You couldn't have been more wrong if you predicted the Islanders to take a forward in this year's draft. The Isles only selected defenseman out of all seven rounds of this year's draft. They also acquired the top four defenseman that GM Garth Snow has continuously talked about addressing in this off-season.
The first move came when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Islanders traded their 2013 second round pick to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky, a 35-year old defenseman (he turns 36 in August) in the final year of his contract. Visnovsky put up six goals and 21 assists for 27 points in 68 games last year with the Ducks. The year before was even better as the Ducks d-man scored 61 points in 81 games. 2012 was a tough year overall for the Ducks, so there's reason to believe that Visnovsky can be an offensive weapon, especially on the power play.
The New York Islanders rounded out their defensive core on Friday when they traded a second round pick from 2013 to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky will be entering the final year of his deal and will be possibly be a free agent when the 2013 off-season rolls around, but giving up a second rounder for a solid defenseman was worth the gamble for GM Garth Snow. (BridgetDS/Flickr)
Visnovsky provides the Isles with a veteran puck-moving defenseman and gives New York the top four d-man that they needed going into the 2012-2013 NHL season. Some might look at the trade with a furrowed eyebrow as the Islanders already had a puck moving defenseman in Mark Streit, but the move actually adds some depth to the defense and puts more accountability on a defensive group that isn't dominated by veterans such as Jurcina, Staios, Mottau, and Eaton. Much like Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky is no stranger to play in the offensive zone as he has tallied 450 points in his hockey career, and 221 of those points have come with the man-advantage.
The addition of Visnovsky can definitely help the Islanders with their defensive woes as the defenseman can block his fair share of shots and throw his body around a bit as well. While Mark Streit handled the bulk of the power-play quarterbacking duties, Lubomir Visnovsky will take some much needed pressure off of New York's blue-liners, especially Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. It is yet to be seen how the Islanders will deal with up and coming prospects such as Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, and Matt Donovan, but the player( that might be recalled this season could learn a thing or two from the veteran defenseman. Visnovsky has a +32 rating for his career and doesn't seem to take too many penalties, so the trade makes sense from a variety of standpoints.
What is going on with the Islanders and their prospects? Rhett Rakhshani has signed a one-year deal with HV71 in Sweden, Justin DiBenedetto is on his way to Austria and Mark Katic is going to Germany. Granted Trevor Gillies also signed to play in Russia but he was never going to see the NHL again and I think we can all agree on that. What does this mean for the players and the Islanders as an organization?
It almost seems like it's been the same story heading into the off-season year after year now; the Isles lack a top-six forward and top-four defenseman that could help make them a competitive team that could be fighting for a playoff spot.
They've tried free agency and have been shot down by guys like Paul Martin. They tried the trade market with James Wisniewski, who ended up being a major disappointment while wearing orange and blue. They even tried that route once more, gaining the negotating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. He didn't want to sign, and I think after seeing how he played under his very luxurious contract, most Isles fans probably don't care.
Although both trades were under different circumstances, they shared one glaring similarity. Not one of them involved any actual players leaving the Island. Ehrhoff's rights were acquired for a fourth round draft pick, and Wisniewski came on board in exchange for a 2011 second round pick and conditional 2012 fifth round pick. Despite the early signs of GM Garth Snow developing a pattern, there is reason to believe that could change heading into this summer's off-season.
To paraphrase an old adage; ‘An opinion is like a proctologists playground, everyone has one … and they all stink.’
With the NHL season ending and the draft just two weeks away, anyone who follows the sport of hockey will read or hear many opinions offered on what their favorite teams’ needs are, who to draft and which free agents should be pursued. It’s just fun to spend other peoples’ money.
So once Mr. Wang is done spending his folding money on NHL players’ contracts, let me offer my opinion on what should he should do with the change left in his pocket.
An opinion is only as good as the assumptions it is built on. So here are some of the things I will assume (with ‘ass-u-me’ being another obvious rectal reference), before I offer my opinions. This summers’ Islanders training camp will be a very competitive one at all positions. There will be a battle for back-up goalie between Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. The loser of this battle will become the Sound Tigers top tender for the 2012-13 season and prove himself a winner. (Kevin Poulin/Photo: Pope Steve XXVII)
Much could have been said about the state of the Islanders' defense during the 2011-2012 NHL season, but Islanders fans could see a team that has some other defensive dilemmas in the coming seasons. (Bridgetds/Flickr)
Most Isles fans might know that the New York Islanders have a farm system that is stocked with some very interesting talent. Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, and Calvin de Haan are some of the names that might come to mind when mentioning the rebuild on Long Island, but the Isles also have a number of defensive prospects that will be of interest once the 2012-2013 regular season gets closer. Since Garth Snow committed himself and the New York Islanders to a rebuild, the General Manager has selected some promising defensemen that have raised some eyebrows over the last couple of seasons.
While recent defensive draftees such as Scott Mayfield, Andrey Pedan, and Robbie Russo may need a little bit more time to develop, there are more than a few defensive prospects that the Islanders will be keeping their eyes on. Defensemen might take a longer amount of time to develop, but the growth of players such as Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald are just a couple of examples that are proving why patience can pay off when it comes to rebuilding a franchise. MacDonald and Hamonic performed very admirably during the 2011-2012 season for the Islanders and the team has high hopes for some of its prospects that have been maturing within their system.
This was a season like no other. From its quick start to its abrupt ending it was unique. In season’s past, after mini-camp, the team would form early in September and begin getting ready for the upcoming year. Practice, photo-shoots, training, find lodging, practice, training, media day, practice, training, meet and greet, practice, training. After two weeks, a pre-season game or two and the season is at the doorstep. Not this year.
The team stayed on Long Island until the last minute, perhaps to give the new coaching staff the training and practice that they needed with the Islanders systems. Whatever the reason, the normal two plus weeks was compressed to a few days. The routine remained the same, but with little time on hand the players were getting up at six in the morning to look for housing before heading to practice, training, etc. Condos and houses rented, friendships that will last for years were made and the season began. And a great season it would be, a banner season by all standards.
After allowing seven goals in an onslaught of a hockey game, the final buzzer at the Nationwide Arena would not only sound the ending of a massacre, but also signify the end of what was a disappointing season for the New York Islanders.
It was a disappointing year for many reasons. With the rebuild entering its fourth season, many expected this team's fortunes to change. For plenty, that meant making the playoffs instead of falling into the draft lottery. For yours truly, that meant climbing out of the cellar but not high enough to reach 8th place. I am sad to say that we were both wrong. The Islanders finished the year out of the playoffs and 27th overall in the league, giving them the fourth overall pick going into Tuesday night's draft lottery for the second year in a row.
On paper you can call the 2012 season just the same as any other. At 14th place in the Eastern Conference, the Isles finished the season with a 34-37-11 record with 79 points. That's only a six point improvement over last season and the SAME exact record as the year before that in 2010. It would almost appear that the rebuild has established a trend of not going up or down, but rather staying put.
Watching the Masters today, we all saw 5-foot putts missed that we could have made. Bubba Watson’s 10-inch winner, a ‘gimme’ on most public links, earned him his first major and the coveted ‘Green Jacket.’ I started to think of other sports where in my prime (forty plus years ago) I could have been a difference maker or game winner.
I have little doubt that I could kick the extra point to win a Super Bowl. I would imagine you feel the same. I am also certain that I could sink the game winning free-throw in an NCAA or NBA Championship game. We see evidence of this every year when somebody wins a scholarship or cash for tossing one in from half-court. Could I score the winning run in the 7th game of baseballs World Series? Most definitely. As the designated runner coming in to score from third base after a sacrifice fly, I could probably do that today. Could I score the ‘gamer’ in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Not on your life. Scoring a goal in hockey is the most difficult accomplishment in sports.
The New York Islanders have called up Sound Tigers defenseman Matt Donovan from the AHL. The rookie blue liner is second on the team in scoring with 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) and is fourth in the AHL for scoring by a defenseman.
I spoke with Donovan at the end of February and could tell that he was itching for his chance to make it with the Islanders, especially after seeing Sound Tigers teammates Calvin de Haan, Aaron Ness, Dylan Reese and Ty Wishart getting called up during the season. Although you cannot read a person's tone when looking at a typed up interview, I can assure my reader's that Donovan, although proud of his friends and teammates, sounded a bit envious of their call-ups to the NHL.
After all, it is every player's dream to finally play in the greatest hockey league in the world.