With three days all ready passed since the opening of Free Agency, the Islanders seem to be pretty settled with their signings. With the exception of a few possible signings for their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, it's safe to say the Isles are done.
First off, before I go on any further, I would like to say, did I call the Doug Weight signing, or did I call the Doug Weight signing? ::Takes a bow::
Okay, I'm just kidding.
Anyway...the Isles did end up adding Doug Weight to their roster for an added veteran presence to help the kids learn the ropes of the game while also hoping Bill Guerin will regain his scoring touch with his old friend and teammate of the past. Bill scored 37 goals when in St. Louis while being paired up with Weight, and they also played together back in the Edmonton days, so hopefully they'll be able to recapture what they have done before on this Island this season.
However, it is important to note that Doug Weight was NOT brought here to be a 70+ point guy, and looking at his stats from last year (25 points in 67 games) would make it unfair to even expect that from him at his age as well. We may see better offensive numbers if Weight and Guerin can find their chemistry together (because we all know Comrie and Guerin did NOT work out very well) but even if that does not occur it is not something that we should be overly disappointed about, and I'll explain why in a few.
Although I was skeptical about signing Doug Weight, it does make perfect sense: he's a great locker room guy that will surely help the young players' development while hopefully bringing back more offense between Guerin and himself.
The first signing for the Isles was bringing in a Power Play specialist in Mark Streit. So far the TSN poll has this signing voted as the best bargain in regards to the available offensive dmen. He managed to put up 13 goals and 49 assists for 62 points from the blue line without the aid of former teammate Sheldon Souray. About half of those points came on the power play. There was no question the Isles needed a Power Play QB as we saw a variety of experiments with that position, usually seeing Miro Satan up top which never worked out well. Now we have our go to guy and hopefully he'll work out much better than Marc-Andre Bergeron. Berg has a fantastic slap shot, but his defensive game was terrible. It's hard to imagine any defenseman as defensively handicapped as MAB, so I think this will be a definite improvement.
The best part is that we got him at a relatively inexpensive price while the Rangers signed Redden, (who's older and passed his prime) to a long and expensive contract almost worth 7 million a year. If he plays as well as he has in Montreal, this signing will make Snow look like a genius. The only off-season move I think that this team is missing is an enforcer, but it would be hard to find room for one under the current roster. If Nielsen starts this season with a center role at the NHL level, (which Snow said in the past is part of his plan), then there really isn't room for one as Hilbert all ready looks like the odd-man out. Unfortunately, for this reason, we may only see him sign a veteran AHL/NHL enforcer that can be called up when needed.
But with Streit added to the blue line and Witt, Martinek, Sutton, Meyer, and Campoli under contract for next season and Gervais waiting for a new contract, it would almost seem safe to assume that a trade will occur unless Snow is comfortable with exposing someone like Gervais to waivers. I don't believe he is and I'm not even sure if he would want to trade him since he plans on strictly going with youth. Last year we saw how frustrated Nolan got playing 7 defenseman on some nights and only dressing 11 forwards. It was a mess and you can be sure that he does not want that to happen again. This is something I'm very curious to see how Snow handles. Maybe he'll facilitate a trade that gets us that enforcer by packing a forward into the deal as well.
With the speculating aside, in order to define if any of these current signings are a true success or not we should not look at Streit or Weight's stats. We should not be expecting a playoff berth in order to call this upcoming season a success either. The only way, as I see it, that we can expect to call next season an improvement over last is if we see Okposo score a handful of big goals; to see Comeau set up one of his line mates for a big play; Bergenheim dropping all five opposing players in one shift; Tambellini becoming a finisher and not a misser; Campoli emerging as his own Power Play QB; or Nielsen maintaining a permanent spot as a center.
Seeing the kids learn the game at the NHL level by being allowed to make mistakes and rebound is what makes next season a success, and for the first time we seem to have a General Manager who is aware of that. I have criticized Snow in the past, and he may do something before the start of next season that will make me cautious again, but for the first time in a long time we seem to have a GM that is committed to an actual plan. We don't have Milbury signing underachievers to lucrative contracts or taking gambles on players who were never consistent or haven't proven much. Snow, so far this off-season, has not traded away any of our younger players and managed to find a way to re-stock our farm system through the draft, like he said he would.
Although management and the coaching staff won't admit it, we will most likely be on the outside of the playoff picture next season and looking in once again at all the top competitors, but that is perfectly okay. We all wanted a youth movement and Snow is giving it to us. I and the rest of the fans need to be patient when we see a handful of losses come our way and remember that there should be a reward in the long run.
Next year may be a long one, but if we look in the areas that I've mentioned and see what we've been looking for, then I don't see a reason why we should be disappointed.