Lightweight Isles Lead NHL In Getting Pushed Around

Win Or Lose Saturday, They Must Get Retribution On Flyers

By Jeff Capellini,

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — They say the sport of hockey has changed, that fighting and goonery has been shelved in place of more skill, more speed and more gentlemanly play.


The New York Islanders seem to want to believe all this and have for years built teams in this mold. And as a result they’ve been pushed around NHL rinks for a decade. They have very little toughness and size and have left themselves open to the type of incidents that happened Saturday night in Philadelphia.

And it has to stop.

Now, it would be easy to call the Flyers’ Danny Briere a punk for trying to chop Frans Nielsen’s head off in the waning minutes of the Islanders’ embarrassing 6-1 loss. It would also be easy to go after Dan Carcillo, Philly’s resident tough guy and all around nuisance, because he almost looked like he relished pummeling Nielsen, a player with very few, if any, pugilistic tendencies. Nielsen is from Denmark for crying out loud.

But yet there were the Islanders getting humiliated in the ensuing scrum like they had for nearly all of the prior 58 minutes of actual hockey — you know, when guys try to score more goals than their opponents. One would have figured the mere fact that the Islanders, currently mired in a four-game losing streak, have won just one of their last 17 regular season games against the Flyers (1-13-3) would have lit a fire under someone to do something.

Hey, at least goaltender Rick DiPietro was ready to go.

For his actions, Briere was hit with a three-game suspension by Colin Campbell, the NHL’s dean of discipline, on Monday, so he won’t be around when the two teams have the rematch this Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.

And that, to me, is an absolute shame — not that the Islanders would actually do anything to him anyway.

I say this because back in the preseason Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri decided it was okay to go lumberjack on Isles rookie Nino Niederreiter not once, not twice, but three times within a few seconds. The Isles then faced the Canadiens in a home-and-home set this past Wednesday and Friday.

And what did they do to exact a pound of flesh?

You got it, nothing.

What has to happen for this team’s front office to understand that hockey has not changed? I can’t even get mad at Briere and Carcillo because they did what countless players before them have done for decades. It’s pretty much ingrained in players’ minds that if someone steps out of line it’s totally okay for you and your biggest and baddest buddy to beat the living daylights out of the opposition, regardless if the subject of the beatdown is a softer player who may or may not have been involved in the initial dispute in the first place.

This is hockey. It’s a generally accepted part of the game. It’s been going on for 90 years and it’s not going to stop, regardless of all the rules changes to increase scoring and the influx of more skilled — and less nasty — players from around the globe.

The Islanders’ front office, for its part, really didn’t listen to the fans’ clamoring over the previous few seasons to infuse more enforcer-type players into the lineup on a nightly basis. As a result, the Isles have gone out and traded and drafted admirably and have sold their souls to build a winner with young, skilled players, but along the way have sort of sidestepped the cold, hard fact that for every baby-faced star in the making you cultivate, you need someone to protect him or, in this case, them.

Now, Garth Snow did add some toughness this past offseason. The acquisition of Zenon Konopka has been a power move in every respect because this guy takes on all-comers, adds grit to any line and wins a ton of faceoffs. But after him, the Isles don’t have much in the way of guys you simply don’t mess with. Trevor Gillies can certainly throw hands, but he’s relatively inexperienced on the big stage, and Jon Sim, bless his heart, was more of an agitator and instigator than he was a finisher of what he started before he was inexplicably placed on waivers on Monday so the Isles could bring back another skilled player with little toughness in Rob Schremp, who had been out all season with a back injury.

And in fairness, both Konopka and Gillies were nowhere to be found during the late stages of Saturday night’s stupidity because one had been ejected earlier in the game and the other was in the penalty box. So, the question isn’t so much why didn’t the Islanders defend themselves on Saturday as much as it is what do they have planned in the future to make sure payback ends up being that female dog?

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other night on Twitter and I’ll tell you the same thing I mentioned to him. Who on the Islanders is going to sit in the locker room before a game and say, “Hey, no worries, guys. I got Carcillo,” ah la Bobby Nystrom? The answer right now is no one. But make no mistake the Islanders need that guy, or maybe two of him. They need someone whose mere presence acts as a deterrent in the face of the type of nonsense that went down in Philly.

The Isles have a lot invested in guys like John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Kyle Okposo (currently injured), Nielsen, Niederreiter and they can’t have relatively little toughness to defend them all. Teams will continue to take shots and they won’t be anywhere near the net, if you get my meaning.

If the Isles truly want to send a message that they will not be taken advantage of going forward they will put the five toughest guys they have in their entire organization on the ice to start Saturday night’s game. They will put Dwayne Roloson in net because he’s tough and crazy enough to take on anyone. They can put an end to this in about 30 seconds, regardless if the big, bad Flyers have bigger and badder players. The Isles will earn a measure of respect simply by presenting the illusion they are ready to do what is necessary. The NHL, of course, thinks barring Briere from the game will go a long way toward heading off potential problems, but it shouldn’t. The Isles still need to take umbrage on someone.

And then find Briere at a later date. It’s the right thing to do.

Monday was legendary Islanders coach Al Arbour’s 78th birthday. If I’m current coach Scott Gordon I call him to wish him a belated birthday and I beg him for his knowledge, because Arbour would know exactly what to do in this situation and would’ve never stood for what happened to Nielsen, Neiderreiter before him and Okposo at the hands of Dion Phaneuf last preseason. Then if I’m Gordon I Fed Ex him a case of whatever it is he’s enjoying during his retirement in Florida.

Now some will say I’ve used this space to advocate violence in sports, but my response to that would be, hey, I didn’t write the NHL’s unwritten rules.

All I’m saying is it’s high time the Islanders start enforcing them. Put on the foil and defend your honor or find guys who will.

I think you’ll find in the long run that the respect and fear factors often go hand in hand with a commitment to winning.

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  • Angelos15

    Martin, Konopka, Gillies, and any 2 defense men should start and set the tone. Konopka does not get any where the time he should get through out any game and the islanders need to stop relying on weight for everything. he messes up more than anyone (except hillen, game against caps ended his career) out there. LET”S DO SOMETHING ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mike

    Fighting is stupid and players should be suspended for 2 games. The game is hockey, not fighting. The special teams have gotten so good that a penalty can decide the winner. If I’m an owner I don’t want to pay a player 5 million dollars and then watch him get his hand broken in a fight. Depietro is the dumbest. He always skates across the ice to take on the other goalie. What is he trying to prove? he says he’s standing up for his team mates. Well, if his team mates need him to standup for them then they just as well not show up. Don’t worry he fight supporters still ahve boarding,spearing and illegal hits to keep you happy

  • jim

    how convenient this idiot leaves out the head shot Hunter(who NEVER drops the mitts) put on Mezaros. Maybe Shelley should tkae him out? Weak and Biased reporting.


    Come on Jeff, you missed the boat huge.

    How many times have you seen a triple minor called in a hockey game? Not even Al Arbour has seen that.

    The night before Matt Martin was beating all over the Canadians and went after Hal Gill and the Islanders dominated the hitting. It’s not Scott Gordon’s fault the officials ejected Konopka gave Gillies an unheard of triple minor and left Carcillo in the game to set up a five on three which caused this.

    Instead the refs left Carcillo on the ice instead of sending him off after he pushed at Gillies.

    Gordon put Nielsen, Martinek and Eaton on the ice, Laviolette had last change.

    Did you want Wisniewski on the ice in a three on five where Laviolette gets the last change so Cambell can give him another suspension after eight games last year plus two this year or did you want Gordon to clear his bench which in today’s NHL carries very serious implications. Hunter already knocked out Meszaros with a clean hit and another Flyer was hurt in the game.

    Niederreiter is gone for the year, he cannot be optioned back to New York without forfeiting a year of eligibility, his nine game trial is over. He is not allowed at his age to play in the AHL.

    A measure of respect Saturday? Score a bunch of eveh strength goals, wn a second straight home game against the Flyers and make then pay for Briere’s actions with a loss.

    • Joe P

      Well said “NYIFC”. This article was terrible and lacked all of the relevant details that puts the incident into its proper context. The 5 on 3….the Flyers having last change….the fact that the two toughest guys were already ejected or in the box. In fairness, the next chance to retaliate would be Saturday night, they couldn’t do anything else the rest of that night obviously. So let’s see what they can do before unfairly criticizing them for “lacking toughness”. Let me guess….Jeff is a Smurf fan.

  • Jon

    The Islanders are soft, they don’t have team toughness. I do agree that they need to send a message, but they won’t and can’t. The main focus is a “rebuild”. They will continue to be the little brother begging to play with his older bigger brother and his friends…

  • ifix942

    what do you mean when and if Niederreiter returns??? He’s in Juniors for the remainder of the year after being returned there. I don’t think there is an “option” to bring him back at this point until next year.

  • peace

    The Islanders have had a couple of no talent fighters the last few years – it would be nice to have some hockey players that could fight (Gillies, Nystrom, Potvin, Bourne) instead of fighter that cant play hockey (Tim Jackman, Chris Simon, Eric Cairns,Eric Goddard, Steve Webb)

  • bob

    It sure would be nice if you knew how to spell Niederreiter.

  • keith

    I think you missed the boat on this one. We don’t need to drop the mits and take stupid penalties, we need 2pts. I’m all for fighting – love it. But fighting for the sake of revenge after sucking it big time at Philly? Nah. What we need to do is play aggressively – when our fore check is on, we force bad plays which can lead to goals. Dropping the gloves can lead to momentum shifts, but given the talent level on the current team, we need to focus on goals and 2pts. I think if we’re more aggressive, finish checks, and hit hard, we’ll force them to cough up the puck, think twice about carrying it through center ice, maybe even draw some penalties. When we’re up 6-1, then we can think about revenge, if it even makes sense. For a team on a losing streak, the last thing we need to focus on is short term results – fighting.

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