Snow says "stick to the rebuild" - Fans say, "just WIN please"!
Before we dig deep into this article, please remember this quote:
"We’re never done. We’ll always look for ways to get better and help our team get to the next level."
- Garth Snow
What can the Islanders do to improve their record from last year and earn a spot in the playoffs? As a fan, I really don't care where we finish, just as long as it's called a playoff spot. We've seen Florida rebound in one summer and the offensively struggling Kings club grab a spot at the last second only to win a Stanley Cup. So what are the Islanders missing? While I try to remain optimistic on the rebuild, it's important many of us stay realistic. Garth Snow is very stubborn about his draft picks. He doesn't seem to be willing to part with any of them, at least not yet. So what can Snow do to improve this team over one summer while holding onto "his" players.
Adding Lubomir Visnovsky from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2013, 2nd round pick was a nice start. This addressed a serious need on the blue line and gave our power play another boost from the point. See Ya Eaton. While we waved goodbye to P.A. Parenteau, we said hello to Brad Boyes. Another right handed shot that will get a chance to play alongside JT91 and Moulson. Boyes does possess a knack for the net and although he's coming off a bad year in Buffalo, he'll get a fresh start on the top line in Long Island. We also told Jurcina not to close the door all the way on his way out because once the prank was over in Colorado, Matt Carkner would be walking in only to sign a 3 year deal. This move now takes some weight off Matt Martin's knuckles and gives us a physical, crease clearing 3-pair defenseman. Every team needs one so don't discount it. Towards the end of July 1, Islanders fans were angry, pissed, annoyed and dissapointed to see fan favorite Michael Haley join forces with the NY Rangers. So Garth inked 35 year old forward Eric Boulton to a one-year deal. Never afraid to drop the gloves, Boulton racked up 115 penalty minutes in 51 games with New Jersey last season, but was held off the score sheet all season, and found himself out of the lineup during the Devils run to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is more or less a division matchup player. He will be slotted in for all of the Flyers and Rangers games and others where some sandpaper is needed. Expect for him to play between 50-60 games this year.
Day 2, the Islanders recently found out that they are out of the running for Bryce Salvador. Oh noooo, our season is over. Not quite. Although Salvador can add a solid veteran presence for most NHL clubs, Snow has other "reachable" targets, not just on defense but offense as well. As we move on, I will discuss a few names that are still out there floating around, thinking it over.
Peter Mueller At 6'2'', 204lbs - Mueller could be another high risk-high reward signing for Garth Snow. We've seen him take a chance and score with Moulson, Parenteau, Grabner and most recently Boyes. Mueller could be another top 10 pick to add to the "core". Looking for something to prove, Mueller only played just 32 games last year and is coming off a 2 year/ 4 million deal. If he isn't signed by now, it's possible he's either (A) not healthy yet to play, (B) not overwhelmed with the offers he's received. If it's choice B, the next best thing the Islanders can offer is playing time. Frans Neilsen belongs on the 3rd line. His numbers year in and year out exemplify the perfect candidate for a 3rd line duties. His defensive responsibilities are gaining more notice every year around the league and he seemed to make Okposo and Bailey come around the last quarter of the year. Assuming that stays the same, Mueller could join the top 6 and gain some heavy minutes. At just 24 years old, this could be worthwhile for Garth and Co. Though he's listed as a center, he amassed 36 points in 47 games on the wing in Colorado. Surround that with Michael Grabner's speed and a legit top 2 center, the New York Islanders might be able to help Mueller regain that scoring touch. Mueller was drafted eighth overall in 2006 by the Phoenix Coyotes. He was ranked sixth among North American skaters by Central Scouting.
Here's what they had to say about him: "His speed is deceptive – his pace picks up when in possession of the puck ... has the uncanny ability to be in the right spot at the right time ... has good acceleration to loose pucks ... mobility is good to both sides and is effective in traffic ... has excellent vision and is gifted at moving the puck using soft hands and very good anticipation ... is good at creating space for teammates and has the ability to make teammates play at a higher level ... is an efficient player who knows when to exert the proper energy and has a deceptive, heavy shot with a quick release, excelling at one-timers... would have much better numbers but plays in a very defensive oriented system ... is used effectively to quarterback the power-play ...was 4 of 8 in shootouts this season ... shows a willingness to work the corners and compete for pucks in traffic ... is willing to take a hit to make a play and pays attention to the defensive aspect of the game ... during the last half of the season was much stronger in his own zone ... "
Honest Effort, 2 years - $2.2 Million
*signed with the Jets just moments after I posted this - 2 year deal, $9mil for Jokinen in Wpg. $4.5
While some of you may cry a river if you see this man put on our beloved logo, Jokinen did produce at a nice rate for the struggling Calgary Flames last season. Turning 34 in December, Jokinen can provide a nice solution for the 2nd line center duties. Whoever fills this spot will not be counted on to take on Tavares for the #1 role but instead produce at a fair rate and help some of our young wingers establish themselves as a top 6 forward. Whether it be Grabner, Okposo, Bailey or Mueller (who I hope to sign), Jokenin will be targeted by visiting team coaches, thus taking some pressure off JT91. Most importantly, this gives Ryan Strome the chance to play one more year in Juniors and a year at the AHL level. Yes, we all can't wait to see Ryan light the lamp in Uniondale but it's important we don't strike out after missing twice with Bailey and Nino. Many believe this kid could end up being a 1st line center one day, so let's treat this one with proper care. Jokinen was a $3 million cap hit last year and he'll likely earn the same rate going into next season. Honest Effort, 2 years - 7 Million
Just 29 years old the C/RW was making $700,000 last year. He was an excellent last-minute signing in September for the Winnipeg Jets, because he went on to tie a career high with 18 goals and set a personal best with 47 points. Another under the radar type signing.
Honest Effort, 2 years - $2 Million
Your top 9 would look like this:
Moulson - Tavares - Boyes
Jokinen/Wellwood - Mueller
Okposo - Nielsen - Bailey
According to St. Louis Today, Colaiacovo’s tenure with the Blues is all but done, but Colaiacovo shouldn't be a free agent too much longer. Ryan Dadoun from ProHockeyTalk believes "Colaiacovo is relatively young, capable of chipping in offensively and averaged a solid 19 minutes of ice time in 2011-12. Given the low number of NHL-caliber defensemen set to become UFAs, it wouldn’t be surprising if Colaiacovo ends up with a three-plus year contract — despite his rough season and past injury problems." With slightly less playing time, Colaiacovo could prove to be our best #5 defenseman since, well I can't remember. While Streit, Visnovsky, Hamonic and MacDonald lead the charge as the top 2 pairs, Colaiacovo can find himself a nice role on the Island.
Honest Effort, 3 years - $6 million
Conclusion: Let the contenders worry about signing Parise and Suter long term. It's going to take a lot of dollars, commitment and energy which doesn't always pay off as we see. Garth can smoothly, fly under the radar, make a few - noteworthy improvements and start training camp with players knowing their roles. A formula of this will benefit the rebuild and most importantly help the organization take a step forward. Everyone knows Wang is cash strapping this team, but with some regular season success, money can be made in the playoffs. This organization is very close to taking the next step (15-20 point improvement). With Nabokov signed for another year, Bridgeport performing at a high level, this is the summer Garth Snow needs to make a statement. Furthermore, a roster like this will put less pressure on the coaching staff and more pressure on the opposing team. Remember, the more you win, the more people will come to games. I am one of those guys...
Feel free to discuss in the comment board.