The Islanders' season has ended and already some spirited/contentious navel-gazing (is such a thing possible?) has begun, and in that spirit I'd like to stir the pot and see how everyone feels.
I assume (regardless of the ramifications for 'u' and 'me') several things going in:
- The first and second lines will survive intact going into next season. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- Nino makes the roster out of training camp. Without really dogging it in training camp, it's inconceivable that Nino doesn't make the roster. He didn't look out of place during his 9 games this October and it seems like he's got nothing left to learn in juniors. He's big, he's skilled, and he can probably get up to NHL speed before too long.
- Konopka isn't getting resigned. As much as he's a fan favorite, I think Isles' management doesn't care for him all that much and is going to dump a few of the "goons" as a PR move. Zeke and Gillies aren't long for the team.
- Martin and Haley are going to be on the starting roster next season unless someone has a stellar camp and they dog it.
The way I see it, lines 1-3 are as follows:
PA - Tavares - Moulson
Grabner - Frans - Okposo
Comeau - Bailey - Nino (Okay, this one's not set in stone but it seems like it would work for breaking in the newb without causing too much trouble. Comeau and Bailey's defensive natures could compensate for any, uh, youthful excesses on Nino's part.)
I'm going to go ahead and assume that Martin and Haley will make up two parts of a nice crash-boom-bang fourth line. I also think that these two have shown some offensive flair, along with some nice stickhandling and skating. There are a handful of options to finish the line with:
- A Finn named Jesse - started to show signs of life this season, but still pretty unconvincing. Could maybe be a nice call-up guy if one of the regulars gets injured or suspended for frowning.
- Hunter - Not sure I like this at all, really. He would make a pretty good mentor for two younger guys, but I don't think he's got the wheels to keep up with Mike and Matt at all, especially coming back from injury. I could see Isles' management taking their chances with waiving this guy - if worse comes to worst, he gets claimed, the team only has to pay half his salary and nobody has really missed him all that much this season anyway. (Be honest: How many times have you said "Boy this game would have gone better with Hunts around"?)
- Colliton - Okay, so this one is my fantasy, but you could do worse than a pretty defensively responsible player who happens to be Bridgeport's all-time leading scorer. His capacity for assists combined with Martin and Haley's ability to make room could make for some good fourth-line scoring opportunities.
- The Rahk - Rhett would benefit from having two bruisers out there with him and he slots in nicely (Martin is listed as a LW, Haley as a C, Rhett's a RW). Maybe this could make for a defensively shaky line?
In my wildest dreams I see the Islanders rolling four lines who are all scoring threats and I think the pieces are there if some hard decisions are made and ice time is doled out to the lines who are the most effective on a given night.
Sound off, Lighthaüsen - What do you think is the fate of the fourth line? Did I use too much fancy formatting? Let me have it in the comments.