It's Still An Uphill Battle, But The Isles Have Grown
When Garth Snow took over as general manager of the New York Islanders, he eventually set out on a mission to turn a lowly franchise into a contending hockey team by building through the NHL draft and developing talent from within (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr).
He took over in 2006, but did not start his rebuilding campaign until 2007-2008. Players such as Jeff Tambellini, Sean Bergenheim and Frans Nielsen began to slowly earn full-time roster spots with the organization.
The following year saw some other fresh faces like Jack Hillen, Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau in orange and blue gear for the majority of the season. Since then, John Tavares has taken over this team while management weeded out a few bad apples and traded away some young talent that was not prospering on the island.
Fortunately, there really isn't a former Islanders draftee of the above mentioned players that have come back to haunt the Isles GM for letting him go. However, some may argue that he has waited too long with some certain players who are still with the team.
But regardless, Garth Snow has inherited several prospects who have flourished with their respective Junior teams and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Donovan, Griffin Reinhart and Brock Nelson are just a few to be named.
And, whether fans like to admit it or not, the New York Islanders have come a long way since the rebuild began five years ago (nyisles14/Flickr).
Presently, the Isles sit only two points out of playoff contention with ninth place all to themselves. The Carolina Hurricanes are in the eight slot with New Jersey and Toronto in the seventh and sixth spots respectively, both with only 32 points. The Islanders have 29.
It may be a shortened season that prevented teams and players from having to fulfill the 82-game grind, but this is one of the few times that the Islanders have been this close to a playoff spot this late in a season in recent years.
Unfortunately, Snow has not been able to add the veteran free agent pieces that he probably would have liked in the off-season. Brad Boyes and Lubomir Visnovsky have not been bad pick-ups. In fact, they have been rather excellent.
But their contributions allow the suggestion that if the Islanders were able to add in a few stars, goal scorers, and top-four defenseman, that maybe they would be able to jump over that hurdle and be looking to retain a playoff spot instead of steal one at this point of the year.
With that being said, this team has been able to come this close with basically the same faces that Isles fans have seen for the past five years. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald and John Tavares are all still here.
Generally speaking, these players have grown and taken ownership of this team. The Bill Guerin's and Doug Weight's played and served their purpose with the club to have it not taken, but earned away from them due to development and attitude.
The Islanders may not be the dominant team in the Atlantic Division; they might not be the biggest and toughest team to play against; they might not be in the top half of the Eastern Conference standings on a regular basis.
But they are getting close; the closest that they have been in years. Off-seasons will begin to matter that much more to this organization if they wish to set the bar higher - and they should. This team has earned that challenge.
The New York Islanders, although still growing and developing, are no longer rebuilding.
They are a team that is just a few key pieces away from turning the corner.