Hockey’s Future Interview: Dick Tarnstrom

By Joe Muccia

After interviewing Raffi Torres and Juraj Kolnik, the Islanders staff still hadn’t thrown me out so I decided to get one more interview in. I had a chance to sit down with soft-spoken, first-year Swedish defender Dick Tarnstrom. Tarnstrom has the distinction of being the only player in the Islander organization not drafted or traded for by Mike Milbury. Here’s what the big Swede had to say when I caught up with after practice.

Hockey’s Future: What do you consider yourself, more of an offensive or defensive defenseman?
Dick Tarnstrom: I like to play a little of both, but I guess I’m more of a defensive defenseman.

HF: What’s it like being paired with Roman Hamrlik compared to Eric Cairns?
DT: It doesn’t really matter who you play with, you have to be responsible (on the ice), but they are both great to play with.

HF: Was it easier coming over (to the NHL) being that you are a little older? Was it an easier adjustment?
DT: I’ve had experience with the (Swedish) National Team and playing in Sweden, so yes, its been a little easier (adjusting).

HF: Does it help having fellow Swedes, like Mats Lindgren and Kenny Jonsson on the team with you?
DT: Yeah, they’re both good guys and I’ve played in the World Juniors with them.

HF: How has Chris Osgood helped the defense?
DT: Oh, he’s a great goalie, helps out, especially when I make mistakes (laughing). It’s not hard to play (when you play) with all these great players.

HF: Well thanks, take care and good luck with the season.
DT: Thank you.

Special thanks to Islanders forward Mats Lindgren, who assisted with the interview and helped to jog Dick’s memory on several occasions.

Even though Tarnstrom had a tough night on November 27th, (he was –4 vs. Washington) he did pick up his first NHL point, an assist on Alexei Yashin’s first period power-play goal. Tarnstrom is tied for the team worst plus/minus (-9, Oleg Kvasha), some of that could be attributed to the play of his partner and his initial adjustment to the tighter North American rinks. At the beginning of the year Tarnstrom was paired with Eric Cairns. Cairns was slumping badly, but lately he seems to have picked up his play. Tarnstrom has good vision, a decent shot and good passing skills. Although not small, he is sometimes physically overmatched and should concentrate on positional play instead of trying to run opposing players over.

As of now Tarnstrom has one assist in 13 games. Averaging 16:01 minutes a game; he has 17 hits with 6 giveaways and 5 takeaways. With Roman Hamrlik out with a day-to-day knee sprain, the Islanders will need Tarnstrom to play a very solid, mistake-free game, something he is very capable of.

Some Notes on Radek Martinek

For those of you who have been on Mars, the most suprising Islander this year has been Radek Martinek. There are those who would say Peca, Parrish, Osgood or Kenny Jonsson and they would be good answers, but everyone knows what those guys are capable of. Except for some impressive international credentials, Martinek was an unknown entity to the NHL and Islanders fans.

Even though he had a bit of a shaky camp, he has been nothing but solid during the regular season. If anyone doubts his importance to the Isles defense, look no further than the five game skid the Isles went on after Martinek was injured. Earlier in the season, as the games got tighter, Laviolette went with 4 defensemen, the pairs were Jonsson/Aucoin and Hamrlik/Martinek. That’s a lot of responsibility for a rookie who doesn’t speak much English. With Hamrlik out, the Isles will need Martinek to keep up his stellar play.

Here are some comments Peter Laviolette made about the Czech rookie before the 11/24 Mighty Ducks game:
“He’s a horse, (his) first game back (from injury) he plays 20 plus minutes”,
“He’s strong and smart and makes great breakout passes”.

Martinek’s stats through 17 games played:
1 goal, 4 assists, +9, 14 PIM’s, 21:35 average ice time per game, 31 hits, 9 takeaways.

Isles Prospects Bits & Pieces

Forward Petr Mika has been released by the SoundTigers. It is not known whether he will report to the Trenton Titans or if the Isles will assign him elsewhere.

Islanders training camp invitee defenseman, Daniel Bergeron walked out on his junior team. The six foot, five inch, 210-pound defenseman left the Baie-Comeau Drakkar saying that he didn’t want to play junior hockey anymore. The reasoning behind this was Bergeron doesn’t want to fight every night. The 20-year-old defenseman had 86 PIM’s in 16 games, but wants more out of hockey than just fighting. He has some skill, but is still very raw and considered a project.

Trenton Titan forward Marco Charpentier has been called up to the Bridgeport SoundTigers. The move was necessitated by the Islanders call-up of Raffi Torres and Jason Krog. Since both Torres and Krog have been returned, it is quite possible Charpentier will soon be heading back toTrenton.