Thursday, July 3, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

These past few weeks have been all about preparing for the arrival of the newest member of the Islanders 360 first child, due any day now. But in between washing baby clothes, sterilizing bottles, and setting up furniture I've been able to keep one eye on the hockey scene. So this post is all about playing catch-up.

Actually, I had something written immediately after Day 1 of the Draft. It had a decidedly un-family-friendly tone, and I thought it best to sleep on it before I unleashed my anger on you, faithful reader. In hindsight that was a good decision, as my feelings have changed somewhat since that initial knee-jerk reaction.

When the the trade-down from 5 to 7 was announced, I assumed Garth knew Toronto was going to pick Schenn and Columbus wasn't sold on Filatov. At the moment, it seemed like a stroke of genius...two extra picks AND we still get Filatov with the 7th pick. Of course, Filatov went at 6 to the Jackets and then the next trade-down to 9 was called. No problem, I thought, Garth must know Colin Wilson will still be around at 9. Shrewd move, GM! Moments later, Nashville calls Wilson's name and I'm left slack-jawed on the couch, wondering how we ended up here. When our pick finally came around, I tool small solace in the fact that Cody Hodgson was still on the board. Worst case, loose-cannon Kyle Beach could look good wreaking havoc in the orange-and-blue. I'll be honest, of all the top 15 picks, Josh Bailey is the only one I hadn't heard of. Thus my reaction when Garth called his name.

Clearly Day 2 of the Draft proved more successful, at least as far as gut reactions go. If you've been to the Official Islanders Site recently, you've read all the press about being "winners of the draft" and all that mumbo jumbo. Hey, it's nice to be respected (if only for a day). But in examining the Draft as a whole, how do I now feel about what happened on that Friday night?

I still think we should have grabbed Filatov. I understand the need to restock the organization, but we already had extra picks thanks to earlier deals. We were in a position to get an exciting young player, one who could be the face of a franchise that desperately needs one. You don't draft a player for his PR appeal, but he seems to have the talent to back it up. Sure, nothing's for certain, but just once it would have been nice to see this team follow conventional wisdom. If third-round steal Petrov ends up playing for the Islanders and lives up to his potential, I'll change my mind. That just seems like a big roll of the dice right now.

I really could talk about the Draft all day, but it's already old news. We'll re-evaluate things in 3 or 4 years. With these things, only time will tell.

Moving on to a smaller piece of news, I was happy to see the Islanders buy-out the contract of Shawn Bates. I loved Bates a few years back, and he'll always be an Islanders mini-legend for his penalty shot goal in the Toronto series. But this is the right move now, and I'm glad there won't even be the question of him taking time away from our prospects.

Moving on to free-agency, I have to say I am feeling pretty good about what has happened so far (and if you listen to Greg Logan, there's no more moves to come). Sure, we didn't make a huge splash...but any realist knew we weren't going to be in the mix for Hossa, Campbell, Sundin...etc. For me, free agency has been a success because we signed Mark Streit. Bear in mind, my expectations were that we would not do anything in free agency to improve our team. With this signing, we did.

I don't think he'll be able to replicate his numbers from last season, where his crisp passes were feeding a much more potent offense. But the guy should improve our powerplay substantially (though not solve it as Garth said). If you really analyze last season and project how many more games we would have won if we had a respectable powerplay, it's hard to not be excited by this signing. I'm choosing to ignore the rumors of his defensive weaknesses. That's my right as a fan.

I'm ambivalent about the addition of Doug Weight. Clearly, the only real benefit to this deal is the impact he can have on the development of the young guys. Also, I have a gut feeling that the team knows Sillinger might not be ready to go, at least for the start of the year. I saw him after the season finale last year, and he did not look like a guy that would possibly be ready to lace up the skates in September. I don't know anything one way or another, I'm just basing that on what I saw and my zero years of medical training. But the signing does raise one interesting question - can a team get both younger and older simultaneously? I think the Isles managed to pull off that seemingly impossible feat.

I'll leave you with the possible line combinations for next season, courtesy of Greg Logan..

Forward lines
Jeff Tambellini – Doug Weight – Bill Guerin

Blake Comeau – Mike Comrie – Kyle Okposo
Jonathan Sim – Mike Sillinger – Trent Hunter
Sean Bergenheim – Frans Nielsen – Richard Park

Defense pairings
Brendan Witt – Radek Martinek

Andy Sutton – Freddy Meyer
Chris Campoli – Mark Streit


Rick DiPietro

Joey MacDonald

F Andy Hilbert
F Ben Walter
F Jeremy Colliton
D Bruno Gervais

Quick thought - how does Tambellini go from a guy the coaching staff has no confidence in to a first-line winger? Only on the Islanders...


Gary said...

Congratulations on the anticipated birth of your first child! Having raised three boys, I smile thinking back to the transformation one goes through upon having your first child.
As for the "one eye" that you kept on the draft and the scramble for UFA's, I too am not certain as to where we are and the direction that we are heading. My feelings regarding Mark Streit are similar to yours. He will be a positive addition to the powerplay, as he was in Montreal. I also agree that Doug Weight will be asked to produce more off of the ice than on it. Still, he is 37 and I hoped to see us make a bigger splash in the free agent pool. I just can't determine if we are moving forward...building a competitor...or just seeing more of what we saw during the Milbury regime. I look at our first two offensive lines and just don't see them striking fear into the hearts of the competition. Tambellini...Weight...Guerin surely aren't Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Zetterberg (and, to make matters worse, Detroit then adds Marian Hossa). I'm eagerly awaiting the start of the season, but expect a whole lot more of what we have been seeing for the last AHL team wearing NHL jerseys.

Mike Carey said...

Thank Gary. I'm worried that raising my son as an Islanders fan could be considered a mild form of child abuse. I might have to do what's best for the boy and buy him a Red Wings pennant for his room...

Anonymous said...

I think we're on the right track, especially watching Snow excersize prudence in the Boyle talks. If this was 5 years ago, the trade would have happened and we would have lost picks and prospects. Great non-move in my opinion.

Can Guerin and Weight mentor the young kids? Can Okposo, Comeau and Tambellini take the next step? Can Streit help our woeful powerplay? Many questions.

I'm optimistic but then again, I'm always optimistic this time of year.

Fish Bulb said...

You need to name your son "Hilbert Carey".