Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Two Minutes to Midnight

With nine games left before the trading deadline and yet another dispiriting home loss by the Islanders, the clock is officially ticking. In this blog about 6-7 weeks ago after the miserable goal drought, I wrote that the Islanders needed to scrap their current plan and build with youth for the long term. Since that time, the Isles made a bit of a spirited run, but have now fallen back to earth.

With tonight's Anaheim loss, the Isles have fallen to 13th in the East and 25th in the NHL. Tomorrow, GM Garth Snow should be on the phone with various contenders and looking to trade certain expiring Islander contracts for whatever prospects are available. The rebuilding process of the team needs to begin now, with a 3-5 year time horizon in mind.

What that means is that the Isles shouldn't worry about 2008-09 and look toward 2009-10 to make an impact. Do not overpay for Marian Hossa or someone similar in the offseason. Instead, stockpile draft picks and build from within. If the Isles ever plan on attracting marquee free agents without having a new facility in place, they need to become a consistent winner. Patchwork teams will not get the job done now or in the future.

This is not to say that the Isles should dump all of their veterans. I would keep guys like Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt as they still are solid talents that can also be valuable mentors to the Isles' youth. But next year should be used as a year-long run to see which new Islanders will be the future of the franchise and which will not. And if the Isles happen to get the #1 pick and grab John Tavares in 2009, all the better.

I believe Islander fans will stand behind the team in the long run if there is a coherent strategy in place - lord knows they had every reason in the late 1990s to give up on the franchise. The onus is on top management to articulate a real plan.

In the meantime Garth, if Ottawa is on line 1 and Minnesota is on line 2, please take the calls.


Anonymous said...

I agrree to disagree on your blog. The isles have NO first round pick in this years draft that should be the number one goal of Snow.....make up for last years foolishness of trading for a guy that walked out the door months later....Two is Okposo going to come up soon?....Three trade everyone of the vets for picks ...stop falling back into the same role of band-aiding the team together just to turn it over with more vets next year...Don't get me wrong i love Mike Sillinger but if the start dumping vets and going with youth it would not be fair to guys like him to be here during a rebuilding process...they should move him to a place where he gives a team a chance to win while he still can play at the high level he is at before he got hurt...Next doi it right call it what it is ...a rebuliding year ..and then do just that ..I would love to see the isles as one of the youngest teams in two years and build from there..DP is young now lets advance outwords on our young talent...Tavares would be great he is the next big thing ..but the islanders would have to be the last place team inorder to get that pick ..THE NEXT THING is STAMKOS he is by far the top pick this draft what can we do to get this pick and not watch it go to LA...if the isles would have bitten the bullet this year and not traded thier pick to the oilers they would be getting him instead he is a player they will never see what a shame

Dr. Hook said...

The Isles do have this year's draft pick (they gave up last year's first rounder in the Smyth trade) - as long as they finish 26th or lower, they will have a chance to get Stamkos. I don't think it's a stretch to say that if they decide to sell now, they can end up in 28th or even 29th place. Then, it's simply luck of the draw.

But overall, yes, they need a complete overhaul from top to bottom, with what should be a goal of seriously contending for a Cup in 3-5 years. If they fail to stock the team with youth and keep signing mid-tier UFAs, attendance at the Coliseum will drop to 5,000.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected!!!Are you sure the isles have a 1st rounder this year???.....If that is true great!!...I still feel they should trade for more 1st rounders this year as soon as these guys get healthy ship them out of town...let Kyle get experience by CALLING HIM UP...the kings are playing good hockey wich might play them selves out of stamkos ...if they dump now they may have a shot at increasing thier chances at #1 over all

Anonymous said...

SATAN HURT FOR UNKNOWN TIME!!!!!..this gets me so angry ...so not only are the isles not going to trade any of thier vets for picks but seeing satan hurt and Silinger hurt ..it infuriates me that they will not call up Okposo...so now no picks no kyle no play-offs no nothing ...just hurt vets and more money wasted on isles tickets with managemnt that just doesn't care to address this huge problem...If i am not going to a play-off game and i am not seeing any re-building...what actually are we doing? What is the game plan?Can someone please answer this not so tough question???????

Matthew said...

Longtime reader, first time commenter, as they say on WFAN... anyway, spot-on post. It's time to tear it down and go for the long term. They just found out Miro is injured today, but unless he signs on for cheap, I'd listen to offers. Same goes for Comrie and Fedotenko.

However, you're right about Witt, Sillinger and Guerin. You need to keep the leadership to make sure there are veterans around to be good influences on the kids.

As for now, I'd use the end of the year to see what we have in guys like Tambellini, Frans Nielsen, Jeremy Collition, Ben Walter and other young guys. I think they should get more ice time now that the Isles are almost completely out of it. That way, you can start penciling in certain kids for the lineup next year.

Dr. Hook said...

Appreciate the comment matthew and welcome! And I agree, the Isles now have 2 weeks to trade their UFAs and Snow should be on the phone daily with the various playoff contenders. The one positive is that there is so much parity in the league this year that Snow could conceivably trade with a borderline playoff team, and if they fail to make the playoffs, it's an extra lottery pick for the Isles.

The problem is getting any sort of 1st rounder with the Isles current talent. At most, I think only Satan and Comrie can fetch a 1st rounder. If Comrie truly wants to be here as he said in that recent Newsday article, Snow can always sign him to a long-term deal in the summer.

In the meantime, I'm all for the youth movement. The Isles should be looking toward baseball, specifically the Cleveland Indians, in how to build a Cup contender. Build with youth, and then supplement with a key UFA or RFA acquisition.