Most days that I read comments and assessments from Islander fans I end up just slapping my shaking forehead and saying out loud. “oh holy hell….”
I mean seriously, is there nothing that Garth Snow can do to make Islander fans happy?
Does it really matter if they are or they are not?
The short answer — No.
Frankly, I think most if not all Islander fans would turn on Jesus Christ himself if he were the GM. I therefore am not suggesting its personal. Not in the least. I am not going to defend Snow or Wang. Both have made good and bad decisions at various times in the past. But I am left in awe at the never ending stream of gibberish coming from Islander fans about everything….They are NEVER happy.
Going into the 2012 offseason, Garth Snow was tasked with the following…
1) With only 3 regular defenders returning, additions of at least 1 top 4 defenseman was a requirement, and he should make every attempt to obtain a bottom pair defender .
2) Team toughness was something that lacked as game after game stars like John Tavares and Matt Moulson were getting their collective asses kicked.
3) Size was something that needs to be addressed as the Islanders were painful to watch against bigger, stronger opponents like the Flyers, Bruins and Penguins — completely over powered by the size and strength of these teams.
4) Defensive prospects are needed. After the “big” three of Ness, de Haan and Donovan, the blueline prospects were limited and close to NHL graduation.
5) A second line center to push Neilsen back to the 3rd line center position where he really belongs.
6) Resign P.A. Parenteau if possible but do so without overpaying.
I don’t think there would be too many Islander fans would would have argued with my list of 6 issues above.
I left off the big one — a new arena or a settlement of some kind that would keep the franchise local and stabilize the long-term survivability of the team. That is more of an “office” issue despite it having major implications to what Snow can and can’t do moving forward — and its a huge issue for another day.
So lets take a look at what Garth Snow has done to date — about a month into the official end of the playoffs.
1) Trade 2013 2nd Round Pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Lubomir Visnovski.
Before walking to the podium at the 2012 draft, Garth Snow began his off season — trading away a high pick in next June’s draft for a proven top 4 defender who can play in most situations and possibly echo captain Mark Streit’s offensive production. Clearly this was a move that allowed the Islanders much greater depth on the blue line and giving the young Islander defensive prospects a little more time for development. Is there anyone who believed Snow would dress three rookies going into October? You may not like him fans, but the guy is far from stupid. Right from the beginning Snow addressed his blue line by adding a top 4 defender. The one question mark with Visnovsky is his age and contract situation. My guess is that this deal is very much like a one year contract. He has to prove there is something left in the tank, and he will need to produce. Should he manage to put up a 35-40 point season and finish +10, I would hope the Islander could extend him a few seasons.
2) Defensive Prospects Abundant in 2012 Draft and Drafted Often by Islanders
One more thing that Snow can cross off his “to-do list” is increasing the depth among Islander prospects along the blue line. The Islanders not only took hulking Griffin Reinhart (my personal top choice after Ryan Murray) but they took 6 more defenders to add to the growing prospect pool.
The Islanders have the aforementioned de Haan, Donovan and Ness all pushing for roster spots in the NHL next season, and Ty Wishart and Mark Katic as reserves behind them — but that is fairly thin to say the least. During the 2011 draft, the Islanders began to address the blue line and the size issue. They drafted a pair of 6’4″ towers in Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan. They added the 6’3″ Reinhart, 6’2″ Adam Pelch. 6’5″ Loic Leduc and 6’4″ Doyle Somerby. along with 3 other defenders. Prospects have a lot to prove of course, but with the prospect depth along the blue line now on Long Island, Snow addressed a major weak spot.
Note about 2012 Draft: I don’t care what the Columbus Dispatch suggested about the Islander rumored attempt to trade all of their picks to move up to the #2 spot. Frankly, it is nothing more then rumor. It has not been confirmed as anything more then hearsay at best, and neither the Islanders or Blue Jackets confirmed it. I would not have been as upset as some Islander fans seemed to be — suggesting we are a joke in that circumstance — if we came home from the 2012 draft with Ryan Murray and Visnovsky, Id be pretty happy. As it is, I am quite pleased with Snow’s haul at the 2012 draft.
3) Islanders Dip into Day 1 of Free Agency Addressing Needs
As July 1 approached much speculation about the Islanders and free agency was abound. There are some Islander fans deluding themselves into believing that if they were the GM they could convince anyone to come to the Islanders to play here. The immaturity of that concept speaks volumes about the level of denial most Islander fans seem to live in. Countless sources confirmed that the Islanders were going to be looking to address their needs with under-the-radar signings that are low risk/high reward and can fit within what is now a 3 year window of the life that this franchise currently has remaining.
Islanders Sign Brad Boyes
One of the earliest deals of Free agency, the Islanders obtained Brad Boyes for a very cost effective $1,000.000. With the possible departure of P.A. Parenteau, Snow wanted to be sure he brought in a potential replacement. While Boyes struggled significantly last season there are several reasons this signing makes sense. First it fits the franchises financial and time line requirements. Second, Boyes could benefit greatly playing on the top unit in Parenteau’s spot and regain a 20-25 goal form that he enjoyed in St Louis where he was teammates with Doug Weight. I expect that Weight will be able to get some leverage out of Boyes. This deal makes a ton of sense for the Islanders. At 30 years old, Boyes is in his prime and can easily bounce back to a higher production level. It could go the other way too — can’t deny that, but if the numbers are not there with JT & MM, he can slot in on the 2nd unit and Okposo can take the top line spot. This gives the Isles depth and flexibility.
Islanders Sign Matt Carkner
In a second move, the Islanders addressed three areas of need in one signing. They added a needed bottom pair defender, size and toughness all in the name of 31 year old Matt Carkner. At 6’4″ and 237 pounds, Carkner is going to make it difficult for opposing forward to just push his teammates around. He is excellent in the room, and once more gives time for the Islanders to mature their young defenders in Bridgeport as it should be. For those who think this is a player who can’t take care of business on the ice — he has a +/- of ZERO through 162 career games. While not the second coming of Bobby Orr he clearly is not a liability on the ice or just a one trick pony goon type of player. He will help round out the defense for the Islanders which now has a Streit, Visnovski, Hamonic, MacDonald and Carkner. At $1.5 million over three season, it fits the Islanders game plan financially and on term.
Islanders Sign Eric Boulton
The third move of the day came in the form of 6’1″, 225 pound Eric Boulton. Brought in as a 4th line grinder who can help protect teammates, the Islanders have solidified a tougher line up. Unlike Gillies, Boulton can play a little with 11 NHL seasons under his belt. I was a little puzzled by this move, and I feel it is more of a depth signing then anything else. Unlike the Boyes and Carkner deals which are clearly addressing needs, the Boulton deal seems a bit redundant at this time.
As we pass through the 4th of July holiday, Garth Snow and his team have addressed 4 of the top 6 issues that we faced going into the off season. A tougher defense with the addition of a true top 4, size, physicality, and depth via the draft on the blue line.
P.A. Parenteau left the Islanders for a bigger payday with the Avalanche. Yes — no denying it sucks big time for the Islanders and its fans. He was a solid player for 2 seasons with the Isles.
Many Islander fans disliked Parenteau from the beginning and never warmed to him — that is until the man signed with the Avalanche. Well — now Garth Snow is a total idiot for letting P.A. go without getting anything for him…. To this I say — you can’t have it both ways. He can’t be worthless one moment and Mike Bossy the next. I don’t for a moment believe Garth Snow is stupid. I am sure he tried to get P.A. signed, but he offered a deal that was on his terms, not P.A.’s. What does that mean? Well, it means the Islanders have a glut of young forwards, and having Parenteau here for 4 seasons at $16 million made little sense. As it was, the team was looking to have Nino Niederreitter as taking the top spot from Parenteau this season. And Nino was all set to open the 2011-12 season along side Tavares and Moulson until injuries wreaked havoc on the kid all season and he never found his stride. So how much value did the Islanders put in PA.? Not as much as they put in Nino, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Andres Lee, Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom, Kirill Kabanov. There are a great many young forwards all pushing for roster spots. We can’t play them all and keep them all. Someone has to go. If they could have held onto P.A. at their term great, but if not, it is not like there is not an opportunity for another forward to step up.
The other piece that has yet to be added or filled is a true second line center. Still very early in the summer, Snow has time to invite someone to camp or make a trade (see glut of prospects). So much has yet to be determined moving forward. Where will the cap be? Is there an amnesty buyout that will see the Islanders rid themselves of the last Milbury disaster holdover? Will other teams need to make deals to become cap compliant?
As reported yesterday via twitter by Newsday beat writer Art Staple, the Islanders are more or less done with free agency. That is a bit disappointing. I feel that a player like Jason Arnott or Dominic Moore could be had and be a good addition for the Islanders. Perhaps the Islanders want to give one of Strome or Nelson a chance to fill that roll. Maybe they will have Neilsen stay as the #2 center and have either Ullstrom or Cizikas play the #3 spot keeping it warm for one of the 2 “studs” from the 2010 or 2011 draft. There is nothing to suggest that a player like Arnott, at his age would not be a camp invitee.
The Islanders are technically ‘done’ rebuilding. I would characterize them now as building. We saw a trade at the draft to add a player for NOW rather then for the future. We are hearing rumors and rumblings that Snow is trying to make deals. (Staple reported the Islanders have made an offer to the Ducks for Bobby Ryan). Those offers may not come to fruition, they might be rumors, but clearly Snow is open for business. He has even been indicating as much in conversations he has had with season ticket holders before the draft — suggesting that the Islanders now have the assets to make deals that 3-4 seasons ago they just did not have.
The biggest thing facing the Islanders ability to build toward a winning franchise is the lack of a place to play hockey. 2015 is now around the corner, and with no plans on a new arena and the future hinging on a preseason game in Brooklyn, things look very questionable. So why would anyone want to sign here as a free agent if they won’t know where they will play in 3 seasons?
Despite having some rare success and addressing needs early this summer, Islander fans are still bashing management. And yes — Ryan Suter is a better player then Lubomir Visnovsky, but anyone assuming the Islanders had a prayer in obtain a tier 1 free agent at this time was kidding themselves. I did not write this post to take the arrows for Garth Snow or Charles Wang. There is plenty I am not thrilled with when it comes to my beloved Islanders. But none of that ire is due to anything that has happened this summer. The GM did what we have all argued he needed to do to address problem areas.
Fans complained they needed another top 4 vet along the blue line. Check.
Fans asked for defense and more defense at the draft. Check.
Fans wanted to be bigger and tougher. Check.
The premier UFAs will come to the Islanders when the core of mostly home grown youth can get itself into the playoffs. That will make selling the team to free agents more appealing, as this too would be a destination where a player can come and win. But until this group of Tavares, Moulson, Hamonic, Okposo, Bailey, Grabner, Streit, Neilsen and Martin and others can sting together a winning season, I would go into the off seasons expecting very little.
I suspected we would bring in a defenseman via a trade or free agency. We brought in 2. Other then that, my expectations were minor. Garth Snow has said time, and time again he will not deal away his young and promising youth for a band-aid fix. For the millionth time I am typing the same thing — that is what Mike Milbury did – he traded away all of the franchises promising youth for quick fixes that amounted to what we had in 2007-08.
It has taken Snow and his team 4 years to rebuild the team’s core youth pool to something respectable and promising again. The Islanders are at a very interesting crossroads. They are on the cusp of being a very difficult team to play against, and they could be a team to make the playoffs in 2012-13. They need 7 more wins this season then they had last season to be a viable playoff contender. With added size and strength on the blue line they could push for a playoff spot. There is no way I can stand here and believe we have no chance at the playoffs even with the “ifs.”
Management should care of course if the fans support the teams new acquisitions or a trade. Low fan support is part of the problem facing the Islanders. But at the same time management can’t make decisions based on the fans’ likes or dislikes of a trade, waiver pickup, or draft selection.
My point to Islander fans through this long article — the sky is not falling, doomsday is not here. There are positives from where this team is today based on the additions Snow has made thus far. A little support may go a very long way. Especially as we near the Brooklyn game. I will continue to remind fans in every article — BUY YOUR TICKETS AND SUPPORT YOUR TEAM!! Brooklyn may not be optimal, but it remains a better solution then Quebec, Kansas or Hamilton. Let’s Go Islanders!!!
About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: http://twitter.com/FilamentDesigns