Bill Torrey had a difficult job in 1972. He was the General Manager of the expansion New York Islanders, graced with the blessings of several excellent draft years to come. But the difficult part had to be the other 16 GMs burning his ears with trade offers for his early draft choices.
Torrey was smart. He held on to his picks despite the temptations to play "lets make a deal."
In the first two drafts that the Islanders were involved with, the seeds of glory were being planted. Those two drafts featured two number one overall picks which turned out to be Billy Harris and dennis Potvin. Also selected in those drafts—Bobby Nystrom, Lorne Henning, Dave Lewis and a gem was unearthed in 1972 with pick number 144 in Garry Howatt.
Despite major improvements in play, the 1974 draft saw the Isles picking 4th in round one. And Torrey was able to build a long list of selections. Of the 19 selections the Islander made in 1974, four of them would play major roles in the championships to come. Clark Gillies, Brian Trottier, Dave Langevin and Stefan Perrson became Islanders.
The point of this brief history lesson is to remind us of two things.
Champions are seldom built through trades and free agency, and that patience with youth is critical toward long term success—particularly in the NHL.
More recent displays of this patience can be seen with current teams. Darcy Rieger of the Sabres was tutored by Torrey. The Senators, Sharks, Lightning and Flames have all been built through the draft and have experienced much success.
As such, I would hope Mr. Snow follows mr. Torrey and DOES NOT make a trade that involves his young, developing players, or the draft picks that will be coveted next Spring--as 2008 is proving to be a deep draft.
We are hearing all kinds of trade talk with the Islanders. And I have no problem making the current roster strong, better and more suited to compete in 2007. But not at the expense of 2008 and beyond. Trading players like Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais would be a poor choice. Campoli had a slow start due to injury last year, but has developed wonderfully. Bruno Gervais made leaps and bound to his game as well. Considering the Islander defensive corps at Bridgeport is pretty thin, it would be wise to keep these two youngsters around. They may be #5-6 blueliners today, but both show all the potential for much greater roles in the future.
Like all fans of this once great franchise, I am tired of seeing our home grown boys become stars while wearing another teams sweater. Mike Milbury is thankfully gone. Mr. Snow and Mr. Wang are starting to show a real committment to hockey on Long Island, and seem to be attempting to build a franchise we can be proud of once again.
But long term success will require real dedication and patience to a plan. Part of that plan has to be to make sure players like Trent Hunter, the afore mentioned defensive duo, up and comers like Sean Bergenheim and Jeff Tambellini are given an opportunity to develop on the Island. Players like Kyle Okposo must remain property of the Isles. Snow resisted trading him at the deadline--and he deserves tremendous credit for keeping Okposo on board.
Memo to Garth and Charles: Be Patient. Do the best you can this season, but keep the youth movement going. As of this writing, you still need a few things for this years squad. Don't mortgage the future on a trade for defenseman, when so many are available via free agency. Don't trade Campoli, Gervais, Hunter, Okposo, Tambellini or Berganheim. They are your future!