7:15 pm: There’s one significant long-term problem with the Islanders’ rebuilding program, and I believe the organization – deep down – knows it, too. A lot of it has to do with luck and timing. But yes, one of these days the Islanders have to start running the franchise like a professional outfit – not a mom-and-pop store where a few good friends make decisions and tell themselves they can’t wait to prove everybody wrong…one of these years!
The issue was not Scott Gordon. Everyone, even Garth Snow, has to know that. So much for that brothers-in-arms GM/coach relationship he wanted.
The Islanders went with this idea four years ago, led by Snow and Charles Wang, that they would buy time by making everything about Mike Milbury’s trades of a decade ago, and mid-first round drafts picks ranging from catastrophic (Robert Nilsson) to shrug (Sean Bergenheim). So Snow got Kyle Okposo from the Neil Smith draft and started compiling top-five picks as he watched his Islanders go from 26th to 30th, back to 26th and currently tied for last in the NHL.
Make no mistake: the rebuild had plenty of merit, as did Snow posing as the anti-Milbury. But it’s one thing for the Islanders to be not close to good yet. This is a hard job and it takes time. Right now – whether the current club lost ten games in a row or not – it’s tough to see how this is going to end in winning a Stanley Cup or contending for years to come.
Thanks to the miserable season of 2008-09, the Islanders wrapped up the gift of John Tavares, as selected by Snow and Wang. Tavares will eventually score 40 goals in a season.
But look at Chicago – Kane and Toews.
Look at Washington – Ovechkin and Backstrom.
Pittsburgh has Crosby and Malkin.
LA has Doughty and Kopitar.
Those, of course, are just the top two with their teams. All these players are young and either have been or will be locked up long-term. They’ll still be with their teams when the Islanders have all their kids on the big club.
The Islanders have Tavares, who may not reach the level of any of the players I mentioned, and a bunch of good, but not top-tier players like Okposo and Josh Bailey and Calvin de Haan and Nino Niederreiter. They are not franchise players. Either through mistakes or bad timing, they don’t have two or three kids yet who make you think, Wow, they’re going to be great for a long time.
Perhaps if they finish in the bottom-five for a fourth straight season, the Islanders will be in a better position to reach that built-to-last-contender goal they’ve been selling. Or at least make the playoffs. Today, they merely used a coaching change to change the subject from the bigger picture – how the Islanders are rebuilding, and how the Islanders are run.
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