Editor's Note: Front-paging a thought-provoking FanPost here, on one of my favorite topics: Rebuilding is easy (well, not easy, but the design is clear-cut); the hard part is figuring what to do when the draft pick collecting days are over and you have to define the core of your team? After the jump, several questions about the Islanders future and how to get there...
It seems that since the Yashin/Peca acquisition there were three groups of fans:
1) Those that felt the best way to build a team was through the draft.
2) Those that felt the best way to build a team was through UFA signings.
3) Those that felt you built a team buy incorporating a mixture of both.
Today it seems that Group 1 has pretty much one that argument. The absolute failure of going out and trading draft picks and prospects or established stars (or sub star quality players has been duly noted i the cases of Yashin and Satan) is evident in the failures of this team from 01/02 - 05/06. Those teams were lacking in skill and led by players who were clearly on the downsides of their careers. It was a long and torturous period trying to compliment players that clearly just didn't have it.
The results of those years speak for themselves.
This team as now constructed is realization of those failures. The patchwork signings of Fedotenko, Guerin and Comrie followed by the exodus of Ryan Smyth and the Yashin buyout further establish that the best way to build a contender is the long and slow process of drafting. Not only do you develop better skill players but you also build a team that has chemistry and hopefully a groups that cares about each other on the ice.
I am glad to see that Snow has gotten high marks thus far by the fans for being patient, not parting with assets and standing firm with his plan to rebuild this franchise. The rebuild portion through the draft where he compiles tons of draft picks for veterans is reaching it's petering out point and is now reaching a new tipping point. Harder decisions now have to be made:
1) Doug Weight and Brendan Witt being two of the more reliable veterans on this team. It's clear Weight is not going to be here to start the 10/11 campaign. Witt is an aging vet on a blue line that needs to get younger, bigger and yes, much more mobile.
Do you move Weight for picks at this point or do you look to acquire prospects?
Question regarding Witt. He's you're wisest vet on the Blue Line but also your most movable assett. With Hamonic, Ness, Donnovan and Dehaan waiting in the wings do you hold out or look to move him now for maximal return? Which is more valuable to this team? His leadership or the possible return?
2) Trent Hunter. In my opinion his career has been mediocre here thus far. Hasn't been the kind of player we expected after his first few years here but not exactly terrible when you consider he really is a third line guy anyways. He's just turned 29 as of July 5th this year and that opens up questions now as to where he fits three-four years down the line when this team is set to contend for a playoff spot.
I know I'm speaking blasphemy on this as he is a fan favorite and this move me into more troubled waters with the next guy;
3) Sean Bergenheim. Probably one of the better equiped players on the team to handle Gordon's system and one of my favorite amongst the kids. Very exciting to watch when he is on. Here's my issue with him; Bergenheim, just who the hell are you? What kind of player are you going to be? That's a tough spot to be in when you're 25 in the final year of a contract. Hard to determine contract length and amount.
4) Jeff Tambellini. Biggest enigma on the team ala Kvasha, Isbister. Even less established as to what kind of player he will pan out to be than Bergenheim. Some use him as an excuse that Nolan was right and this kid doesn't have it. I'm not so sure I buy that argument though. I think when developing a prospect you have to work them in at the right time. I think it could also be a question of keeping this guy stuffed in the minors for too long whereas a player gets stuck on established tricks at that level that don't work on the NHL level. They become less flexible and more entrenched.
All that aside, this year is it for Jeff, Time to put up or shut up. Can't really look at the past. This guy has a world class wrist shot and should use as much as possible. It's really his only chance to get an extension.
So those are two mid career guys and two nearing the end. There are some I've overlooked but those four look to be the ones where the big decisions have to be made.
Now on to Garth Snow and some questions that need answering.
1) How do you plan on transitioning this blue line? Let's face facts, when this team is finally contending, there no way Witt, Sutton, Streit, Martinek and Meyer will be wearing Islanders sweaters at that point. That leaves us with Gervaise and Hillen.
How do plan on pulling in young Dmen that are going to peak at the same time as the forwards?
... Which leads us to this:
2) Snow has proven that he can make trades for picks. How about prospects?
I'm not talking about trades for guys like Walter (who guarantee everyone is going to be watching to see if you made a mistake allowing him to walk on you) but those upper tier prospects. Ya know, those guys teams give away when they get all giddy while on the playoff bubble.
The days are gone where Snow has tons of throwaway assets to acqiure 1st-3rd round picks.