IslesBlog Sits Down with LIB Magazine’s Matt Saidman
Uniondale, NY – There are a lot of Islander fans on Twitter, all searching for answers. Fortunately, Islander fans are lucky enough to have a great selection of writers who cover the team on a daily basis. One of the newer writers to join that team is Matt Saidman, and we were lucky enough to sit down and talk about how he became the writer he is, and some of his opinions on the team we all love.
IslesBlog- You have a degree in accounting, but you work for a magazine covering the team. How did that happen?
Saidman- I definitely still use that degree- I work as a Financial Advisor. I knew I wanted to be in the business world but wasn’t interested in doing peoples taxes.I got my degree from Hofstra University, and picked up the journalism after being a hockey lifer. I played travel hockey since I was about four, started refereeing games at 11, starting coaching at 18-19 and even played at Hofstra. Becoming a referee was one of the best decisions of my life because it helped me see the sport from a different angle than a fan, player or coach would normally see it. I started writing when at 18 a website called officiating.com that wanted me to write some posts about what it was like to be younger and running games for mens leagues and that’s where I started writing about hockey. I come from a writing family as my mother is a published author and was always my editor.
IB- How did you get linked up with LIB Magazine?
MS- My girlfriend has been the assignment editor since the beginning of the magazine, a little over a year ago. Everything that needs to be covered, she assigns. We had gotten full access to a training camp event and got to interview the players. We went for more of a Long Island angle than a hockey angle. It was one quick thing and we decided that if we ever got the chance to do something like that again, I would run with it. Over the summer we reached out to see what kind of access we could get and the PR staff was great. They gave me access game by game and wanted to see how we got along with the guys in the press box and the players, and really since day one I just kept my head down and tried to do a good job. I’ve been a fan of this team since I was three or four years old so I get the whole “#IslesTwitter” thing.
IB- The transition from a fan to an objective writer must have been a tough one. How hard was it to make that transition and what did you do to get yourself past that?
MS- At first it was tough, believe it or not. You have your opinions and bias’ from being a fan. But once you get the access, you really realize how much you don’t know as a fan and how much actually goes on. I try to let people realize that the biggest, most knowledgeable fans aren’t stupid for not realizing how much they don’t know about the inner workings, it’s just that no one really knows. The organization is on a need to know basis and once I learned all this, it made it easier to keep opinions out of my writing.
IB- Who has been the most helpful to you in the press box seeing as this is your first year there?
MS- I have to say everyone. There are different areas of the press box where people sit, but really everyone has been very helpful if I have ever had any questions.
IB- Talk about the three stages of the Vanek trade- initial reaction, at it’s peak, and where it’s at now.
MS- I think if Garth gets back the pick he traded and an asset, that’d be a good return. He made a legitimate, honest try to improve the team. A lot of people wanted Garth to go trade for goaltending or defensemen, but no one knows what he was offering at all, only what was reported. When you talk to Thomas he’ll look you in the eyes and tell you that he really wants to hit UFA and uses words like selfish to describe it. A lot of people might think it’s canned lines, but he seems very honest about all of this. That being said, when he said he’d consider re-signing here, I believe him. You can see the chemistry with the rest of the team and coaching staff when you watch practices and talk to him. There will likely be four or five other teams who think they are an elite winger away from a cup contender.
IB- There are a lot other options on the market that other teams could use as bargaining chips for Vanek (Moulson, Cammalleri, Ganger). That has to hurt Vanek’s value.
MS- Possibly, but none of those guys scored 40 goals in a season. Vanek’s ability makes him tops at the position for any GM. Garth should be able to fetch a nice return still. Pure speculation, I could see Garth looking for a pick next year because he might defer the pick he has to give until next year due to how high this years pick would be.
IB- How important is it that Garth does a good job with A-Mac and Vanek at the trade deadline? Which is more important to score big on?
MS- Vanek is far more important than A-Mac. Vanek was a chance that might not have paid off the way we hoped; so you really want to salvage that, try to get back what you gave up. I don’t think it’s a saving face issue; you just want those picks for team development. A-Mac is a different story. The value they’ve gotten out of A-Mac playing at $550k for the past few years is great. To me, if they can’t swing him for something I don’t see that being a disaster. He’s been a good Islander for us and does whatever he’s asked. I can’t blame him for wanting as much money as he thinks he’s worth. I can’t see the team giving him $5M a year with the talent in the pipeline. Donovan has played well lately, the emergence of de Haan, Reinhart and Pulock are top prospects, Lubo is still here and Hickey and Strait are still here. A-Mac will be a great chip for a contender. If they can’t move him, it’s not a disaster because of what the team has gotten out of him.
IB- What was your expectation for the season and how do they stand going forward?
MS- I expected somewhere in the middle of contention and still the next step. Going to Brooklyn will help free agents due to the stability. If a free agent was offered a contract, they weren’t sure if they’d have to move their family again in the next two years so this is big to have the stability. I do see next year as being better than this year. I think everyone, the team included, expected better this year.
IB- I think what’s interesting is that Garth likely never would have made the Vanek trade if he didn’t have the stability of Brooklyn.
MS- Absolutely, I agree with that. The team was closer to contending as well.
IB- How important is the emergence of Calvin de Haan after being written off by so many?
MS- It’s huge. I don’t think the organization has written him off as much as the fans. The injuries he had kind of stopped him from being seen and that’s probably why so many people had written him off. He’s still kind of thin due to these injuries and hasn’t been able to bulk up. He’s confident with the puck and has great instincts and doesn’t get surprised much. Personally, I think Garth and his staff get a lot of flack for decisions they make but I’d like to see him get praise for the decision to trade up for de Haan.
IB- Something that gets lost in the decision to trade down for Bailey is that one of the picks Garth got turned into Travis Hamonic.
MS- That’s right. I personally feel that the contract extension might have been premature, but I feel in 2-3 years fans will be very happy they signed him to that contract. I could be wrong, but I see a lot of talent in Bailey. We may see a seasoned vet in the NHL for 6 years but 24 is young. Even Okposo who’s a big guy didn’t really turn it on until he was 25. You’d like to see more than what we’ve gotten from Bailey this season but you can see flashes.
IB- Who do you think is more likely to come out of their funk: Bailey or Grabner?
MS- I’d say Bailey. I think he’s more of a universal talent. Grabner has his value, I don’t see quite as high a ceiling. There’s a spot for him on most teams as a third liner and a great penalty killer. It’s tough to score on breakaways when you’re going full speed like he does. Grabner has a role, but Bailey has a higher ceiling. He just needs some more strength and higher confidence. I wouldn’t mind seeing him next to Tavares to build his confidence
IB- Talk a little about the goaltending issue.
MS- I think the goaltending you’ll see a change next year. I’d love to see Nabby here next year as a backup, great veteran presence. I don’t think Poulin is ready yet either. He’s got all the tools to be a great NHL goaltender but he’s still very raw when it comes to positioning. He needs a few more years with a top goalie coach and once he starts moving around less he’s going to be a great goaltender. Just has to be more economically.
IB- Would you see Garth getting another stop gap or making Poulin a great backup?
MS- If Ryan Miller wants to sign here, not going to say no. But a guy like Jonas Hiller would be a great fit. He’s been a backup but would be good enough to start here and in two or three years if Poulin is ready to take over, they could change roles. I’d be surprised if they went to camp next year with the same goaltending situation.
IB- Lets say you’re Garth Snow and can sign or trade for any two players, with money not an issue and the player wants to come here. Who is on your wish list (realistically)?
MS- At forward, it’s hard not to say Vanek. You’ve seen the chemistry he has with these guys and you know what he can do here, so it’s hard to suggest anyone but him. I like Matt Niskanen as well, he could bolster up the D.
IB- What does the Regin/Bouchard trade say to you?
MS- I think it says that the offseason wasn’t very good, but I do feel really good for Peter Regin. He always was great to me personally and is a very hard worker on the ice so I’m happy to see him go to a contender.
IB- What’s one of the best quotes you’ve gotten from a hockey player?
MS- Last week Nabby was asked about playing in the cold, and his response was “my wife can come down and give me a massage”. I’ve also loved talking to Kyle Okposo about the birth of his daughter and how he’s handled not making the Olympic team.
We would like to thank Matt for joining us to talk Isles hockey!
You can follow Matt on twitter @MattSaidman