Offseason Edition: How to make the Coliseum's Finale Grand (Address our needs)
If you have watched the Islanders this season, you are likely aware of the issues that vexed the team early and often. Those issues rendered the Islanders’ late season surge utterly useless in a highly talent Metropolitan Division and an even deeper Eastern Conference. As the remaining elite battle for the Stanley Cup, the Uniondale residents are looking to retrace their steps to figure out where it all went wrong.
Through speaking with fans of the team, they have relayed their thought that dealing the “gritty”, “hard working” Matt Moulson for the “finesse” and “lethargic” Thomas Vanek was a fatal mistake that doomed this team. They argue that Matt Moulson fit the system the Islanders succeeded in. Although Matty Ice was not a superstar by any means, his chemistry with his teammates could not be measured statistically.
The facts were that Thomas Vanek played very well for the Islanders. They had to deal him because they could not risk not getting anything back when he inevitably signed elsewhere.
Yes, the haul for him was underwhelming and to a point, embarrassing, but it would have been better than the nothing the Isles would get while watching him sign with a contender.
As all of the fans, I was excited during the deadline because I was fully aware that Vanek would be dealt and these pieces could help expedite the never ending rebuild. Not so much. Like always, the Islanders were the talk of the league and not in a good way. There were rumors that teams like Los Angeles and others had offers that blew Montreal’s out of the water. We will never know.
It will be all worth it if Sebastien Collberg winds up being better than expected but not likely. Even in a losing season, Garth Snow had a chance to make the Islanders winners in some way. Didn’t happen. Conversely, Buffalo who had a horrid season walked away with four picks for Vanek in total after they dealt Moulson.
Fans could point to the Olympics where their captain and center piece, John Tavares, went down with a partially torn MCL. JT came back holding a gold medal but at the expense of the 2013-14 campaign. But looking through an objective and realistic lens, the realization has to be that the Islanders were not a contender in their own division and would not have made any noise even sneaking back in as an 8th seed.
How could a team with such promise, disappoint so drastically?
It is much more than bad luck. It is logistics.
The Islanders and upper management failed to address any and all needs this off season. These needs are the same ones they will need to fix if they are going to compete again. If the Islanders want to send the Nassau Coliseum off in memorable fashion and not a whimper, they need to do the following.
Sign a proven goalie.
There are numerous available with the prized, golden tickets being Miller, Halak and Jonas Hiller. As soon as NHL free agency begins the Islanders need to find a way to sign a young but proven goalie. I emphasize the young part because I know that Garth Snow would be tempted by Martin Brodeur on the market. No, he is not the answer.
The team needs consistency in the net not a one year answer. By taking a quick look at the teams vying for the Cup, it is obvious that all of them are strong in the net first and foremost. There should be no more waiting for the Poulins and Nilssons to pan out.
The Islanders have an elite franchise player that needs a team around him NOW. John Tavares is locked up until 2018 but they need to take advantage of finally having a Top 3 player in the league. No more exploring reclamation projects. The team needs to sign one of those goalies. Ryan Miller is 33, Hiller is 32, Halak is 28 and Brian Elliot is only 29. If the Islanders want to compete next year, they have to have one of those men in between the pipes in October.
DEFENSE, DEFENSE, and some offense (Did I mention Defense?)
Taking a look at the defensive pairings for the Islanders in 2013-14 is a horror show. The Islanders need to attempt to bolster the defense by trade or free agency.
The top 5 defensemen available are Kimmo Timmonen, Andrei Markov, Stephane Robidas, Matt Niskanen, and Marek Zidlickly. If the Islanders can nab one of those guys that would be a great start. Isles could look to sign Brooks Orpik who is available as an unrestricted free agent and use their deep supply of prospects to trade for another.
The Isles should capitalize on the surge that the team had at the end of the year getting scoring and production from their AHL call ups. The Islanders could also look to move Josh Bailey who looked much better at the end of the year for help on defense.
Looking at the forwards available, the Islanders should look for character guys that have played big minutes in big games. Ryan Callahan, Matt Moulson, Derek Roy, and Devin Setoguchi should be the main targets. Paul Stastny is available but he may be a pipe dream for the Isles. The other four guys are realistic. Moulson would come back for obvious reasons but he has shown to be more than a system player. He has scored in Buffalo and even in Minnesota. He may not give the team a home town discount but he would be willing to listen. Callahan has shown to be a gritty player and could be a great spark to prevent late game collapses.
The team needs stability and signing 2 forwards alongside the other signings would make the fans feel great going into the Coliseum’s finale. Any of these guys can help the Islanders in big spots and could take some pressure off of Tavares and Okposo when the team needs a big goal.
We could never attract free agents. What is different this year?
Yes this all seems lovely but the Islanders have shown an inability to lock up any free agents even after throwing more money their way. What makes this year different than the past?
Brooklyn is in sight.
This is the last year playing in the run down Coliseum and playing hockey in Brooklyn for the first time is attractive. The Islanders as a franchise are comparable to the Nets. When the Nets traded for Deron Williams back in 2011, everyone thought there was no chance for them to resign the All Star point guard. A betting man would support the notion that if they weren’t moving to Brooklyn he would have been out of there.
Some fans see the Isles moving to Brooklyn as a bad thing and as traitorous but it will only help the Islanders in the future.
The team can’t place all of their misfortune on the Coliseum but they can blame some. Long Island is a great place to live but does Uniondale really represent what Long Island is about? No....
If an NHL player has never been the beaches, the wineries, or the Lighthouse, they would think that Long Island is an endless parking lot. They would think that Long Island was a dump.
It is not. If the Islanders played in a place that better represented our community, it could attract players to want to be here. There is really nothing attractive about the area surrounding the Coliseum.
Conversely, the Barclays Center is beautiful. Brooklyn is renowned and up and coming. The Islanders will slide right into a developing winning culture that the Nets have developed in their short tenure.
The Islanders need to make sure to sell playing alongside John Tavares in his prime to free agents as well as playing in Brooklyn starting just the following year.
Those two features along with the right contract should be enough to woo any free agent.