Garth Snow is in a pickle. The New York Islanders’ general manager has $27.534 million to spend come July 1 and a crop of promising, young talent on which to build around but he’s missing the buzz. Empty seats, a run down enviorment, poor statistics and win record don’t help entice players to call Nassau Coliseum home. (i.e. Christian Ehrhoff: FAIL; Evgeni Nabokov: FAIL) A second showing of Michael Grabner, who was a Calder Trophy finalist this season, and Matt Moulson can get the ball rolling though.
Despite the grit and effort the 2010-2011 squad showed in the face of injury at times, they ended the season with a measly 73 points, putting them 27th in the league.
- Number one goaltender. Injury plagued underachiever Rick DiPietro just isn’t flying. Sending Dwayne Roloson out the door proved to be a mistake considering he showed his potential in Tampa Bay’s run to the Eastern Conference final.
- Veteran presence. With Doug Weight officially retiring, the Isles need to find the right personality to hone the youth and get them believing in themselves. Mark Recchis don’t grow on trees, so it won’t be easy sifting through the duds.
- Battle tested defenseman with a knack for contributing on offense. Mark Streit and Mark Eaton might be question marks after missing much of last season with serious injuries.
There’s no quick fix. One good season, one close call to making playoff contention and out of the NHL’s joke pile basement is the best solution. They had five players on their roster score 20 or more goals last year. If they can clean up the back end, get gritty and determined, the light at the end of the tunnel may not be so far off. Once that happens, Snow’s phone calls might be returned more frequently. (A definitive green light on the Lighthouse Project with a shiny new complex wouldn’t hurt either.) Come October, this will officially be coach Jack Capuano’s team. Capuano took over after Scott Gordon got the ax early season. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him.
This summer’s unrestricted free agent list isn’t chock full of sexy names to begin with but below are some players the Isles might find worth exploring, at least for the short term.
Defense: Anton Babchuk (Flames, age 27, 35 points, +14) or Andy Greene (Devils, age 28, 23 points, -23). Scott Hannan (Capitals, age 32, 11 points, +4) could be worth a try as well.
Offense: Erik Cole (Hurricanes, age 32, 52 points), Michael Ryder (Bruins, age 31, 41 points). Maybe a change of scenery and a sip from the Cup can get Ryder to take off that invisibility cloak he wears at times.
Goal: Dare I suggest J.S. Giguere or Brian Boucher to get a little healthy competition going and put some pep in DiPietro’s step? Risky, maybe flaky even, but could be the kind of game changers in net they crave.
Key Islander free agents: Josh Bailey (RFA), Blake Comeau (RFA), Zenon Konopka (UFA). If they don’t want to stay, let ‘em walk. No big love lost there. Konopka was good on faceoffs and on the grinding line, but he’s not irreplaceable. Radek Martinek and Jack Hillen are likely not to return as well since they still remain unsigned.
They’ve got depth and potential. Now they just need results. Then and only then will the buzz names consider Long Island.
About the Author
Written by Margaret DeJesus
I'm a recent college graduate looking for a dream job covering hockey. I've been watching the New York Rangers since my grade school days of VHS and Gordon Bombay's "ducks fly together" speech. While studying journalism at Boston University (COM '10), I wrote for the Daily Free Press, the student newspaper. I worked two summers at the Staten Island Advance, my hometown newspaper, writing city news and features. I've also written CD reviews for Music-Reviewer.com. One of my favorite gigs was interning for hockey analyst extraordinaire Stan Fischler covering the Boston Bruins and attending all their home games in the 2009-2010 season. (Yes, including the crushing defeat against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference playoffs.)