Last week I dove into the Islanders organization and took a look at what was going on. The organization has taken a beating from fans recently, so I took a closer look, and did a quick Q&A with the Andy Graziano, the editor of Eyes On Isles to get more of an inside scoop on the situation. If you missed the first part of the series, you can find it here.
What is the current state of the New York Islanders?
The Islanders are a team badly in need of not only positivity on the ice, but in the front office. They have taken a real beating lately, some fairly and some un-fairly, for the way the Thomas Vanek situation played out. Injuries and under-performers have doomed them to a top five draft selection yet again in 2014. But the recent signing of coveted college defenseman, Kevin Czuzcman, who reports suggest the Islanders beat out 14 other teams for, along with the continued positive development of the young guns and move to Barclays Center are signs for optimism.
The Islanders have had their share of glory, but not since the early 80s. What’s it going to take for the organization to get back to that level?
The Islanders are getting there, slowly but surely, as it has taken general manager Garth Snow many years to erase the major mistakes his predecessors made in turning the franchise upside down. The pipeline is very deep and talented and the effects should be seen as early as 2014-15, which will be the club’s last at Nassau Coliseum.
Do you believe the move to Brooklyn will be good for the team? Will it help attract players?
Attracting players is much more than just an arena. The belief is that yes, the Islanders can and will use that as a ‘selling’ point but they have to build an atmosphere of accountability and winning to go along with that. The big names will want to complete for a Stanley Cup before agreeing to come here just for the spectacle that Barclays Center will bring. So it’s really a yes and no answer to this question.
Do you believe the Islanders would have made the playoffs had it been a full season last year?
That’s always a tough question as the condensed training camp and subsequent down years by some of the Islanders competitors (namely the Devils) contributed to them being able to qualify for the post-season. And they didn’t even accomplish that, with help, until very late in the regular season schedule. Last season was a very positive one for the team but might have been a slight aberration.
Do you think a new head coach could make a difference?
Yes I do. Every coach in all professional sports has a ‘shelf-life’. Jack Capuano is a wonderful hockey mind and a good tutor but might have taken the team as far as they can go with him leading the way. I feel a change would not only be good for the Islanders to attempt to take the next step but almost a necessity at this point. In no other organization would he have even lasted this long in my opinion.
Is Garth Snow the real problem in New York?
Garth Snow had an extremely rough off-season and even tougher regular season but it was the first time we can honestly say that during his tenure. Failing to secure a starting goaltender at the draft, followed by not filling the void left by Mark Streit, to the trade of fan favorite Matt Moulson which ended terribly at the trade deadline for him. This summer is absolutely critical for his future as he needs to plug the holes in the lineup and restore faith in the fan-base. But I do not think he is the problem. Or at least not the biggest issue on the Island.
Do you believe you could have gotten more for Vanek? After giving up a first, second, and Matt Moulson, you only received Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second round pick at he deadline. While Matt Moulson fetched two second round picks and a fourth line center in Cody McCormick.
After finally getting all the facts, I do not believe there was a better offer, if ANY offer, on the table for Vanek. Snow waited as long as he could and took whatever he could get at that late hour. What really hurt his trade value was the low cost of rentals this year comparative to other seasons, the extended saga of Ryan Kesler and Vanek announcing very early in the game that he wanted to test free agency no matter what. Not to mention what some scouts saw as a lazy attitude on the ice the final two weeks leading up to March 5.
The Metro division is stacked with offensive talent (Pittsburgh, Washington, Rangers), how do you stack up and what direction should the organization take to counter these offenses?
The Islanders are getting bigger, stronger and more mobile on defense with the influx of young stars about the hit the Island. Griffin Reinhart, Scott Mayfield and Audrey Pedan are just three that will be seen sooner rather than later in the National Hockey League. The game today is all about systems, so the Islanders would be wise to take their next coaching search very seriously and try to bring in someone with a disciplined defensive system to match an aggressive forecheck. You have to clog up the neutral zone in today’s game to counter-act the speed and incredible skill that is on display every night.
Best case scenario, when will the Islanders be contenders again?
Best case scenario, two years. That is when Strome, Lee, Nelson, Donovan, de Haan and the cast of rookies mentioned previously will have had enough seasoning to show off their true talent and ability. If the Islanders get their goaltender of the future, and all are hoping that happens this summer; by Barclays, New York will be an annual playoff team.