This is what everyone has been talking about this summer. Here's a summary of the problem, and a place for everyone to post their thoughts on the subject.
Garth NEEDS to find a second-line forward who can finish passes from Bailey, or who can center a line for Okposo and Bailey. It is common knowledge that we have a bunch of young kids who could potentially fill that role, i.e. Strome, Ullstrom, Kabanov, and Nelson. However, none of those players will be developed enough to fill that role THIS YEAR, in my opinion. We need one more primarily offensive player for the second line. Then, and only then, will we be a playoff team. Without another player, the identity of each line is essentially as blurred as last year, when Cappy picked out of a hat the line he would put on the ice.
The answer might come from free agency, be it Doan or Arnott, but I think a trade is more likely. I suggest giving up prospects and money for Vrbata, Ryder, or Clarkson, all of whom scored 30 or more goals last year. None of them have more than 2 years left on a contract, and are all UFA’s at the end of them, so I infer that GM’s would be willing to give them up for prospects and promising young NHLers. Same thing with centers, Desharnais and Filppula, who had 40 or more assists last year. Filppula primarily plays wing now, but the Isles could entice him with the chance to play center again and with fellow Finn, Joensuu.
The players we would give up would come from a pool of the following: Poulin, Nilsson, Kabanov, Ullstrom, Brock, Nino, Cizikas, etc. They are all expendable I think, because we are pretty set as far as offensive and netminder talent. I would be upset if we had to trade Strome or any defensive prospects (Donovan, de Haan, Ness, or Rakhshani) because, let's face it, Visnovsky and Streit are about as old as the typical Lighthouse Hockey-ite. Also, it should go without saying, but Hamonic should be almost as untouchable as Tavares.
What the lines would look like now, assuming Strome stays in the OHL:
Moulson / Tavares / Boyes <-- Potentially top-10 line in the League
Bailey / Nielsen / Okposo <-- Too defensive-minded for a second line
Grabner / Cizikas / Niederreiter <-- Could definitely be better, Grabner will have to think defense first
Boulton* / Reasoner / Martin <-- Okay fourth line, but not a fan of over-the-hill Reasoner
And what they could look like:
Moulson / Tavares / Boyes <-- Less pressure applied, so maybe Boyes will want to stay
Niederreiter / Bailey / Vrbata* <-- Prediction: Nino 20G/20A, Bailey 20G/35A, Vrbata 35G/30A
Grabner / Nielsen / Okposo <-- EXTREMELY deadly third line, potentially best in NHL, +/- of 20
Boulton / Cizikas / Martin <-- With Reasoner demoted, Cizikas can have a more sheltered role
Other option, if first falls through:
Moulson / Tavares / Boyes <-- Still enjoying less pressure
Bailey / Desharnais* / Okposo <-- Prediction: Bailey 25G/30A, Desharnais 20G/45A, Okposo 30G/25A
Grabner / Nielsen / Niederreiter <-- A great third line; Nielsen where he belongs
Boulton / Cizikas / Martin <-- Nothing changes, still a great fourth line
Not only are the bottom two playoff teams, but they are non-bubble playoff teams. The defense will be great this year, and the goalie situation will be figured out sooner rather than later. I honestly believe (hope?) that DiPietro will have a bounce back year this year, which will come in handy now that Nabokov is getting older. Poulin and Nilsson will also be fantastic back-ups when either Nabby or DP need time off.
Let's hope that this happens, but even if it doesn't, I'm predicting that we will still get to see some meaningful games in March/April. A coach better than Cappy could get the current Isles to the 8th playoff spot, but I don't see it happening with Jack unless talent is added.
Do you think the Islanders need to change their lineup before opening night? Wouldn't you rather see this happen than throwing money at another cap mule who won't make a difference? Or are you concerned about having to give up prospects?
This is, of course, all just wishful thinking, and I kind of just wanted to put down my thoughts in ink in case it actually happens.