new to the roster this year. No one is "lighting it up" -- and the Islanders are in a horrible offensive slump right now (10 goals in eight games), but those two have scored some important goals this year, Moulson doing it largely at 5-on-5.
2. Rick DiPietro tends to be the butt of some NHL jokes, but recently returned from injury. How has he played since then, and do you still see him being the goalie of the future?
He's been solid, not spectacular. I'll never bet on a butterfly goalie's long-term health after hip and knee surgeries, but he's shown signs that he might be able to capture the #1 form he had before the injury bug swept the rug out from under him beginning with the 2008 All-Star skills competition. His puck handling alone appears to reduce the load on the defense, short-circuiting a handful of opposition forechecks each game.
Part of the brilliance in signing Roloson was getting a very capable starter who also doesn't have much of a horizon beyond next year, when he'll be 41. So the Islanders can use this second half and next season to see what they have in DiPietro.
3. What has number 1 draft pick John Tavares brought to the team in his rookie campaign?
He handled first-line minutes and first powerplay unit right off the bat, which was somewhat of a surprise. He was scoring more in the first half -- there are questions whether his current slump is injury- or fatigue-related -- but throughout the season he's been a guy who's drawn the attention of the opposition. It's clear he has great hands that translate at this level; he probably needs to work on lower body strength to realize his potential. And of course off the ice, though the Islanders have been very careful in not over-marketing him, he's brought the pizazz of a future star who has a great head on his shoulders.
4. Former Predator Brendan Witt was recently put on waivers. Why the fallout?
Witt has been very ineffective this year, and ineffective in Scott Gordon's system overall.
[a little about that in this link: http://www.lighthousehockey.
Gordon's system emphasizes a mobile defense, and Witt lacks that mobility. So he's not very good pinching in, yet when he's expected to it's also a challenge for him to get back. One caveat: Witt suffered a knee injury in October of Gordon's first year (2008-09). It was quickly becoming a rough season for the Isles. Witt rushed back from that injury and it's possible he's not been the same since. He's played through many injuries in his career, including right before his recent demotion. It's possible those have caught up to him.
5. The trade deadline approaches. Islanders - buyers or sellers?
Sellers, without question. However: They don't have much of value they'd like to sell, and their most enticing rental, Andy Sutton, may be the physical defender they need to retain for an otherwise undersized blueline corps. One more caveat: If a team is looking to dump a good player in the name of creating cap space, Garth Snow will definitely listen.
Thanks are in order to Dominik, and we certainly are looking forward to watching guys like Tavares and Okposo take on the likes of Weber and Suter tomorrow night.