Approaching the Trade Deadline, the New York Islanders are a team of many questions, questions which Bob McKenzie offered some answers to on Wednesday.
The three main players of discussion are Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielson. Hamonic requested a trade earlier in the season and Okposo and Nielson are both unrestricted free agents this summer. While one would expect there to be some murmurs of trying to sign the team’s second best forward and most effective possession player, the rumour mill has been quite for months.
In McKenzie’s article, he didn’t talk much about either player’s contract negotiations, other than adding that he and Garth Snow feel that it will be difficult if not impossible to re-sign Okposo.
To sum up what McKenzie describes as Snow’s goal for these situations and the season as a whole, it’s short-term success.
For Hamonic, this is a non-issue. The plan seems to be to try and wait until the summer and make a deal then. As long as Hamonic is okay with it, it keeps the team consistent on the backend and is probably the best option for the Islanders.
For Okposo and Nielson, this is a scary thought.
While we have been a fan of almost everything Snow has done since the Thomas Vanek trade, the phrase “short-term success” in relation to a team’s General Manager sets off just about every alarm we have. Short-sightedness is the opposite of what you want from a General Manager.
The team had a very strong season last year, has started to play better in recent games and this season, have improved their weakest position from 2014-15, goaltending. We understand the opportunity and desire to win now, but over the course of the last 52 games, the New York Islanders have not played like a top-10 team in the league.
They may find the game they had last season or may have been found it already, but if they fall back to the inconsistent play we’ve witnessed all season, wasting two assets as valuable as Okposo and Nielson is a lofty price to pay.
Garth Snow and the Islanders have done a great job stocking their farm system full of high-end talent with players such as Michael Dal Colle (Who has 31 points in 14 games since being traded), Matthew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock and Ilya Sorokin. However, that doesn’t give a team reason to be frivolous with their current NHL roster.
Keeping Okposo and Nielson is similar asset management to what many teams do at the trade deadline every year. They’re giving up more valuable long-term possessions in hopes of winning now.
For a position that is inherently concerned about their job security, it’s understandable for a GM to strive for short-term success. Whether or not that is magnified by the fact that the team sits so low in attendance this season, we don’t know.
What we do know is how we feel about the Islanders searching for short-term success in a season where they are unlikely to achieve it: Not good.
Flags fly forever and if the Islanders get on a roll entering the playoffs, we’ll be elated and forget we ever doubted anything. But that’s what fans do. We make emotional short-term decisions, ones like this exact post.
General Managers on the other hand, should be making decisions based on realistic evaluations of their team’s current level of play and what will benefit the team short- and long-term.
With that in mind, failing to re-sign or trade Okposo and Nielson would be a missed opportunity for management to improve the team moving forward.