I am not going to go crazy about the Islanders draft or their free agent signings to this point because I am somewhat encouraged by what has gone down over the last few weeks. Garth Snow is nothing but honest. He said he would do things to facilitate the rebuilding process and help the club wins some more games. He did, albeit on a minor level. As currently constituted, I see the Islanders where they always are, a 70-85-point club fighting for eighth in the East. It is better than the alternative.
Selecting Joshua Bailey with their first pick was a nice move. He is not Filatov, but 96 points in the rough-and-tumble OHL is nothing to sneeze at. I say let him play now. Get him up with the big club as soon as possible and let him learn on the job.
Kirill Petrov in the third round was a steal, but the big Russian will be hard to get to the NHL because he is locked up over there for two years and will probably be paid a kings ransom to stay in his league. The Russian super league is throwing around mad cash. I guess we are in wait-and-see mode with him and will remain that way for a while.
As for the free agents they have signed, I love the Mark Streit move. He’ll quarterback the power play and get 15-18 minutes a night in the second or third defense pairing. I do not expect 62 points again, like he amassed with Montreal in 2007-08 because the Habs are a vastly superior offensive club compared to the Islanders. That said, though, when you get a chance to get a defenseman in his prime (He is 30) who had as many assists as your club’s leading scorer had points (Mike Comrie with 49), you do it. Streit will be good for years and should fit into the rebuilding process perfectly.
Doug Weight. OK. He is 37 and had 25 points last year. Look beyond the numbers, though. He, along with Bill Guerin and Pavol Demitra, was largely responsible for St. Louis rebirth. He has moved on since then, but you cannot discount the value of veteran leadership. Plus, he will be the Islanders’ man behind the net on the power play. Do not let last year get you down. This guy has averaged 55-60 points a season for his long career, has won a Stanley Cup and what he will bring to the locker room is immeasurable.
I would have liked to have seen the Isles go after Michael Ryder or Kristian Huselius, but we knew going in Snow was not going to do much out of fear of taking away roster spots and ice time from youngsters. The Isles must be way under the cap, so if Ted Nolan gets through to the troops and they start off well, they may be in a position to add firepower come the trade deadline.
Do not read too much into what I am writing. This team has many, many problems, mostly on the offensive end. But I do like their defense pairings. Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek, Andy Sutton, Chris Campoli, Streit …. not bad. I expect the Islanders to be good defensively and in net, provided Rick DiPietro stays healthy.
The problems, though, will be glaring. They will not score anywhere near enough. My hope is Kyle Okposo develops into the sniper many expect him to be. Getting 20 minutes a night will only help.
The Islanders have the veterans to bring the youngsters along. Guerin, Weight, Witt, Sutton, Richard Park, Mike Sillinger, Jon Sim, it is not as bad as it seems. Nolan must start the season with Okposo, Blake Comeau, Bailey, Frans Nielsen, Jeremy Colliton and Jeff Tambellini among the final 20 for this rebuilding to begin in earnest. If not, you will have a ton of 35-somethings out there with diminishing skills.
I will be back after the holiday with a lot more. Enjoy the 4th everyone.