The Dust Has Settled – Islanders Lose 3, Add 3

posted in: NHL | 0

cropped-IMG_0073.jpgSo the dust has settled on the free agent frenzy for 2016, and we’ve all had a few days to mull over that happened with the Islanders core players.

So, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin are out, and Andrew Ladd, P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera are in.

There were also a few depth pieces lost, like Steve Bernier and Brian Strait, but these three changes seem to be the big news.

That represents a pretty big change of personnel, but in the end are the Islanders any better than they were last year? I’ve been on record as saying the 2015-2016 Islanders were actually not as good as they were the season before, despite the playoff series win. It’s important to remember that as we look at the changes, though. Because the Islanders, as constructed, were not on the road to being a Stanley Cup contender. Both teams they faced in the playoffs had more young talent making significant contributions in the lineup than the Islanders did, despite the presence of many of the Islanders high draft picks like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. Every fan fully expected to see changes in the roster this offseason, and they got them. Just not necessarily the way they wanted.

Interestingly, many fans saw the lose of Okposo, Nielsen and Martin as a bad thing, some even saw their departure as a sign they were unhappy with the team or management. I don’t know that you can read that much into it. Truthfully, we’ll never know the exact details of why they signed with other teams. Some of it was probably money, some of it may be wanting a change, some may be an opportunity they are expecting to get with their new team. (i.e. is Matt Martin destined to play a larger role in Toronto, or did they simply offer more money/years? Did Detroit promise Frans Nielsen a chance to replace Datsyuk on a top line? Who really knows?) What we do know is that they left, and the Islanders tried to replace them in the lineup with Ladd, Parenteau and Chimera.

So, are those three better, in total, then the three they replaced?

In some ways, yes. We know Ladd will score some goals, we know Parenteau has scored playing alongside John Tavares before, and we know Chimera sill bring more offense than Martin did. The Islanders struggled to score consistently last season, so some adding more scoring to the lineup is a good thing. They also got older too. That’s not great. Sure, the veteran presence and playoff experience is nice, but at some point, these guys are going to not be as productive as they are now, and the Isles may suffer the consequences of that drop off, but we’ll assume it won’t suddenly happen this year, that they are getting roughly the performance these three had in the NHL last year, and scoring should be up slightly. That could make a big difference for this team.

And yes, I know none of the three are Taylor Hall, but that trade opportunity, I think, went away the day Travis Hamonic rescinded his trade request. That was the one guy I think the Isles could have traded for Hall, but he also became the one guy they weren’t going to trade after all of that.

in terms of what they did do, I think Arthur Staple puts it in perspective:

What’s a bit funny to see are the many pundits and list-makers lauding the Sabres and Wings for bringing in Okposo and Nielsen while downgrading the Islanders for losing both.
Had the Isles signed Okposo and Nielsen to those deals (and Martin as well), there would have been exactly zero new faces on the Island this coming season. Total status quo with nearly $14 million in cap space gone to lock those three up.

Would the list-makers have put the Isles on the “winners” side for making no changes? Would you?

That said, while you could make an argument that the Isles are slightly better with these changes, they still aren’t a contender unless some of these young kids start playing a lot better. Like last year, Garth Snow and company are at the mercy of the Islanders home grown talent stepping up. Last season, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thought they did that. Can Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, or possibly Matthew Barzal or Michael Dal Colle bring the consistent depth scoring the Islanders haven’t had? If not, the failure of Garth Snow and Jack Capuano will not be the lack of a great free agent signing or trade, it’ll be the failure to develop young talent. With as many high draft picks as the Islanders have had over the last 10 years, their destiny as far as being a contender or not, is tied to the results they get from those picks.

Unless Garth has a great trade up his sleeve before the season starts. It’s certainly happened before, but the Islanders do not have a ton of cap space the way they have in previous years, so that is going to be part of any moves made before the season starts as well.

I suspect this is not exactly the roster we’ll see opening night. The free agency part of the offseason may be done for the Islanders, but it’s a long way to October.

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