There are many ways to rebuild a hockey team. You can be like the Canadiens, Rangers, and Bruins and trade and sign players to ridiculous contracts during the summer only to pray the team gels and makes the playoffs. That's a quick fix, and it works for them. The problem is, it did not get them very far into the playoffs. You can be like the Flyers a few years back. Have an injury plagued season, and in one summer, make a few good draft choices, sign and trade for some players, and.... HELLO, right back in the playoffs, like you never left. You can be like the Penguins and just lose for an extended period of time, draft the top prospects.....until you win the Cup.
The Islanders did not have the luxury of being able to rebuild like aforementioned teams. Why? By the time the Islanders finished the 2006-2007 season, they had virtually no prospects in the organization to trade, and Garth Snow realized over the summer that he could not sign high profile players. So a few players left, and then were replaced by players who did not meet expectations. After an injury filled 2007-2008 season where the Islanders finished with 78 points, Snow decided to rebuild, and use the "Plan." It was simple: Draft wisely, develop the draft picks, and sprinkle in a few free agents.
There are three other teams that have recently used the same "Plan" as the Islanders are using now, and it has worked for them: The Washington Caps, Chicago Blackhawks, and yes, the Florida Panthers. As far as I am concerned, these are the teams that the Islanders should be modeling from. They all had the same rough beginning, and with sticking to their respective plans, each team now has either a shot for the playoffs, or they can go deep into the playoffs. Let's compare the Islanders first year of their rebuild to the others.
At the start of each rebuild, each team was short on first round talent. Washington had 3 players, as did Florida and the Islanders prior to the rebuild (The Islanders drafted Bailey to make it 4, but was considered part of the rebuild). Chicago had one: Seabrook. Ironically the first year of their rebuild, the Caps and Hawks finished with 59 points, the Panthers finished with 60, and the Islanders finished with 61. So for me that is par for the course for year one.
In their rebuilding process in 2003-2004, and over the next 4 years, the Caps were able to draft 8 first rounders, including a first overall pick, developed them, and sprinkled in a few free agents.
This is what happened: 03-04: 59pts; 05-06: 70pts; 06-07: 70pts; 07-08: 94pts; 08-09: 108pts.
Chicago was similar. They ended up drafting 5 first rounders, including a first overall pick, developed them, traded and signed a few players, and these were there results.
03-04: 59pts; 05-06: 65pts; 06-07: 71pts; 07-08: 88pts; 08-09: 104pts.
Florida took longer, but still made strides. In 8 years, they have drafted 11 first rounders, developed, made a few trades, and signings with the end results being 93 points last season after beginning the rebuild with 60.
So where do the Islanders fit into their rebuild? Year 2 (05-06 for the other teams). But the Islanders have an advantage over the other teams. If you notice the years, the teams were in a lock out for one year, hence, stalling the development of their players. The Islanders have a chance to be in a rebuild for a shorter amount of time then the others.
Does this mean the Islanders should finish between 65-70 points? Not likely. The Islanders are on pace with Washington's rebuild program, picking up the first overall pick, and now you can include Bailey, and DeHann as the multiple picks for the rebuild. So where should the Islanders land next year? Welcome to the "Developmental Year" Islanders fans.
The Islanders have not had 5 or more first round picks (picked by the Islanders) and play on the same team since 95-96. That's almost 15 years folks. The last time that happened, most of them weren't on the team the next year. This cannot happen with this core. Instead of predicting how many points the Islanders will have or how many goals they will score, management should really look at each player and figure out a solid number and set it as a goal.
So for example, if the Islanders were not as injured last year, could they have scored 210 goals? Sure, sounds reasonable. So why don't they push the goal for 220? Most people are predicting the Islanders to finish between 15th and 13th (too early if you ask me). Why not set a goal for 80 points? Even if they get over 70, they're still ahead of the previous rebuilt teams, probably by a solid year.
Which brings me to this final note. If the "Developmental Year" proves to be a success, don't be surprised if the Islanders actually make the playoffs next year, and possibly make some noise. Who knows, if this team is healthy, and this year becomes a career year for many, you could be looking at a possible Cinderella team. But for now, be patient, let the rebuild, and the Islanders "Plan" continue, and look forward to watching this team. If anything, you'll see improvements, and they'll be fun to watch.