Part 27 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Frozen 4! (Yes, that was a college reference. Get over it.)
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
4. NY Islanders
7. NY Rangers
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#4: New York Islanders
Top Fws: John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson
Top Ds: Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky
Top G: Evgeni Nabokov
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F John Tavares (21)
2. D Travis Hamonic (22)
3. F Josh Bailey (22)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Ryan Strome (19)
2. D Griffin Reinhart (18)
3. F Brock Nelson (20)
4. D Matt Donovan (22)
5. D Calvin de Haan (21)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: B
Simply put, John Tavares IS the Islanders organization. As long as they have the lacrosse player, the Isles can put up a few Ws. The Isles have the makings of an above average forward corps; Moulson, Okposo, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter and newly acquired Brad Boyes will be fighting for spots on the top 2 forward lines. They also have two certified high-caliber puckmovers on defense in Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky.
Defensive depth and toughness on the backend are the Isles' biggest holes. Mark Streit is a decent two-way player, and Hamonic is a burgeoning young two-way blueliner, but the rest of the defense is merely passable-below average. They lack a big, clear-the-crease defensive defender who can play a regular shift; in general, the defense is soft. Nabokov/DiPietro looks like a decent tandem if this were 2007, but Nabokov is 37 and DiPietro has appeared in just 47 games in 4 seasons, including just 8 last year.
With all 7 of the new prospects from the recent draft defensemen, it's easy to see where their strengths lie; the Islanders boast a deep, skilled group of defensemen. Griffin Reinhart takes over as the top dog, but the group of players with NHL potential run deep after him with guys like Scott Mayfield, Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, Ville Pokka and Matt Donovan. The Isles also have a decent group of goaltending prospects.
The Islanders, with the graduation of Niederreiter, utterly lack depth on the wings and overall skill up front. Ryan Strome is a bluechip prospect and there's some potential up front in Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas, but in general the team's forwards are underwhelming at best. While the Isles have a couple of potential goalies, none of them project as starting netminders. Most of the Isles' prospects have a boom-or-bust feel to them, with a few (Koskinen, Trivino, Petrov, Joensuu) already looking like they won't be panning out as originally expected.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a great example of how to rebuild a professional hockey team from scorched earth. The Islanders are a great example of how NOT to rebuild a professional hockey team. The perennially shoddy team has consistently shown that they don't know how to turn high picks into a winning formula. Another below-average season (despite some great performances from Tavares, Moulson, the now-departed Parenteau, and Evgeni Nabokov) gave the Isles another lottery selection with which to work with.
That being said, the Isles have managed to build a good group of prospects (through years of draft picks and failures). There are a number of potential difference-makers in the system, and the team has already begun to see some of its best young talent break through into the NHL. The Isles already have a promising, if small, group of young NHL talent within its nucleus; if the team can push the winning buttons with regards to its prospects and acquisitions, the Isles may have what it takes to pull themselves out of the abyss.
It'll be extremely unlikely for the Islanders' current roster to make the postseason. However, with a little bit of luck, Long Island may find itself a competitive team sooner rather than later.