Monday, June 30, 2008

The case for Campbell

So Garth has set the tone for UFA week, telling Greg Logan in yesterday’s Newsday that he doesn’t expect the Islanders to be “major” players.


If “major” means signing Marian Hossa, Sean Avery, Wade Redden – not sure I’d throw 20-30 million at Wade – and Olaf Kolzig, I agree. I don’t expect the Islanders to sign a combo like Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, whose blockbuster additions led the Rangers to…well, the same second round they reached the season before without them.

But still, hear me out.

The Islanders are flush with pride over the haul they brought in with their shifty shenanigans in last weekend’s draft. The team website has certainly pounded us with enough stories that translate as, “See…Kevin Allen, E.J. Hradek, the I.S.S. and some guys on satellite radio say we did great, so there”!

I mostly kid. Although their ’08 draftees may not be blue-chippers in the Crosby category, the Islanders have good reason to believe they have stockpiled plenty of top-6 forward, second D-pair skill.

Add to the ’08 bonanza the take from ’06 – including 25/35 thumper Kyle Okposo and heart-and-soul speedster Robin Figren – plus maybe a surprise or two from their abbreviated ’07 draft, and I ask you this:

If these kids are truly as good as advertised, how many more drafts are needed to get to Stage 2 of The Plan?

Look, you can’t go into a season thinking you’re going to suck and be rewarded for your “patience” with a first or second overall pick to take John Tavares (next summer’s Stamkos) or Victor Hedman (billed as a 6-foot-6 Nik Lidstrom). The National Hockey League doesn’t work this way. A year ago, who had the Lightning in their Stamkos pool?

The Islanders cannot count on being there. There is enough of a sample size over the last two years: with Rick DiPietro, Brendan Witt, Richard Park and the rest of the gritty-gutties, the Islanders compete. They will not blow chunks out of the gate. Around Christmas, someone will call them the Little Team That Could. Look at last season. Look how jammed Garrett Timms’ trainer’s room had to get before the team finally tapped out in mid-March.

No team, especially the Islanders, should even be thinking about Tavares and Hedman until Trade Deadline 2009 at the earliest.

Should the Islanders purchase a pair of frontline forwards and a pair of top defensemen this week? No, I’m not advocating hiring a bunch of mercenaries.

However, it wouldn’t be a setback to the plan if they looked into acquiring a big-time defenseman. It would be a step forward.

Just asking: having Brian Campbell play 28 minutes a game for the next six years would take ice away from which hotshot Islanders D prospect exactly?

Signing UFAs is more compatible with building from within than you might think. When you sign a UFA, it only costs you a lot of cash. The team that acquires Dan Boyle from Tampa Bay this month will have to pony up prospects and picks.

In DiPietro, you have a player every goalie coach in the league drools over. Rick has not had a top-20 defenseman in front of him since Kenny Jonsson went home more than four years ago. My admiration for Brendan Witt – entering the last year of his deal – Martinek, Gervais and Campoli is well-documented on this blog. But it would not be a bad idea to put at least one all-star dman in front of DiPietro. Soon.

Brian Campbell is just 29 years old. It's nice the Islanders have had a couple of good drafts. The Plan could use some momentum.

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