Despite all the armchair GMs out there who would say otherwise, being a general manager is way harder than we’d like to admit. Everyone thinks that they would do things differently and more effectively than their current GM (If your team is a constantly playing for picks), and this desire is why so many players play fantasy sports. I’m a great example of this as I thought I had a playoff spot locked up in my league with Tavares and Kaner leading the way for me, yet i’m stuck in 9th place because I probably shot my load trying to stack up on offensive talent and seemed to neglect goaltending. Come to think of it, besides having JT, my team is actually very similar to the Islanders.
Despite streaky players, we both have scoring depth and about 2 good defensemen. Goaltending is a whole different story. So what would I do if I was an actual GM, one capable of running an actual NHL franchise? A lot of things, and most of those things would be done differently then Garth Snow’s approach.
Coming into this season, the Islanders had, and still have, two tremendous needs. A viable goalie and an NHL caliber defensemen. Thankfully the emergence of deHaan and Hickey have worked out great so far this season, but the same can’t be said with Matt Donovan or Aaron Ness. Hamonic and Amac seemed to have regressed, and the early injuries to Lubo and Strait were big losses. While we didn’t have much defensive depth, we did have plenty of time to fix that issue. Instead of trying to acquire a legit big bodied dman, Garth continued to roll the dice with Donovan and Ness, and while he hasn’t been too bad, we still consider Radek Martinek an option. There’s a reason why he’s consistently on waivers, yet that doesn’t matter to us.
Going into next season you have to assume Amac is gone, he is not worth the money he is going to command, and Martinek is gone as well. deHaan is an RFA, so we’ll have to give him some money, and same with Donovan. I think Griffin Reinhart is going to be ready to make the leap to the bigs next year, and maybe Scott Mayfield makes the team after camp. This means our D can possibly be Hamonic, deHaan, Lubo, Strait, Reinhart, and Hickey. Trade Carkner for a bag of pucks, but try to move Lubo also. I would look to move him before the trade deadline and hopefully get back a young promising defenseman. Lubo is not going to resign after next season, and we can get a better return trading him now instead of as a rental next year. He’s not going to be the reason why we do or don’t make the playoffs moving forward.
One blueliner I would take a run at is Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin. At 6’3, 223lbs, the 27 year old has the size we need in front of our goalie. He’s got an absolute cannon of a shot, and has the ability to actually put it on net, which can’t be said about a lot of our current guys. Nikitin is a UFA after this season, and he shouldn’t go for more than 3.5 a year. I give him a 3 year deal and put him on the top PP unit. Bombs Away. Other than that, I think next season our D will be a lot tighter. A healthy Hammer and Strait and hopefully Reinhart will really solidify our core.
Forwards would take a lot of work, starting with a compliance buyout of Bailey. Next I would start with trying to trade off Clutterbuck, but I don’t think many are going to want his contract of 2.75mil for the next three years. Resign Cizakis, you can do that for cheap, and breaking up that 4th line of him Martin and McDonald would be completely idiotic. Boulton is a UFA, I don’t mind resigning him at all for cheap, he played his role perfectly when given the opportunity. Regin is a UFA, he’s gone, and after the news of Vanek turning down our “significant” contract, hes gone also. I can see us getting picks and a prospect for Vanek. I’d try to send him to Detroit who really needs some offensive power to help their playoff run in return for forward prospect Teemu Pulkkinen and a pick. Pulkkinen’s probably not moveable, but Detroit has so much depth in their system it might be worth a shot. Teemu’s scouting report has him as a very talented and creative winger with great hands and is a natural goal scorer. He is a pure sniper, however his one knock against him was a slight lack of defensive responsibility, which is something that will develop with experience. He currently leads the Griffins with 39 points.
Brock Nelson needs a bigger role, the kid has been fantastic since he finally got with the team. I’d like him on the 2nd line with Nielsen and a player I will get to in a little bit. As much as people are sick of Grabner, we cannot lose him. His speed alone and penalty killing is a tremendous strength to have. Just get the guy a shooter tutor and train him to become a sniper. Never deke again on breakaways. His speed keeps goalies back in their crease and at angles like that, dekes are rarely going to work.
In the offseason, take a run at Milan Michalek and Radim Vrbata. Vrbata is one of the most underrated players in the league, and I think he would be a great fit on the wing with Nielsen and Nelson. Michalek’s scoring pace seemed to slow down a little bit, but his potential is way better than anything we have right now.You can use him and Radim interchangeably, but I would like to see him winged with Grabner being centered by….Leon Draisaitl.
I want to draft this kid. the 6’2 210lb 18 year old has been labeled by some as “The German Gretzky”. I’m unsure whether he’ll immediately be able to make the transition to the NHL, but if so, he could be a thoroughbred. The kid uses his size accordingly and has supreme playmaking skills. Our first round pick that was traded to Buffalo for Vanek is a conditional pick, meaning if it is a top 10 pick, which it will be, then we can defer it till 2015. Of course this means in 2015 we wouldn’t have a first or second round pick, unless otherwise acquired.
At the end of the day, If I was able to have my way, our lineup would have a projected look of:
As for Goaltending, I’ll get into that another time. This will be an ongoing topic, and I will constantly upgrade my thoughts on how to fix the Island. Stay tuned for my goalie outlook.