We say it all the time: The New York Islanders have given fans and media plenty of reasons for criticism over the years -- this site and its comment section parse over every angle, every day -- but if you're going to take part in the pile-on, you might as well get it right.
New York Post NHLPA advocate and hockey columnist Larry Brooks delivered one of his semi-annual take-downs of the organization in this Sunday's column, but true to form he got the rationale plenty shades of wrong. It's like shooting fish in a barrel and still somehow firing wide.
Let's go to the Brooksie logic, shall we?
With the chance in 2008 to select Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, Anders Karlsson [sic] or Cody Hodgson, the Islanders chose Josh Bailey before refusing to allow him to play in the World Juniors his freshman season.
Schenn sure is a gem who can determine the fate of franchises, eh? Yep, getting third-pairing minutes and third-tier competition and still having trouble for the Leafs, Schenn is exactly what the Isles are missing. Forget that the conventional wisdom going into that draft has borne out: that Schenn was a dropoff after the trio of true D-men draft gems Zach Bogosian, Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo.
And let's not mention the extra draft picks the Islanders got by trading down twice in 2008, which is a draft class that has seen eight Islanders picks -- and counting -- see NHL time. Wonder which NHL teams would trade Schenn for 2008 2nd-round pick Travis Hamonic today?
Meanwhile, of course any Isles fan would love Myers or (ahem) Erik Karlsson (not so sure about Hodgson, honestly) at this point, but considering they lasted to picks #12 (Myers was coming off a major injury) and #15 respectively, is this really a case to bring out the 20/20 teenager hindsight?
Brooks' selective draft logic continues:
With the chance in 2010 to select goal-scoring machine Jeff Skinner, the Islanders chose Nino Niederreiter,
Ah, right, Skinner. Who was ranked behind Nino in several pre-draft rankings but apparently everyone just knew he was going to be a goal-scoring machine right off the bat. Holy hindsight, Batman.
Certainly, Nino was seen as a slight reach at the time, so you'd think by Brooks' logic Cam Fowler (who slid past several teams) or Brett Connolly would be top of mind, but of course Fowler is having an understandably rougher sophomore year and Connolly is having nearly as difficult a rookie year as Nino, marked by 10-minute nights and very similar concerns about grasping NHL defensive responsibilities.
(Oh, and about that 2010 draft class: Brock Nelson scored another goal for WCHA champs North Dakota last night -- a second was waived off -- making it 27 on the year and five for the Final Five. Pshhh, they should've taken Christian Thomas.)
By the way, who else was a Calder finalist with Skinner? Was it Michael Grabner?
Oh, but that wouldn't matter, because according to Brooks:
Kyle Okposo has somehow devolved into an ordinary player at the age of 23. Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner have gone backward. All three of those young forwards are on back-loaded contracts that enabled ownership to deal with stated cash-flow issues, and all three delivered performances commensurate to their comparatively minimal salaries.
Fair point on Okposo's disappointing year, but if you think the book is closed on Grabner because he's scored "only" 16 goals this season, and if you think anything about Nielsen's play has "gone backward," then you really, really, really haven't paid attention. You don't have to have a clue about advanced stats to realize Nielsen's (and Grabner's) contributions, but it doesn't hurt. Why, it might even help a body who follows hockey for a living.
Sadly, there's not much else to this episode of Brooks' semi-annual hit piece other than warranted criticism of the team's ultra-conservative budget and a whole lot of the usual hyperbole. Shame the piece doesn't spend more time holding a fire to the real concerns. It's like that guy who's on your side in a political debate, but then he opens his mouth and you realize half his facts and reasoning are wrong. Suddenly, you don't want to be seen advocating the same position with him.
A genuinely researched piece examining why the Isles appear headed for another bottom-five finish would probably bring up several other factors -- perhaps the veterans added to the roster (and relied upon for too much) this season, the development of Bailey this season rather than the WJC from three years ago, and possibly an analysis of coaching tactics or the hesitance to use more of the promising prospects.
Instead, we get misplaced but always average-reader-friendly draft hindsight, and a complete misread of two of the Islanders most important two-way forwards.
There is one painfully accurate bit in the column though, one where the writer has backed his words up with action:
The three New York City-based daily newspapers do not see eye-to-eye on much, but not one believes the Islanders are important enough to merit coverage with more than a passing glance.
Passing glance indeed.