The Islanders season has long been over, and as is ritual for us, fans now only have the draft and free agency to look forward to. This off-season could be pivotal for the franchise, as the team may lose key pieces like Calvin deHaan and some guy named John Tavares, so this draft could have some big implications for the future. So, it’s important that there is a clear goal for the team heading in, as we would all like to limit the continuation of our current 12 year rebuild. Here are some of the options on the table for our beloved Isles (not in any order of preference or best option, just a disclaimer so I’m not hated for this).
1: Blow It All Up
Now this may seem like the most daunting and counterproductive option to what I just said about limiting the rebuild, but hear me out. By the time draft day comes around, the front office should have a decent idea on whether Tavares will stay. Assuming the worst, we will definitely be a ship without a captain (quite literally) once we lose him.
So, instead of letting the team wallow in mediocrity and deny the reality of our status, it would be a much wiser option to reboot so to speak, and just invest heavily into what is supposed to be a deep draft this year. I’m not saying strip the team down; the organization should obviously keep some guys (Bailey, Barzal, Lee, Leddy), but why not cash in on some of our other players with relative value and try to prep the team for a year or two from now?
Toronto was stuck in that situation until they turned to the tank, and now they’ve got their hands on William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Some say tanking doesn’t work, but it’s certainly better than having no plan or direction for your franchise, which almost always seems to be the case for the Islanders, even when they’re good (e.g. no win-now trades at the deadline, etc). If we could get two guys of legitimate top 6 talent that way, why shouldn’t we? Someone’s going to have to replace Tavares’ production.
2. ALL THE CENTERS
My other option is eccentric but theoretically not horrible. Again assuming Tavares is gone, an option available is trying to refill the depth we’d lose at his position. Obviously, I don’t think drafting only centers will end up with us finding another Tavares for sure, but center depth is important regardless, and getting support for Barzal once he’d assume Tavares’ old role will be of major importance. If we don’t shore up behind another franchise cornerstone, we will be in this position again sooner rather than later. This team has wasted too many stars, and it’s in part due to our inability to make proper personnel choices. Trying to prepare for keeping Barzal and building our depth is only a good idea.
3. Prioritize Positions
The Isles did this in 2012 (didn’t totally work but we got Barzal out of it, shout out to Griffin Reinhart), so why not give it another shot? What I’m proposing here is that the Isles focus their picks on shoring up positions of weakness, similar to the centers plan, except with broader vision. This would mean maybe using a second or third rounder on a promising goalie, and drafting defense heavy in a strong defenseman class. In terms of forwards, the Isles need bottom six help right now, so whatever forwards they’d choose would not likely make an impact quickly enough to help.
This could be a major help for the team to set this as their goal not only to help weak positions but also to acquire more assets. Say the Isles have their sights on a couple promising defenseman in the first round, but know they can get them later in the draft than 12. They can then trade that pick to move back and acquire more assets to help them target the players they want in areas they need. It complicates their draft process a bit, but the best chess strategies require the most thought and planning. And if they draft properly, it will pay dividends upon dividends in the future.
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