That may seem like a controversial title, but I've come to praise the Islanders, not to bury them. OK, not necessarily praise, but I couldn't resist the Shakespearian reference. Do you get this kind of hockey talk and high culture on other blogs? I think not!
In all seriousness, after Friday night, I was ready to rip the Islanders severely for letting Filatov and Schenn go. Not just for passing them by, mind you, but by proxy, putting a massive amount of pressure on Josh Bailey. The kid shouldn't have to worry about being compared to those two players, but as a result of the draft, it will inevitably happen.
But I slept on it. Saturday came, and the Isles made what appear to be some savvy picks in the later rounds, winning fairly rave reviews around the league. XM's The Hockey Show went so far as to call the Islanders the winner of the draft (I don't know if I'd go that far). While your estimable co-bloggers discussed the goings-on last night over some Mexican brews (seriously, why do none of the bars we go to have Canadian beer?), I decided to give it another night before posting my thoughts.
And so, after giving it measured thought, I think the Isles did a decent job in the draft. With that said, Tavares Watch can officially begin, because I think the 2008-09 version of the Islanders has good potential to be terrible. And frankly, that's not such a bad thing.
Let's be realistic - with the current version of the roster, the Isles are in no position to pull a Celtics and trade their way to a Stanley Cup next season. At best in my opinion, as currently constructed, the team could hang around for about a half season before inevitably falling toward the cellar. Free agents are not going to come to the Island right now unless the Isles overpay them, especially given the lack of adequate facilities available to them. So rather than fight for mediocrity yet again, the Isles are going full bore into rebuilding. This is a good thing.
In order to do that, the Isles needed to gain depth from this year's draft. They appear to have done so. More importantly, next year's draft will supposedly be even deeper. Unless the Isles surprise next year, it is very likely they will be contending for John Tavares or another potential franchise player. Plus three second-round draft picks will provide further depth for the farm team, which will essentially be barren after Tambellini, Walter and Nielsen get their shot in the big leagues this season.
In other words, Isles fans should set their sights on 2009-10. And frankly, so should the Isles - in other words, play the youth and play them often. Let's see if they're keepers or they don't fit. And in order to help that process along, Ted Nolan's contract should be extended an additional two years for two reasons - 1. He's done as good a job with this team as possible in my opinion; 2. Without being concerned about being a free agent coach after 2008-09, he can fully buy into the youth movement.
So to sum up this long post, there does appear to be hope for long-suffering Isles fans (are there any other kind besides long-suffering at this point?). But it's still at least 15 months away from actually being on ice. Thus, Isles fans should have at least one more year of pain before the turnaround begins. But I am finally starting to see an actual strategy in place - and that's a good thing.
Of course, if the Isles get the #1 pick in 2009 and promptly trade it down, then forget I ever wrote this post.