Monday, November 26, 2007

Still hoping, but still nervous

My boys, they just kill me.

For example, this little column in the Long Island press about the Islanders being, well, the Islanders.

They put 44 pucks on Cristobel Huet in the Canadiens game, so like Guerin says, it's not the effort. (They lost that game 4-1, turning the puck over in the slot the first minute of the game and eroding from there.) The problem is that the Isles haven't had a true first line in a good while. They've had 15 years of a first-liner here, a first-liner there, but no single unit that's dangerous every shift. Forget Trots-Bossy-Gillies, they don't even have anything resembling Turgeon-King-Thomas. If their power play isn't clicking they will struggle to score more than two goals a game.

(Remind me again, why the hell did they trade away Jason Spezza to Ottawa? No - on second thought, don't remind me.)

What the Isles had meant to do with dealing for Ryan Smyth last season was to give themselves a solid playoff shot, but moreover, give themselves that kind of a unit. Had Smyth stayed, he would be playing next to Mike Comrie and either Ruslan Fedotenko or Miro Satan - not exactly the top line in the league, but better than putting Guerin there at this stage in his career.

According to this site, the Isles have about $26 million to play with for next season, even if the cap doesn't go up. That will come in handy if they want to sign a sniper. Offer sheets to other teams' restricted free agents are a dicey proposition, given that the team would lose draft picks if the player signed up; it would have to be a knock-out player in return, somebody like Washington's Alex Ovechkin; or else a guy they could sign cheaply, who would improve the team without costing them an arm and a leg. (The Florida Panthers have a lot of those types of guys: Stewart, Olesz, Kreps, Campbell, Meyer... any of whom could take a leap and become a dangerous player. They also have stud d-man Jay Bouwmeester as a RFA... he'd be SWEET in an Isles uni.) There are a few other guys on this list that would qualify. Among unrestricted guys, lots of players similar to Comrie - 26-30, good-to-very good talent, haven't made the leap.

One thing that really hurts is that the Isles have only one blue chipper in the system, winger Kyle Okposo. He could be ready next season, but after that, pffffft. The Isles had no first rounder last season, part of the high rental cost for Smyth. (That pick could have been turned into a few highly regarded prospects who had slipped one way or another: Angelo Esposito, Alexei Cherepanov, or even Colton Gillies - the nephew of the aforementioned Clark Gillies.)

In about a half-hour, the Dallas Stars play the Isles in the Coliseum, fresh off their 3-2 win over the Rangers last night. (Thanks guys!) If it boils down to Andy Hilbert and Richard Park again, I'm not confident. They seem to have a dozen guys like Hilbert, and it's not like you can send four of them to another team for one stud; not unless that stud is too expensive to hold on to for an extended time.

I can tell you already... at the deadline they'll announce that they've dealt Okposo and the first-rounder this year for six weeks of Owen Nolan or Doug Weight - then I'll wake up in a car on the side of the road in Central America, with a suitcase of drugs and cash, a dead guy in the trunk, and utterly no knowledge of how it all happened or how long I've been gone.

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