Don't worry, I'm not implying that the Islanders are going to win 7 games in a row after losing 7 in a row, but they are making one hell of an interesting playoff push. With less than a week to go to the deadline, most fans have been speculating as to what Garth Snow will do. Will he pull the trigger on some firesale deals? Will he make a Stillman + Commodore/Eaves + Corvo type deal?
Do we all sound like a broken record discussing the same questions? YES! But it's getting to the most exciting time of the year and all most of us fans can do is wonder what to expect on this special Hockey Holiday.
With the Islanders having lost 7 in a row and falling to the bottom of the standings with 2 weeks to go until the big day, it was almost certain that the Islanders would have to be sellers. With guys like Satan, Fedotenko, Comrie, Vasicek, Berard, Bergeron, and Hunter all on one-year deals pending for Unrestricted Free Agency or in some cases RFA's (Bergeron and Hunter), you would think that at least some of them would be on the move regardless of playoff hopes.
But don't touch the dial just yet, Garth. Now they've won four games in a row, one of them being an exciting come from behind third period thriller against one of the top teams in the West. The game before that we hold Ilya Kovalchuk's and Marian Hossa's Thrashers to just TEN SHOTS in an entire 60 minutes, with the Islanders amassing almost 50.
This team seems to somehow be clicking after 60 games, and it's about time - and the right time.
I am not saying that I don't want this team to sell, but at the same time, the playoffs might not be a bad thing to ask for. Playoff experience for guys like Tambellini, Comeau, Bergenheim, and even Gervais and Meyer, is something that will be extremely valuable. But we must remember, we have 7 players that might be gone next year.
We all remember last summer's free agency period. We lost out on everyone, and all the players that we dreamed and hoped for seemed to sign everywhere else in our division except here. I think most fans want to avoid that at all costs. So then what is the best strategy? Do we go with the plan of trading for picks and prospects? Or do we get young players who can step in and perform right now?
Well let's address, what I think, are the two most important things this team has been missing:
A) A bonafide 1st line center - We all will say that Comrie has had his up's and down's this season, but he's starting to come through at a time where we need him more than ever. But we must admit that he is not a first line center, but definately a 2nd line center. And let's be honest when we say top six scoring is not only something we've lacked this year, but for many years. Keeping Comrie around is important for this team's success not only now, but for the future. We must remember Comrie is still only 27 years old with only 6 years of NHL experience. He might be one of those players who don't hit their prime until the reach the age of 30 or so. And don't forget to add that he WANTS to stay here..something we did not hear or see in the summer-time.
Keep Comrie, and in the off-season look to sign that first line center that will be reliable to develop guys like Tamby and Okposo, and score on a consistent basis. It will provide a balanced attack on our top two lines in the long run as well. With that being said, I don't want this team to make a huge blockbuster trade like they did last year for Ryan Smyth. With Snow already admitting that we will not lose our first round pick this year, or trade prospects like Comeau, Tamby, or Okposo, it seems like we can assume that it is something that either will be a trade that involves one or some of our impending UFA's, or a problem that may be addressed in the summer.
B) A reliable offensive defenseman - Once again Bryan McCabe is finding his name in Islander rumors. It's the same story just a different day, with it being said that Caber would accept a return to the Isles since his wife lives in
NY. We've heard Caber in the past say that it's a ridiculous thing to believe, that he's never said it. But we've also heard players call Long Island their home and where they want to be, and then leave the first day of free agency.
The Leafs are now under Cliff Fletcher's rule and he may be willing to part ways with expensive contracts in order to cut salary and bring in promising players that will help their current situation. I've heard that the Isles and Leafs have been talking from several places - such rumors have included Satan + Bergeron for Mccabe or Hunter + Bergeron for McCabe.
I would be surprised if the Leafs traded for Satan pending his UFA status and the Leafs high unlikelyhood of making the playoffs. Hunter and Bergeron I can see being that they're re-signable.
As far as trading for McCabe, I think it would be a solid acquisition and definately possible depending on the length of Sutton's leg injury. Sure Caber's having a tough season, but he missed a chunk of it due to injury and he's had a hard time getting back in the groove. It may be time for a change of scenery for Caber. All I know is that he's more than capable of lighting the lamp from the blueline and is a +23 in his last four years combined with what's been up and down years for the Leafs. He has a marginal hefty contract, but the Isles have room to spend. And what's best about this deal is that he's under contract for a few more years - no risk of losing him this summer.
I'd do it as long as it didn't involve any high picks or prospects. I firmly believe then the rest of next year's roster should be filled with the young guys and the experienced vets that we keep around (hopefully) - Guerin, Witt, Sillinger, Sim, Sutton, Martinek, Comrie, Hunter, Park. If you ask me the rest are exependable.
All this being said, it comes down to what Garth Snow is going to do. Ek has had Comrie and most recently, Fedotenko, listed on his blog as players who Snow has been listening to offers for. Last night Ek had said that the Islanders, at this point, are not sellers. This worries me a bit since Snow only leaves us with the memory of Ryan Smyth, although he's made stromg implications that it won't be happening this year.
If we're not going to acquire picks and or prospects, then UFA's for impact players that are under contract makes sense, as long as they are not in the final years of their prime or in their late 30's.
So we're left with the final 6 days, a four-game winning streak, 3 more games till D-Day, and rumors continuing to swirl harder than the current wind gusts on Long Island. All we can do is sit inside and wait.