Except for a depth forward or D-man when camp is about to begin, I think that the moves are complete for the Isles for 2013-14.
Which upon looking at the blogs, facebook posts and tweets, Islander nation is split down the middle on the thought of this.
There are many that want to see the checkbook open and get the big name vet to join this squad. Like that is going to move heaven and earth to allow the team to instantly move to the upper echelon.
For every one instance that it actually does work, there are many that don’t… (see 33rd Street for examples of that).
What our loyal GM has done, is kept his ‘core’. All of these guys are not only friends, but it is such a tight knit group. They all want to see the others succeed and thrive in this environment. They seem to want to go through hell and brimstone for each other, and you have seen that attitude in teams that have won the cup in the past. Look at LA, and Chicago. They have that determination to win at any cost. These guys on Hempstead Turnpike have that same attitude. Getting more and more time together is making them better. We saw how the media soaked in the moment with this team. No one thought for a second after Game 1, that the Isles would not only win a game in the series against Pittsburgh; but they would be 2-2 after 4, and nearly made a game 7 happen.
Many want to see a vet come in here to mold these guys. I can see the angle of that. However, I think they are making their marks right now. So do you want to see the apple be cut, and mess up the core? I am not sure that I would want to do that at this time.
According to Hockey Buzz, they say the Isles are looking at Vinny Prospal. He is a good setup guy, and could help a team, but with his cement feet, I am not sure he would work in with this up-tempo team. Besides, where would you ‘stick’ him?
The line combos are just about set. Ryan Strome, with his outstanding camp, in my humble opinion, HAS to make this lineup. Does he go on JT’s line? Does he drop to the second with Okposo. You would believe that he has to be a Top 6. Big questions for the brain trust in 60 days or so.
The defense gives the GM more queries. What does he do with Matt Donovan? He has nothing more to prove; does he make this squad? If all remain healthy, how does the time get spread throughout this lineup.
Can Brian Strait be the Top 4 guy that he looked like before his injury?
How will Lubo respond as the Number 1 guy?
Where do the young dudes fit?
Then you have the net. I can not believe that so many people were peeved that Garth signed Nabby again. In a ‘full’ 82 game season, I believe that he will not be at a 70 game level anymore. He is just not the spring chicken he once was in San Jose. However, putting him in 55-60 should be good enough. The winner of the backup job, either Kevin Poulin, or Anders Nilsson (give the edge to KP with now), will get a great opportunity to establish themselves as the heir apparent. Getting 20-25 games will be the first sign to move up the food chain. I expect nothing less from Poulin. There were times that he was brilliant in net, and I really believe that he performed quite admirably in the nets during the playoffs.
Is it the team that you would expect to run for the cup, right this second? Maybe not.
Is this a serviceable team, that can make a stand and carve their niche to the next level? Definitely so. I want to root for these guys real hard this year. The additions to the front lines will make this team better. Stronger , for sure, and will make opponents have to pay attention.
When you look at the new division, the Devils have definitely moved down. The Rangers have not done much. Philly, have gotten some more serviceable players, but are they going to challenge? Carolina is a question mark, and Washington lost some cogs. Columbus can be real good, or depressing; just a matter of which team turns up. It is Pittsburgh at the top.
Can I see the Isles working towards a second place finish in the division? You betcha. If that happens, will Garth get the accolades for this team moving up? Judging by the responses I have seen, probably not; but as for me, I think he has done what he can to make these guys in the room believe in each other, and take the next step to go higher in the NHL echelons.
Enjoy the rest of the summer Garth, you deserve it!