Thursday, July 19, 2007

State of the Roster

So here we are in late July. The frenzy from the free agency period has quieted, and we have a few months to go before camp opens. Let's evaluate the state of the team as it stands now.
Ted Nolan's philosophy is that you build a championship team from the back-end forward. So that's how I'll look at the roster...

Our goaltending situation is straighforward...if DP stays healthy, we are in great shape. Last season, he established himself as a top 10 goalie in the league. With better defensive help, he can enter the top 5. Think back to all of the games last year where he single-handedly stole 1 or 2 points for this team (56 saves vs. the Rangers, anyone?). The logic of a 15 year deal notwithstanding, goaltending is the least of our concerns entering the 2007-2008 season. Behind Ricky, I am so happy to see Dubie get his shot in the NHL. I've been a fan since his first call-up back in the 2003-2004 season. I love his passion and attitude, not to mention the guy's got solid numbers (2.34 GAA, .921 save % in 17 regular season NHL games). I won't lose any confidence when Dipietro needs a rest and we see Yoda between the pipes.

Given the importance of defense to this coaching staff (and to any successful team), I'm a bit surprised we haven't done more to solidify the D unit. Of course, it's only July so it's premature to assume the D corps we have now will be the same that we see on the ice on October 5. There are still some attractive free agents available (Markov, Sutton, Tanabe), with various rumors potentially tying any and all of them to the Isles. Then again, one thing I've learned since the July 1 free agency kick-off is that 95% of rumors turn out to be false (I'm looking at you, hockeybuzz). So looking at our current roster, Witt (toughness/grit) and Bergeron (scoring) fill much needed prototypical roles. I love Martinek and think he is a well rounded defensemen, but I question his ability to stay healthy for a full season. Campoli was great two years back but regressed a bit last year. I think he needs to add size and will develop into a strong NHL player, but for the purposes of our season I hope that development happens sooner rather than later. As for Gervais, I watched his play evolve over the course of last season, and am confident he will be a solid D-man for years to come. Unlike many fans, I want to see both of these young players continue to perform at the NHL level rather than Bridgeport. There might be some growing pains, but it's in the best long-term interest of the team. As for Meyer, I personally don't see how he fits in well with this team. He is a good depth defenseman, but I don't love him as a starter. I'd like to see us bring in one of the top remaining FAs to fill that spot. Poti will be missed, but I think adding a FA, coupled with the development of Campoli/Gervais, will sufficiently offset his production.

Obviously, next year's team will have a very different look to it. Rather than go player-by-player, let's focus on some of the changes for next year. First the departures. The buyout of Yashin is definite addition by subtraction. He has an amazing shot, but his lack of effort clearly had a negative impact on the team. Just look at the team's record of success without him in the lineup. He always seemed like a nice guy and I wish him luck wherever he plays next. As for Blake, clearly his loss will be felt. I agree with the decision to not resign him given the terms he ultimately got from Toronto (although I'd like a refund for the Blake jersey I bought my wife last year), but you don't easily replace 40 goals. Despite what some called "selfish play", I'll miss Blake and the hustle he showed every game. I was a fan of Kozlov but see his departure as a chance to redefine the type of team the Islanders are. Finally, Smyth. I was and continue to be in favor of the move to bring him to the Island. Snow made a bold move to "win today", which we have rarely seen in our recent history. Unfortunately he opted to go to Colorado. I would have like to see him in orange and blue next year, but relative to last year's team (and his limited time/impact with us) I don't think we are worse off without him. Now, the additions. I like what Snow did, bringing in some quality players under good terms (aka short-term deals). This will give us flexibility to allow our young players to develop and crack the roster, and be active in the free agent market in subsequent years. Guerin is a great leader, gritty player, and quality goal scorer. A great signing. I became a fan of Comrie's play last year, watching him with Ottawa. More accurately, I was a Comrie hater...but now that he's on my side I am loving it. I think Fedotenko will have a breakout year and could net around 25 goals given the extra ice time, although I do think we overpaid a bit for him. If those guys form our top line, I think we can be successful. I know little about Jon Sim and don't recall having noticed his play, so I'll hold off on judgment until the season starts. As for other "new" faces, I'm excited about the return of Bergenheim to the team. He showed flashes of greatness in his previous stint with the team, and I think he has the potential to become the rare Isles prospect to develop into a premier forward in the league. Add to these guys the returning players (Sillinger, Hunter, Satan...etc.), I think we have the potential to have 7 or 8 20+ goals scorers. If this is the case and we can roll 4 solid lines, we will win a lot of hockey games.

I'm a big Ted Nolan fan. I know it's become cliche, but I think he can bring the best out of our players and have the team continue to perform beyond the expectations of the so-called "experts" in the hockey media.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading through my first (lengthy) blog. Future entries will be shorter, I promise. I'm looking forward to reading your comments and hope that you'll come back to this page for Isles talk throughout the season. Let's go Islanders!!


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Anonymous said...

Nice job

Anonymous said...

Looks great for an Islander fan. My wife would love it as an Islander fan. I also Enjoyed it. Enjoyed the fact that you went directly into the additions and subtractions instead of the entire team. maybe in a future edition, you could talk about the rookies or younger players that could step up and make an impact on the Islanders this year. Go Sabres!