Q & A with Jiggs McDonald
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The voice of the New York Islanders during the teamís glory years, hall of fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald is synonymous with the teamís success and is respected as much as any of the former players that held the Stanley Cup above their heads for the team.
However, over the past two seasons, McDonald has had the chance to come back and do more than a handful of the teamís games, thus getting a front row seat to all of the action and has come to his own conclusions on the direction the team is going in. Chatting over the phone from his home in Florida, McDonald tells New York Sports Day what he thought of the Islandersí season and what hockey fans should expect from them in the future.
New York Sports Day: What do you think the Islanders did right this season?
Jiggs McDonald: The number one thing was sign Bill Guerin. Bill brought a maturity to the dressing room that I didnít think they had for a while and naming him the captain was absolutely the right thing to do. Heís a gentleman through and through and heís a great teammate. Heís a classy individual that brought that experience and something into that room that just wasnít there before.
NYSD: What do you think the Islanders were missing this season?
McDonald: Had Mike Comrie been healthy the entire season and had there been another goal-scoring forward, or maybe consistency from guys like Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko or a Josef Vasicek, just a little more from any one of those, it would have been a far different year. Then you get into the injuries and thereís no controlling that, every team has to deal with that, but itís hard to believe the severity of the injuries and the people who got injured on the team.
NYSD: Considering the plethora of injuries this season, which injury do you think played one of the bigger roles in them not making the playoffs?
McDonald: Jon Simís. I think heís a guy that can be an irritant and can really get under your skin. I think you would have seen a better offensive team if he was in the lineup night after night.
NYSD: After all the injuries, the Isles were forced to call up a lot of young players. How do you think they performed? Was there anyone that stood out?
McDonald: The coaching staff was forced into a youth movement because of all of the injuries and a lot of guys called up have shown an ability to score at the minor league level, but have never really proved it at the NHL level. I donít want to think that Jeff Tambellini is one of those players. I just think that for some reason, he didnít get the quality ice time he needed and they didnít play him enough and put him in key situations. They never really put him in a situation to show what he could or couldnít do. I think itís a reluctance on Tedís [Isles coach Ted Nolan] part to play Jeff when a lot of us though he should be on the ice.
NYSD: Charles Wang was quoted in Newsday a few weeks ago saying that the youngsters proved Ted Nolan wrong. Do you think that these kids are ready to play big time minutes?
McDonald: Yeah I do. I really liked what I saw of Jack Hillen. Boy, he looked to me like he was very poised and calm out there. Heís fresh out of college and just seemed to handle himself very well out there. As far as the rest of the kids go, yeah, turn them loose, let them play and develop. Look at Pittsburgh. I think there are enough veterans on this team to guide them and maybe you donít even sign the free agents, maybe you just go with the youth movement and develop this team and bite the bullet. Drafting fifth overall from everything Iíve heard, the Isles are probably going to get a guy that could step right in and help them without any seasoning. All reports are that the top seven picks are players that can help their teams right away. I think thereís a strong possibility that this could be someone who could be a rookie of the year candidate as well. Thereís no guarantee of that, but he could be a significant addition to that lineup at the very least.
NYSD: With that being said, do you think Ted Nolan is doing to have to change his coaching style?
McDonald: Yeah, heís going to have to accept the fact [that these kids deserve a chance]. Donít get me wrong by any means, I think heís a great teacher and a great people person for this team. Iíve felt this way since the road trip I was on with the team in Phoenix in the 2006 season and the guys told me how much respect they had for him and how he was a man of his word. Mike Sillinger told me he liked him and that he was honest and that he was good with everyone and was a players coach. He told them if they work hard for 45 minutes every night then that was it and heís right, thatís it. Now, heíll be asked to work with a little younger team than heís accustomed to and will have to put more responsibility on their shoulders, but I think heíll be able to adjust just fine.
NYSD: On another note, what do you think of the workload Rick DiPietro had this season?
McDonald: His workload has to be cut down and it should be cut down next season. Coming off of the surgery he had a year ago, I thought they were going to cut his workload down a little bit.
NYSD: Considering that, were you shocked at any point in the season how little Wade Dubielewicz had played this season, before DiPietroís injury?
McDonald: He should have gotten more playing time. I guess what I would like to see and itís something I think Ted and the coaching staff will definitely do next season is to just look at the schedule and look at who theyíre playing, where theyíre playing, how many number of games in how many nights theyíre playing in an effort to really make sure that they donít overwork DiPietro. I think he needs a little more rest.
NYSD: With Joey MacDonald under contract and Dubielewicz a free agent, what do you think the Islanders will do and if Dubielewicz is not resigned, do you think heíd have value on the market?
McDonald: The first question isnít for me to answer, but I do think that Dubielewicz has proven himself with the coaches or certainly should have. I think heís proven that he can be a solid backup and play more. If he is allowed to leave it wouldnít shock me if a team like the Devils looked at him. If you look at the number of games Marty Brodeur plays every year, you could tell that Kevin Weekes isnít a very happy guy. But as Marty gets older, youíd obviously want to rest him more and I think Dubie is someone that could play well in a spot like that. I think Toronto would be interested too because theyíre not happy with [Andy] Raycroft and theyíd definitely consider a new backup goaltender. So yes, I think there will be plenty of interest in Dubie this offseason.
NYSD: Lastly, what youngster do you think will have the best season for the Islanders next season?
McDonald: I think Kyle Okposo will take the nine games he had this season and grow with it this summer. I think theyíll have him in a few upper body building routines and heís going to be asked to get bigger and stronger. Heíll come back a bona fide number one pick and a guy that will have an outstanding season next year. Heís a smart player and even though I didnít see every game he played, I noticed that heís not the type of player that the puck follows around, but he knows where he has to go and knows how to get open and shoot the puck. Heís got a great release. I look for big things from him this year.