Backchecking: To Trade or Not to Trade?

For the New York Islanders and the long suffering fans (of which I am one) the pain continues into 2013. A season that began with some hope, as in the past several seasons, is quickly sliding into oblivion once again.

We can discuss any number of topics.

A report in the New York Post suggesting Charles Wang is looking to sell the Islanders. Consider the source. Referencing the NY Post as “News” is the equivalent of suggesting that humans roamed the earth with dinosaurs. I think the team will be sold — some day. And I would venture it could happen over the next 5 years. But Wang is shrewd enough as a businessman, and after the pain of dealing the fools of Nassau County and the Hooples of Hempstead, he wants to see if he can make a few nickels in Brooklyn.

Fire the coach?

Sure, that could happen. I can see that if the Islanders really struggle the remaining games of this week, we could see Jack Campuano relieved of his duties behind the bench. But, I don’t believe that Doug Weight or Brent Thompson are the solution, even if Garth Snow thinks that is the natural evolution. If a new coach is to be hired, the need for a proven veteran NHL coach is paramount. I have been an advocate for Marc Crawford for many years now. Someone with a Stanley Cup ring will compand credibility and respect.

A trade?

Lord knows it is needed — and not just because the Islanders are in the tall grasses. There are certain simple facts if you look beyond the 2013 season. There are any number of 6 forwards alone who have a legitimate chance at making the Islanders next fall. Nino Neiderreitter, Brock Nelson, John Persson, Johan Sundstrom all have been playing well in Bridgeport. Ryan Strome continues his stellar play in Juniors and Anders Lee is proving why he is one of the most prolific forwards in all of college hockey.

How do we make room for these youngsters? Are any of them an improvement over what the Islanders have on the ice now? Is it possible that all of them make the Islanders in the fall, or just some of them?
I think there are any number of forwards the Islanders can trade — both to help the team now, and to prepare for some of the kids who can make the Islanders a lot better. Grabner, Bailey, Okposo, Neilsen, Reasoner, Cizikas, Ullstrom, Martin, Aucoin, Boyes — this represents everyone other then the top 2 guys. I think most (if not all of us) can view Tavares and Moulson as two players the Islanders will keep and you as a fan would not want to deal. Perhaps some day Moulson could be moved, but I don’t think today is that day!

Arguments for each of these mentioned current Islanders

Would you trade either of these two? For the right deal, I sure would!

Grabner: While he may not finish as consistently as we would like, he has a defined clear cut roll — be a pest with speed and he will get some goals too. He is a great 3rd line player and PKer for us. KEEP

Bailey: Was rushed and likely failed to find his potential. He is a reasonable player, but not a 3rd line player, and is not scoring enough to be on the 2nd line. TRADE

Neilsen: Obviously a gifted defensive center, but more suited to the 3rd line. Is being misused. Like Grabner has a roll and when players like Nelson and Strome arrive, Neilsen slots perfectly as the #3 with Grabner on his wing. KEEP

Reasoner: Has little value even on the 4th unit. If someone offers a 5th round pick or better, make the deal. Perfect filler for a team with injuries. TRADE

Cizikas: Has a clear roll on 4th unit as a mucker. Skates well. Can chip in some points. Would like to see if he can develop well in faceoff circle or he can slot in on a wing. KEEP

Ullstrom: Could move up into a 3rd line roll consistently. Many want to see him on the top unit, but I don’t think he has that kind of skill. But a line of Neilsen, centering Ullstrom and Grabner next season could be effective. all three can put up some points, and be effective in a shut down roll. (all euro line) KEEP

Martin: Perfect for the 4th line, but can actually play. Together with Cizikas there is some grit their. KEEP

Aucoin: He has been effective through the first several games, but I think teams have compensated. He is a serviceable player, but far from a long term solution. If he can put up some more points, he could be part of a package at the deadline. TRADE

Boyes: Hard to argue that he has not been effective. PA has 13 points, and Boyes has 12. He has filled in well even if only as a temp. If he can continue to generate offense he could garner the Islanders a high pick or reasonably good prospect at the deadline. I don’t think he is part of the long term plans for the GM. TRADE

Okposo: For the life of me, I cannot understand why the guy did not decide to go overseas during the lockout. You can see how Bailey — even though he is not scoring — is more effective in some ways as compared to Okposo. He is wildly inconsistent where he could dominate one any given night, but also be an empty uniform on other night. TRADE
I don’t think Okposo or Bailey are  “BAD” players. But those two players are maddeningly inconsistent. Could both together in a package bring more value, or fill a hole on the Islanders?

Reasoner, Boyes and Aucoin were never long term solutions for Garth Snow, and it may be a blessing that Aucoin and Boyes have done well. As mentioned — they could benefit the Islanders at the deadline.
I hate to give up on a player — but the reality is that neither Okposo nor Bailey have provided the consistent secondary scoring depth the Islanders need. And neither is really suited for the 3rd line. Further — each have been give long hard looks, and plenty of opportunity to perform. I think Bailey needs good linemates to be at his most effective, and Okposo just does not use his toughness with any regularity. Both are young, and neither is really a rental — making both more valuable in a possible trade.

Perhaps I am wrong to suggest it, but the potential of Neiderreitter — even with his tough 2011-12 season, and the potential of  Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and even Anders Lee make me feel that Okposo and Bailey are playing themselves off of Long Island.

There is no magic pill
A trade of anyone won’t just turn around the 2013 season. A new coach won’t change this season much either. I am suggesting that thinking long term, the New York Islanders need to consider some roster moves if the rebuild is going to have a real look. Okposo is not a Garth Snow draft pick. I believe Josh Bailey was a compromise selection — made to make the 2008 and 2009 draft deeper for the Islanders. My guess is that Snow really wanted one of the big 3 defenders from 2008 (Doughty, Pietrangelo, Bogosian) and when he saw that was not possible, he moved down. I think he rightfully felt Filatov was a problem, and I think he felt Schenn had flaws to his game. Even with moving Josh Bailey, the 2008 draft would still be very solid for the Islanders (Ness, Hamonic, Donovan, Ullstrom, Poulin, Martin — all either providing dividends or have solid potential).

Somewhere the Islander brass needs to choose between making room for the Nino’s, Nelson’s, Lee’s and Strome’s of the Islander universe or they should trade those assets to help the club. I prefer making the moves to address the holes we have with trading players like Okposo and Bailey and others, to both make some roster space and potentially add prospects or players that can help both today and tomorrow.

Adding any one of our highly touted prospects in a trade to fill a critical need (impact, top pair defender anyone?) would make some sense. But as always — the player(s) coming back better be young enough and impactful enough to be Islanders today, tomorrow and beyond — otherwise all we would have is more of the Milbury years — and no one wants that.

If you were to make a move, what would it be and why?

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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: Twitter:

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