So, it’s time to play Devil’s Advocate. Not the NJ Devils, just the regular devil. This season appears headed down the toilet. There is very little question about that. Can it be saved? I give it a less than 5% chance. So, what now then? I cannot believe we are talking about this coming offseason already, but the Islanders’ play hasn’t exactly been inspiring as of late. Well, let’s answer a few questions right off the bat:
What do the Islanders do with yet another Top 5 pick?
I know what you’re thinking. “But, Eric. they traded that pick away in the Matt Moulson/Thomas Vanek deal.” Au contraire mon frere. The Islanders draft pick they traded to Buffalo is lottery protected. So, that means we have a choice here. Either the Isles hang on to the pick this year or they hang onto it next year. If they do choose to hang on to it this year, they would not be protected next year.
What do the Islanders really need? Defense and goaltending. They have the scoring, even if it has disappeared over the last 15 or so games. They do have a solid core of defensive prospects, led by Griffin Reinhart, who should be an Islander full-time next season, assuming he progresses the way he should in Juniors. He is a solid 2 way player who, as captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings, obviously can handle the pressure of being counted on. John Tavares is going to be a terrific captain. He has all the passion, skills and qualities you look for in a leader. But, it would surely help him if he had a sure-handed, confident, young defenseman to count on. It’s coming JT, it’s coming.
But what about this year’s draft? Well we have plenty of time, 6 months to be exact, to worry about it. But, looking at some very early projections, the man people seem to be focusing on is Aaron Ekblad. He is a right-handed Defenseman, who at 17, some say is NHL ready now. The soon to be 18 year old defender is a great 2 way player and has been called an exceptional talent by Elite Prospects. He was designated with “exceptional status” by the OHL, This allowed him to be drafted in the OHL a year earlier. He is the 2nd one to ever be granted that status. The first? A certain Mr. John Tavares. Perhaps you know him?
Ekblad would fit perfectly on the Isles blue line. Aaron Ness & Matt Donovan would be a year older, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrew MacDonald & Travis Hamonic could all provide veteran leadership. That opens up a spot for Ekblad, Calvin de Haan, or Ryan Pulock to take a crack at the roster. The Isles would be dealing with defense as a position of strength. There is always the possibility that someone could get dealt to get someone to fill a position of weakness, or a future draft pick.
However, there is the case for next year as well. Say they gave up this pick and next year they were just as bad, well then they would have that lottery pick and the chance to pick “The Next One”, Connor McDavid. But, seriously, if they are this bad again next year, there …just…are…..no….words.
If they DID use it this year, unless they make a trade, wherever they finish next year they finish and they won’t have a first OR second round draft pick. It will all be worth it if Thomas Vanek re-signs here. Which leads me to the next topic.
The Thomas Vanek Affair
What will Vanek do after he becomes a free agent? No one really knows. Next. Seriously though, let’s look at this logically. He is doing well next to John Tavares. In 21 games, he has 9 goals and 7 assists. He and Tavares have been two bright spots in a very dark season. They have developed a chemistry which could really help this team down the road. The Islanders, and the fans, have to do a good job in convincing him that this the place to be. If Robinson Cano can leave the Yankees because he is getting $24M a year, anything is possible. That is the kind of thing that could work in the Isles favor if this were baseball. It’s not. People in hockey don’t always go for the most money. They just want to have that chance to win. Vanek needs to be convinced that this is just a blip in the radar. It’s one step back this year, but 2 steps forward in the future with his help. Look, injuries have killed this team, but this stinks from the head. Want to keep him? Make a change at the top. That leads me to my next subject; Jack Capuano.
What Does Jack Capuano Have On Isles Management?
The Isles have been atrocious to say the least in the third period this year. They have blown TEN third period leads. Ten. They are vastly under-performing and not living up to the lofty expectations we as fans, and they as players, set for the team. The Islanders remain winless when scoring less than 3 goals. They have won twice since the beginning of November. So, why is Jack Capuano the head coach? When Scott Gordon lost as many games as Cappy, actually less, he was fired. However, Garth Snow seems to be content on sending Cappy down with the ship. Does he have nude pictures of Garth Snow‘s wife? Does he have nude pictures of Garth Snow? Did he take pictures of John Tavares in the shower? These are questions we may not ever know the answer to. One thing is for certain though. He should not be here. He has lost this team, and has no business being its head coach. With Peter Laviolette waiting in the wings, and happy to take over, the Isles should not hesitate to showing Cappy the door.
As far as next year goes however, there is no way he is still here. Unless he leads the team on a miraculous trip to the playoffs, he will almost certainly be replaced. But then again, he’s still here. So, who knows?
This is just pure speculation considering the season isn’t even halfway over. But, there are some enticing names on the Free Agent to be on the list. The first priority will to be get Thomas Vanek signed. But if Garth wanted to make a big splash during the Coliseum’s last season, there are some nice names available.
How about stealing Ryan Callahan from the Rangers? Wouldn’t that be something? Something that won’t happen, but it would be something.
How about some defensive options to upgrade the defense corps?
There are plenty of options this offseason for the Islanders to improve. In 2014-15, if the Islanders falter yet again, they will only have themselves to blame.