(about once a year, I’ll use any excuse to display a photograph of Stan Fischler in his natural element)

Depending on your point of view, the Atlantic Division is Mediocrity City thus far or the New York Islanders have gotten off to a respectable start under Ted Nolan’s supervision. But the former Sabres coach was walking the thin line between honesty and negativity after the Isles were embarrassed last night, 5-1, by Tampa Bay at a half-full Nassua Mausoleum.

Nolan was upset that his team failed to defend a backdoor play that the Lightning used on three of its goals; he called a penalty on Richard Park for holding the stick to give Tampa its first power-play goal in the second period a “dumb” move, and he benched top-line winger Viktor Kozlov for lack of hustle.

“That was worse than a clunker,” Nolan said of the Islanders’ second straight home loss that dropped their record to 6-6-2. “The most frustrating part was that we seemed to quit. You can get ‘outskilled,’ but when you quit, that’s another story.

“When they got up 3-1, we looked like we didn’t want to fight back . . . We played so well in Jersey that we thought it was going to be easy.”

“The players have to look at themselves,” Nolan said. “They have to decide how much they want to compete and be here. I don’t blame the fans when they boo. If I was up there, I would have booed, too.”

TSN’s recap of Toronto’s 4-1 win over Philadelphia pays special tribute to a “several different shades of plaid” sport coat donned by Ronan Tyan collaborator John McDerrmot. You just don’t get that sort of attention to detail from the Philly papers, though I do suppose the Flyers going 7 for 87 in the power play this season is a significant, if not thoroughly miserable stat.

Noting the NHL’s recent attendence woes (and the league’s attempts to spin the story), Tom Benjamin links to an American Journal Of Economics & Sociology study that claims violence is greater boon to ticket sales than increased offense. Granted, the findings are more than years old, and don’t take into account other factors that might’ve led to the recent spate of empty seats (Tie Domi’s retirement, popularity of YouTube, owners beating up fans, etc.)