After the 21st straight game (21 freakin' games!) of three goals or less, I think it's time to discuss the long-term plans of the Islanders - namely, do they continue with their mix of mostly veterans with a little youth sprinkled in (after all, a hot streak puts them right back in the playoff mix), or is it time to cut bait and completely retool?
As it stands right now, I do not see this team grabbing anything more than a 6-7 seed, and that's if they get hot. While the Eastern Conference remains thoroughly mediocre this year, without a large infusion of offense soon, it's going to be up to DiPietro every night to keep the Isles in games. And as much as DiPietro continues to play well, you can't ask him to carry the team constantly, especially if he's going to have to face 35-40 shots a night. Unfortunately, as the team is presently constituted, I don't see from where the instant offense is going to come.
Could the Isles pull off a Ryan Smyth-like trade this year to get things on track? Not going to happen - the farm system is barren. Mad Mike's Reign of Terror continues to have a terrible impact on the Isles, and while GM Snow is giving it a decent run, he has little with which to work.
In my opinion, this team cannot contend for a Cup. So unless the Isles can pull it together very quickly, it's time to scrap everything and start over. As any Isles fan from the 90s can tell you, that's not a good thing.
But it is the right thing. The Islanders need to have a 3-5 year plan in place instead of signing unrestricted free agents to short-term deals. And in order to have this plan in place, the Isles need to stockpile draft picks, draft wisely, and let the prospects develop (what a concept, eh Mike?). Okposo is a good start, but there needs to be a lot more along those lines.
Now the problem with this plan - once it happens, attendance will drop like a rock at the Coliseum. This is not what the team needs while the Lighthouse project is being debated. If the Lighthouse fails to gain approval in Nassau, and if Pilgrim State is not a possibility, you could not blame Charles Wang for selling the team to an outside ownership group in Hamilton, Kansas City, Yellowknife, or wherever (OK, maybe not Yellowknife). With Nassau taking its time, the team really is in a bit of limbo - if the Isles knew a new/remodeled arena was on the way (or if Pilgrim State became a viable alternative), it could start the youth plan right away. Further, as a first-class arena comes close to completion, the Island may finally once again be a destination for free agents, which could perfectly coincide with a youth influx. So do you keep a borderline playoff team together for the next couple of years trying to keep attendance up for the Lighthouse to hopefully be approved (with little to no shot at a Cup)?
No. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd like to see a Cup contending team sometime in the near future. Right now, I don't see it, nor do I see it happening anytime soon.
I'd rather take the pain for the next couple of years with a chance to watch a Cup winner down the road than have to watch the NHL's version of the L.A. Clippers.