Thursday, March 31, 2011

New York Islanders: State of the Franchise

The Islanders are winding down another NHL season without the playoffs.

Now that we got that fact out of the way lets talk about what is important moving forward.

For the first time in an awfully long time the core of the Islanders on ice product is stable, young and talented.

With the signing of Al Montoya the Islanders team for the 2011-12 season is pretty much set. All would be unrestricted free agents with the exception of Radek Martinek and Zenon Konopka have been resigned to the team.

That does not mean that pending restricted free agents Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey won't pose a problem to resign but all indications point to all players with the exception of Martinek back on the Island next season.

Ty Wishart and Jack Hillen are also restricted free agents but they should not pose a problem to resign.

Doug Weight will also probably not be back as he is leaning towards retirement after suffering through another injury riddled season.

The Islanders rewarded, and rightfully so Al Montoya with his first 1 way contract of his career ensuring he will be on the Island at least through the 2012 season.

The main concern to the Islanders next season will be health. Leading the NHL in man games lost to injury again this season with a mind boggling 550+ will add feul to that concern.

What can the team do to stay healthy?

Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can consciously do to stop from getting hurt. It is simply part of the game. Players will get hurt. That is an undeniable fact but the goal should be to lose as little man games as possible.

The string of injuries that the team endured this season most assuredly torpedoed this entire season and no matter how much the team has improved injuries can always kill your chances of a successful season.

That being said there is something brewing on Long Island that has a chance to be truly special.

Garth Snow should be commended for his amazing acquisitions of Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and Al Montoya. What did Snow see in these guys that no one else did?

Whatever the answer may be no one is making fun of Garth Snow's management skills any more.

If the Islanders can take that next step, and the stars seem to be aligning for the team making a major splash in 2011-2012 then Snow should be given just as much credit for it that he received negative press for his hiring by Charles Wang in the first place.

Everyone made fun of the move. News reporters, TSN, ESPN, print media, The Hockey News, you name it no one gave Snow a chance and laughed at it.

No one is laughing any more. The Islanders are coming back and Snow is a major reason why.

Another large piece of open business is the coaching position. Snow has stated that he will not discuss it until the season is over.

Has Jack Capuano earned the full time coaching gig?

All signed would point to yes. If the team is going to commit to him they will need to get him signed right away to show the players that the guy that seemingly helped turn the season from an outright disaster to a return to respectability will be rewarded for his work, just like Montoya, Parenteau and Jurcina were.

Get Cappy and under contract. He has proven his worth and deserves to have the interim tag dropped.

One final note - Get Zenon Konopka a contract. He is the kind of guy that instills confidence and has given the Islanders the kind of attitude they have needed for so long.

Zenon has become the voice of the Islander players and instills pride in wearing the Islander jersey in the younger players around him.

Please post your thoughts below

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