50 WORDS OR LESS: The New NYI 'D'
Here's what the fans in Islanders Country had to say
[Ed. Note: We received more than a thousand emails from fans answering our first 50 Words or Less question: What do you think of the remaking of the Islanders defense?
As you would expect from Islanders fans, every email was written from the heart. There's only one email we could think of that broke the rule and went WAY over the 50-word limit. Although it was very positive, a rule is a rule. It should also be noted that, despite making it clear that we would run constructive criticism, more than 90% positive about the moves on the blueline. We even received a dozen poems. We appreciate the artistry, but really hope i's not a trend.
To be frank, it's nearly impossible to chose ten and say they are the clear-cut best and award the 2005-06 NYI Media Guide, so please forgive our judging and if you did't win, there will be plenty more chances. The ten winners will receive their media guides in mid-October. We included several honorable mentions as well. Thank you to everyone who posted].
Initially, it's hard to accept change. Kenny, Hammer and Aucoin had given us a sense of pride. And now, the changing of the guard. Zhitnik, Lukowich, and Sopel, all improving, solid players, will anchor our D and be given a chance to create a new pride in Islanders Country.
Taoyuan City, Taiwan
Never mind shooting the puck off the glass
Sopel looks for the headman-pass
Blueline to blueline in a blink of an eye
The puck hits Blake's tape, he winds up and lets it fly
A save is made, but the rebound is crisp
Zhitnik collects and he does not miss!
East Brunswick, NJ and Section 112
In a word, concerned. Aucoin was the heart of this team - 25+ mins a game, solid, reliable, dependable, and clutch. The new guys may work out well, but there are too many question marks there. With the NHL's renewed offensive-minded rules, we're going to see more 40+ SOG games. A strong blueline corps is going to be mandatory, and I think Aucoin was the best the Isles (or any team) could hope for.
With the alteration of the rules favoring offensive players, the organization has done more than just replace players. The moves effectively mesh big, suffocating defensive players with quick skating, offensive play-making defensemen. The only player loss they will feel is that of Kenny Jonnson.
Who needs 50? The most important word is chemistry. The transformation of this unit shouldn't be judged by the stat lines of the new or the departed players, but by how successfully this new group blends into a unit capable of playing consistent, cohesive team defense in the "new" NHL.
and Sound Tigers season ticketholder
Younger, faster and more potent. That's how our blue line shapes up. By adding Zhitnik, Sopel and Lukowich, the Islanders have improved their power play and solidified a corps of puck-moving pivots who complement DiPietro's game. The "New NHL" will be a place where the "new-look Isles" will thrive.
New York, NY
I'm afraid. I like the new guys, but who's going to beat people up in front of the net? Who's going to knock down people going for rebounds?
Who's going to hit Peter Forsberg again and again, 8 times a year? Who's going to make opposing forwards pay the price?
Galileo had his telescope. Ben Franklin had his kite. Mike Milbury has his blue line. With the new rules instituted by the NHL, Milbury has done the best he could to help the Isles adjust to the new wide-open style of play. Welcome aboard Lukowich, Sopel, and Zhitnik!
West Harrison, NY
I think the Islanders did very well in replacing their core with defensemen that are more mobile and fit into the cap. You will be cheering more for the crest on the front rather than the name on the back due to a salary cap and free agency earlier in player's careers.
Langley, British Columbia
I am glad Ken Morrow is still with the organization to work with Mike on the D.
I can't see how anyone would view these changes as anything but a plus. The incoming players should add a much-needed spark. The Islanders should be proud of their accomplishments over the past two seasons, but let's face it - It's time to move beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Thanks for the memories Oakie, but here's why we'll be fine without you: the Alex Rodriguez effect. Somebody considered indispensable leaves and the supporting cast steps up. Our defense is now deeper, more motivated and offensively dangerous. The only risk is to our forwards, who may get outscored by them.
Kings Park, NY
I think Tom Cruise in œTop Gun? said it best..."I feel a need...a need for speed!!!" With passing D-men and a pass-happy goalie this team is going to be very dangerous.
As the saying goes you must change with the times and the Islanders have the shown the commitment to make next year's defensive corps a versatile and successful group. Let the other team offenses beware. The last line of defense is better than ever.
East Meadow, NY
Obviously, the status quo would have been great, but I am pleased with what Mike Milbury has put together. The best part is that MM has built a solid replacement blueline without having to give up much. Hopefully a young gun or two from Bridgeport will be ready to contribute on the Island.
Summerside, PE, Canada
Mike Milbury did an admirable job rebuilding the defense. Some fans were quick to criticize Milbury for losing Adrian Aucoin, but they were quickly silenced with the acquisitions of Sopel, Zhitnik, and Lukowich. Along with holdovers Janne Niinimaa and Radek Martinek they will be younger, faster and fun to watch.
West Babylon, NY
The "remaking" of the blueline shows Mike's ability to get what he needs. I will miss Aucoin, but the Isles now have Sopel with as many points, plays 80 games, with a +11. The "D" are young, 6' (except Zhitnik) and are assembled to maximize the rule changes.
The Islanders didn't break up Potvin, Morrow, Perrson and Langevin this summer. We didn't win a playoff series with Hamrlik, Jonnson and Aucoin. IF the NHL stands by what it says about calling obstruction, these guys can move the puck up ice to Satan, York, Blake... They're gonna be flying. Le's go Islanders!!
What Zhitnik can do With the puck from line blue
Is exciting for both me and you.
But we all are fans of Okee
And our hearts are now so lonely
If I were Mike Mil
I'd be just so thrilled
To gladly pay him 16 mil
This is a new blue line for a new era. They represent speed over size and playmakers over physical presences. This collection was designed with the new game in mind. With these great skaters the Islanders should be aptly prepared to lead the Islanders to GLORY in 05-06.
I think the revamped Islander defense will surprise a lot of people. Milbury did a great job signing Zhitnik and Sopel. His best signing was Lukowich. He'll bring a winning attitude in the playoffs, something the Islanders have been lacking.
Douglas R. Fiumara
Zhitnik-Aucoin: match; Zhitnik's leadership not Aucoin's level.
Lukowich -Jonsson: defensively matched; Kenny was better offensively.
Sopel-Hamrlik: Similar offensively, Hammer was better defensively.
Niinimaa, Martinek: Time to shine
Salary Cap: properly addressed
Size/Strength: in front of net is an issue
Southport, MB, Canada
Our blueliners won't be blue this season. N.Z.L.S. (Niinimaa-Zhitnik-Lukowich-Sopel) Ltd. No, better say their potential is unlimited! And Rick can enjoy some rest in goal...
Losing good friends and leaders who brought back the words never say die on Long Island will always be missed but this is a new season and new rules, so out with the old and bring in the new. Here we come Long Island -- Stanley is waiting for you!
With the new rule changes, stressing puck movement and passing, and the new salary cap, it is hard to steal current blueliners with these traits without overspending. I have two more words for my essay Chris Campoli. Thank you. Please send my prize and complimentary season tickets to:
[Ed. Note: Sorry, Mike, but we do love your confidence].
I was distraught when Aucoin, Jonsson and Hamrlik voted themselves off the Isle. But I think Trader Mike did a good job rebuilding. The biggest signing was Sopel. I watched him on the dish...huge shot, can move the puck. That's not to say Lukowich isn't key either. He's a plus/minus machine. Zhitnik effectively replaced Hamrlik. Good job, Mike.
Who needs 50 words? Two will suffice: GAME ON!