Before I begin, I would like to say that I am a huge fan of winning through the draft and player development. I believe that is how a team should win. I had always admired the Islanders of the late 70's and early 80's when they were winning year after year and then making the timely trades to push them to the Cup victories. Having said that, I have respect in recent times for teams like Detroit, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston because they have won in the same manner. Having said that, what I witnessed from this years Islanders team was that patience is a virtue.
At the beginning of the season I had the Islanders playing for 85-90 points, somewhere close to 10th place in the conference. Luckily for me, there were a few bloggers, writers and critics who were predicting the same thing, so I wasn't off base. The Isles ended up with 79 points and once again were in the draft lottery. Speaking for myself, this was a disappointing season and in no way should the Islanders be in the top five of this years draft. Now there are not going to be any grades. I'm not a teacher, but, I will be going over each position, including the management to illustrate where the holes are in this organization. Let's start with the goalies.
Goalies: Once again, the Islanders proved you can never have enough goalies. They dressed six goalies but played five, which is still at least two too many. Evgeni Nabokov started in 41 games winning almost half of them (19). He went out with a lower body injury a couple of times during the season. Al Montoya started 26 games and could only accomplish 9 wins, but to his defense, it was said that he was playing through an upper body injury and possibly some concussion symptoms. In my opinion, he gets a pass for the last part of his season of troubled times. Rick DiPietro played in only 8 games due to a groin injury. See a pattern folks. If the Islanders want to make it into the mid 80's, there needs to be two goaltenders on the team not three. No team holds three goaltenders.
How to fill in the holes: For next season Nabokov should be the starter and, health permitting, should be able to play 55+ games. Whoever the backup is should be healthy and ready because of Nabokov taking control of the net. The bright spots for the goaltending are Poulin and Nilsson, who are developing nicely in Bridgeport, but to be fair, I think Poulin could use at most half a season while Nilsson could use a full season of development. However, their futures are looking good on Long Island.
Defense: Half of the top six defenseman played in 65 games or less. That's less than 80 percent folks. You're just not gonna win games when your top six only "show up" for 65 games. Steve Staios and Mark Eaton were the worst in giving up goals 5 on 5, while I believe Milan Jurcina did not use his huge size effectively nor was he nasty enough. Moving on to the core players I believe Captain Mark Streit had very good offensive numbers despite missing all of the 2010-2011 season. I would like to see him with a combination of a better, younger defenceman than Staios and someone who could be a little more grittier than Jurcina. As for MacDonald and Hamonic, I truly believe this could have been a case of the sophomore slump since it was there second full season together. I would expect them to have bounce back years next year, and I'm going on record now, watch for Hamonic because he will be a player on a mission. In the system, Dylan Reese was very good for the Isles defensively in 28 games and looked liked he belonged. Aaron Ness and Matt Donovan got a few games under their belt.
How to fill in the holes: For me, it's simple addition by subtraction as Staios, Eaton and Jurcina are all unrestricted free agents. Let them go. The defense could be improved just by bringing up Donovan, Wishart and Ness and resigning the unrestricted Reese. I don't see that happening, but my point is if the Isles have trouble defensively, there is a good developed defensive pool in Bridgeport to pick and choose from.
Coming up soon on my next blog, we'll take a look at the offense and coaching staff including the General Manager. As always comments are always welcomed.