We have staked our positions. Firesale when ready.
Since December, through injury and general inadequacy, the Islanders' on-ice product has looked -- not by intent, but by result -- like a team Tanking for Tavares. Now in the new year, abysmal record secured, the pieces are falling into place for "Forward, Tank, Ho!"
Doug Weight's pre-emptive strikes say he wants to stay, but he won't be Tkachuk-ing his way back this summer if they "rent" him out. Brendan Witt's de facto pre-emptive strike was that he doesn't agree with Scott Gordon's system (Observers of his on-ice performance concur). As if to convince Weight that the grass might be greener, Scott Gordon has let on that the kids will be getting more responsibility. Bill Guerin has a no-move clause, but there are ways... Mike Sillinger -- sadly for him and the club -- is hurt beyond rentable condition. The other Mike (Comrie) came back from injury and shined enough with Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau to perhaps dupe someone into trading too much for him.
The chips are down. Make your offers now. [Full story after the jump]
The first thing to realize is that although the injuries have made this necessary (and inevitable?) fall a reality much quicker than any Islander expected, it wasn't a foregone conclusion. This season was indeed step one in a rebuild, but it was also supposed to be an evaluation process of a new style that, like Ted Nolan's teams before him, would steal Scott Gordon some wins. That hasn't happened:
"The biggest thing is, with everything we've done, I don't think we ever are going to be able to get a fair assessment of what's going to work for us and what's not going to work for us because of the constant change of personnel," said first-year coach Scott Gordon, whose aggressive forechecking system has been a source of controversy inside and outside the locker room.
But, Greg Logan, the Newsday Isles beatwriter who wrote the above story, continues:
"Gordon said he's modified his system to some degree, but several veteran players have expressed serious reservations about whether the coach's system can be as successful at the NHL level as it has been in the AHL."
Oh boy. This will continue to be fun. Several Islanders fans express serious reservations about whether those veterans can be successful in Gordon's system. (It's worth noting that Weight is a fan -- or at least has voiced support in the interest of not being dealt.)
Weight: The One-Year Rental
Despite the constant lineup turnover, Doug Weight is on board. He's excelled in this environment, is happy here, doesn't want to be a rental again -- and has said so repeatedly in the last few weeks:
"I'm happy where I am," he reiterated. "I want to try and help the guys here turn this ship around as much as we can in the second half, and hopefully look to better things next year. But because I'm on a one-year deal, I may not be allowed to do that. Offers are made and decisions are made and everyone has got to do what's right for them."
"Their leadership skills are probably the biggest things I saw," [Sean Bergenheim said of Doug Weight and Bill Guerin's influence.] "In the future, I think some of the things I learned from them will help me and the rest of the team."
Do it for the Kids
But Gordon, with the collaboration of GM Garth Snow -- who must make the cold, unsentimental decisions -- has let it be known that the kids will get more responsibility as this lost season continues. As if they're warming Weight up to the idea of Elsewhere:
"We used the first half of the year to allow our older players to run with it," [Gordon said.] Now we're at the point, whether it's our next game or a couple games after that, there's certainly going to be a bigger responsibility on our younger guys."
... [Answering hypotheticals, Weight shared the following:] "Certainly, you have to get guys experience. But I didn't sign for one year for a five-month role. I wanted to see if I could prove myself, and I want to continue to do that as a leader and a player."
Weight's now out for two-four weeks with a foot issue. So we'll see what commodity value he has left when he returns. Maybe this injury -- like all Islanders injuries this season, conspiring with The Plan -- will be the break Weight needs to stay on Long Island.
Er, Do it for the Future
The prescription for this rebuild has long been clear, and Garth Snow is already on that track:
You're looking at the first team to officially raise the while flag and say it's open for business. Centers Mike Comrie and Doug Weight -- both UFAs July 1 -- are available. As we blogged on Friday, Weight isn't crazy about moving, but he doesn't have a no-trade clause. The bottom line is, the Isles want to get younger.
But improving to anything more than a parity-average team will only get harder in the cap-era NHL, as each club fully understands the value of young, cheap, cost-controlled talent. However it's acquired (and the free-agent route is a tough sell for the Isles) differentiating top-end talent is a must.
Weight, Comrie and Guerin are not exactly "top-end," but arguments can be made that one of them would be good vets to keep around on and off the ice next season. The Isles are almost assured of a bottom-four finish this season with or without them, so keeping them in the lineup past the deadline doesn't jeopardize a good lottery spot.
But if some GM is near-term focused enough to squander a first-round pick or more for any of them -- and the Waddells of the world still have jobs in the NHL's old boys' club, so you never know -- that makes Snow's decisions easy: Toss the ones who fetch value in return, and for those who are left, "We're pleased to resign [Vet A]. He was part of our plan all along."