Taking a look at the current roster, one would think the Islanders can't be done shaping the team for the 2007-08 season. The additions that have been made thus far have been significant, surely, but have a glance at the depth chart (or the way I project it anyway) with me and tell me you don't see a little room for improvement.
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For the purposes of this blog, let's simply consider who will likely round out the top 12 forward positions for now, keeping in mind the sides that guys have played on traditionally.
LOCKS: Mike Comrie (C), Ruslan Fedotenko (LW), Bill Guerin (RW), Andy Hilbert (C), Trent Hunter (RW), Richard Park (RW), Miroslav Satan (RW), Mike Sillinger (C), Jonathan Sim (LW), Chris Simon (LW)
"Locks" only, that leaves the top 4 lines looking something like this:
4th LW-4th C-Park
Scary? Maybe ... stay with me ...
Who fills those last two forward spots? Here are your choices headed to training camp, the way I see it:
Shawn Bates (C)
Sean Bergenheim (LW)
Frans Nielsen (C)
Petteri Nokelainen (C)
Jeff Tambellini (LW)
If I didn't list somebody, I've got 'em pegged for Bridgeport.
I would consider Bates a lock as a 3rd line center, moving Hilbert to the 4th, but injury questions will persist with Shawn until he proves he can stay healthy. If he's healthy at training camp's end, he gets the nod. If not, it'll likely go to Nielsen who, in short stints, has shown he's got a little game. Nokelainen needs a full AHL season without injury distractions under his belt before he gets another crack at the Islander lineup. As for that last LW spot, as much as I enjoyed Sean Bergenheim's play a few seasons ago, I think it's Jeff Tambellini's time to shine. Bergy can hone his game some more in Bridgeport as Tamby finally gets a full-time shot in the NHL. Now let's re-work those lines a bit and see what we see.
Tambellini on the first line? Well, Ruslan Fedotenko is NOT a first-line player and, really, who else has the natural talent to fit there? Given the current roster, I like Tamby with Comrie and Satan. (And, no, I don't have a problem with Mike Comrie getting a shot as a number 1 center. Not with this bunch.) Satan's more of a number 2, in my eyes, but so's the whole top line, ideally. Still, something about these three together screams chemistry to me. Of course, it is August and, yes, I did once say the same thing about Satan and - gasp - Alexei Yashin.
The second line here is all about grit and goals. All three of these men have scored 20+. What might they do together?
Sim and Hunter with either Bates or Hilbert in the middle makes for a decent third line, though Bates would probably be better suited with some quicker linemates. Hunter would probably prefer more of a scorer's role but his game has become very well-rounded and we may need him here. We're probably better off if Hilbert drops to the fourth line between Simon and Park - the makings of an adequate energy line with Simon dropping the hammer from time to time.
Holes? Yeah, probably a few.
A stronger, more traditional checking third line center could help. Why not Michael Peca? I can't get any answers to that question. I guess he really did feel spurned by the way things ended during the first run on the Island. The majority of that regime is gone now, yet what seems to me like a perfect match doesn't even appear to be on the radar at this point. Plan B: Why not take a flyer on Jason Allison and bump Sillinger to the third line? That'd be my first move here. Slow? Sure. But all the guy does is score points. Would it be a risk? Yes. A risk worth taking? The guy can't command THAT much money after a year off so, I say ... yes!
I also would like to see Fedotenko on the third line and a stronger scoring winger take his spot on line two. Does Jeff Friesen not make sense for a little more depth? Does he have anything left?
I'll leave it to you all to ponder some other names other than the two I've suggested. But I think it's clear another left winger and another center are needed here. That said, I do want to see Tambellini get his shot, so maybe moving Miro Satan in a trade and giving Bergenheim a go makes sense too. Problem here is, if the kids don't work out, we're nowhere NEAR a playoff spot - something I don't even want to think about anymore.
Well, chew on that for tonight. Chat it up. I've given you a topic, now let's talk. I'll give the potentially crowded defense situation a whirl tomorrow.
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