This is a piece that we’ve been dying to write, which is what happens when the “I told you so” stuff comes to life. Let’s take a review of the first day of unrestricted free agency and see what the Islanders situation looks like, with needs and how they were filled. Understand that this is NOT a cut and paste from last offseason regarding how needs went unfulfilled:
|Needs||How it was filled:|
|First line wing||Pierre Marc Bouchard|
|Second Line Center||Peter Regin|
|Top two defenseman||Travis Hamonic|
Ah, the Garth Snow playoff formula. Replace parts with similar parts, and not upgrades. After all, making the playoffs as an 8th seed, then going on a tear and winning the cup was so exciting last ye…wait, that didn’t happen? They got dropped in the first round?? But why are fans celebrating so hard over this improvement?
Could it be that Snow has shown us all he is capable of, by replacing Aucoins’ with Regins’? Is this the plan that the rebuild is following- the “Just Good Enough” model?
Please toss the Wang will not allow him to spend out the window. You know who restricted spending? Gluckstern and Milstein. The Islanders took buses and trains instead of planes, and when they did fly they flew coach. Charles Wang approves spending, just look at Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Travis Hamoic, Evgeny Nabokov, Frans Nielsen, Matt Moulson, Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Martin, Rick DiPietro, soon to be Cal Clutterbuck and unfortunately Josh Bailey. Until it is proven that Garth Snow is not reason, which will be when he says “We were not in (insert player name) because we do not have the resources for said player” then he will be held accountable. He continues to say he has no restrictions so he will be held to such comments. Oh and by the way, somehow New Jersey who had a number one goalies and is BANKRUPT managed to add another one. And though they completely over paid for an overrated player in Ryan Clowe, they are BANKRUPT and still made moves. Come to think of it, the NHL pays the Phoenix Coyote’s salaries, and last year they retained Shane Doan and this year added Mike Ribiero to their payroll, but we digress. Back to the point at hand.
We’ll start here: let us analyze the imports. Pierre Marc Bouchard is not an awful acquisition. However, he is was brought in to be the third reclamation project for John Tavares in three years. That is a big problem. If we were Tavares, we would fire our agent for not getting a clause in the most recent contract taking 10% of new contract earnings every time a guy uses him to fatten up their own stats and grab a free agent deal elsewhere. That would be $400,000 annually from PA Parenteau alone! Bouchard is a good offensive player, and maybe even a marginal upgrade to Brad Boyes. Concussion issues certainly have hindered his last two full seasons. 140 games over the last 4 seasons does give us a case of the DiPietros. But bigger picture: PA, Boyes, Bouchard…spinning wheels. Bouchard obtains the offensive zone better than Boyes, but about as well as Parenteau. He scores goals as well as Boyes, but not Parenteau. He passes as well as Boyes, but not Parenteau. He’s more defensively responsible than both players, but not by much. That Bobby Ryan was had for almost nothing makes this deal look bad, but more on that later.
The Peter Regin signing is flat out awful. We have no idea what Snow was thinking. Some pundits say that Snow wants competition at training camp. If you can’t raise your competitive level around John Tavares and Casey Cizikas, you have issues. And if you’re claiming that the purpose of camp is to compete for jobs, THE YOU CAN NOT OFFER A GUARANTEED SPOT TWO SEASONS FROM NOW FOR KIRIL PETROV. http://islanderspointblank.com/islanders/report-islanders-trying-to-entice-kirill-petrov-with-guaranteed-roster-spot/ Snow could do that, however, because Bouchard is on a one year deal, and JT91 will need a winger next season. If there is an open spot, lets consider some names that the Islanders should have thought of before they signed the second coming of Marty Reasoner: Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson. However, since Snow hates to put his draft picks into pressure situations like leading a scoring line behind Tavares despite being a lottery pick, those weren’t options. The main problem here is getting a player who has basically done nothing over the past three seasons. The problem isn’t getting said player only because he was friends with Super Frans Nielsen. The problem is that you targeted this guy on day one. Typical Snow, who seems like he learned his negotiating skills from Mike Milbury. Regin has 19 NHL goals since 2008. Reasoner-ific!
For the savvy reader- you may have noticed that the Islanders used two roster players from last season to fill holes this season. To us, this is both disappointing and dismaying. First off, bringing back Nabokov after his playoff implosion is ponderous. That they gave him a raise is Garth Snow’s newest form of salary cap circumvention. Over $3 million for a goalie that was tired after playing 48 out of 54 games without improving the defense in front of him is going to get you a tired goalie 54 games into the season…except this season is back to an 82 game schedule. As Scooby Doo would say, Ruh Roh!
The Travis Hamonic signing is also a bit mystifying, in a few ways. We like Hammer, disastrous first half of a shortened season aside. But Hammer was walking into his second professional contract. A 3 year deal still kept his as a 25 year old RFA when it expires. And surely a 3 year RFA deal would have been under the $3.85 million annually Travis would be receiving. Also, at the end of the three year deal, you can sign Hamonic for another 8 years, thus securing 11 years of his future. Sure, the rate may be different three years from now, but you can probably pull off 3 years for $6 million, saving nearly $6 million up front under a lower cap. And you may have to pay $4.5 million a year after, but that $6 up front works out so that you subsidize almost all of the difference in terms, while securing 11 years of a 22 year old player, roughly the entire prime of his career. With the deal that Snow actually made, Hahahamonic can walk away at 29 years old and sell himself to anyone. All in all locking up Hamonic is positive but it could also hinder future moves. We fear that $3.85 million for what could be our #1 defenseman (who the rest of the league accurately calls a #3) will end up becoming a benchmark that is already being bandied about- the Tavares rule.
Not familiar with the Tavares rule? It’s an Islander fan’s bible. How can you pay FillInTheNameOfAnyUFAorRFA more than John Tavares? Evander Kane? Pfft not worth John Tavares, so he can’t be paid more. Bobby Ryan? Daniel Alfredsson? Ryan Getzlaf? Nope, nope, nope, nope. Alexander Ovechkin? Nope. Cindy Crosby? Nope. According to Islanders fans, there is no player on the planet worth more than John Tavares, thus we can bring in no one who could make more, as such would offend the nearly point a game player.
Here’s an example- Mike Ribiero was arguably the best center available in the free agent market. He signed a 4 year deal averaging $5.5 million a year. JT style money. Averaged more points per game than JT91 did last year; granted mainly racked up assists passing to Alexander Ovechkin. Yet Islander fans justify not being involved in a guy who admittedly wanted to stay in Washington (read East coast per travel schedules) because the money is too close to JT and he’s a second line player. By this logic, Pittsburgh needs to jettison Evgeny Malkin because he is paid like Crosby but plays on the second line. Mike Ribiero would have filled a spot that has been empty for three seasons, A SECOND LINE CENTER.
In short, we fear that the Tavares rule will become the Hamonic rule on defense, effectively ending any attempt to improve the defense by spending money on a player better than Matt Carkner. After all, how can you justify paying someone more than a guy who averages 28 points a season and is just about even for his career? Wait, did you say Lubomir Visnovsky makes more? Hmm…what was his raise again? Oh right, his cap hit is down about a million bucks from his last contract, and his pay this season is $3.5 million, which is less than $3,850,000. Guess there’s a precedent for what we pay a top flight offensive defenseman- call it the Streit effect.
Now, of course free agency isn’t over, but Islander fans know that when they read comments like “Islanders expected more compliance buyouts” then we know it’s over. Also, what did they do with the present crop of compliance buyouts? Oh, right- strike out completely. Then there was the “Islanders expected more cap relief deals” on the heels of their compelling offer of Rick DiPietro for Roberto Luongo. That Snow felt ANYONE would take a DP just to buy him out of a contract given to DP by Snow shows that Garth Snow is unqualified to be a general manager in a major sports league. Remember last draft day when he offered his whole draft for defenseman Ryan Murray? Did you hear that rumor float around when Seth Jones wasn’t chosen first or second? Nope. Want to know why? Bad judge of talent. It’s why Ryan Strome will join Thomas Hickey as the only other lottery pick taken since the last lockout who will not have played in the NHL within two years of their draft date. Strome may be awesome in the NHL or he may be a bust. By this point he should be in Uniondale to find out. If you’re touting a perpetual rebuild, you owe as much to the fans.
In closing, here’s a prediction- based on the UFA “moves,” draft day lack of effort, and confusing the RFA and UFA signing periods, as well as the improvement of teams like Ottawa, Detroit, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Montreal, and the stagnation of teams that finished ahead of us like New York and Washington, the Islanders are not making the playoffs. They barely held on to the 8th seed in a shortened season, so we missed the annual 15 game swoon that they always seem to find. This year won’t be so lucky.
Also, do you want this team to make the playoffs as an 8th seed just to get their doors blown off by a #1 again? If case you forgot, the first round didn’t go so well for the Islanders last season. Sure they won two games, and even got hosed by a phantom overtime trip in game three, but they also were shut out twice, had a completely ineffective power play, ruined a hard fought home ice advantage in one game, and routinely gave up 5 goals. Seven years into Snow’s plan of building a team that won’t get beat in the first round of the playoffs culminated with a team that got beat in the first round of the playoffs. He followed that with trading a lottery pick who should have been ready for prime time top line play. As long as Garth Snow is making personnel decisions, instead of someone who has experience actually touching the Stanley Cup as a player or front office guy, all you can expect from the Garth Snow formula is more of the same.
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About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely