Who's In: D Bryan Berard (Camp Invite), C Mike Comrie (FA-OTT), RW Bill Guerin (FA-SJ), RW Jon Sim (FA-ATL), LW Ruslan Fedotenko (FA-TB), G Joey MacDonald (FA-BOS), D Aaron Jonson (FA-CBJ), D Andy Sutton (FA-ATL), C/LW Josef Vasicek (FA-CAR) and F Ryan Walter (TRADE-BOS).
Who's Out: RW Arron Asham (FA-NJD), RW Jason Blake (FA-TOR), D Sean Hill (FA-MIN), C Viktor Kozlov (FA-WSH), D Tom Poti (FA-WSH), LW Ryan Smyth (FA-COL), C Alexei Yashin (Addition by Subtraction) and F Richard Zednick (FA-FLA).
What's Changed: "There's no guarantees about tomorrow, but there is today and we certainly want to win. By doing this, we proved to the people of Long Island that we want to get a good product on the ice for them to come watch and cheer."
That was Islanders coach Ted Nolan, right after his front office stunned the hockey world by trading for Edmonton star Ryan Smyth at the deadline. With the benefit of hindsight -- and with Smyth earning $31.25 million over the next five years to help Joe Sakic secure one more ring -- the quote speaks volumes: The Islanders were willing to part with two blue-chip prospects and a first-round draft choice for 18 regular season and 5 playoff games of Ryan Smyth hockey, with nary a second-thought as to whether he'd return to Long Island this season. I'm not sure what the Islanders' annual marketing budget is, but I'm certain their ad buys aren't usually as costly as this blatant public relations move was for the franchise.
Not that you can blame them for overcompensating in order to grab a few good headlines. If the 2006-07 New York Islanders will be remembered for anything, it'll be for their amazingly hasty image rehabilitation. The season started with a back-up goalie replacing a Stanley Cup-winning veteran as general manager and a "lifetime contract" doled out to a franchise goaltender that made observers question the sanity of owner Charles Wang and provided opposing fans with perhaps the greatest hockey punchline since the Islanders tossed their Fishsticks jerseys into mothballs.
Then Teddy Nolan started coaching again, and the jokes stopped.
After 10 years away from the NHL as a head coach, the former Jack Adams Award winner transformed a disparate group of gritty players into a nightly pain-in-the-ass for the Eastern Conference, getting more out of players like centers Mike Sillinger (a
After this summer, Nolan and a healthy Rick DiPietro in goal are the only two beacons for hope on the Island this season. The Islanders are an awkward mix of replacement parts, scrappy veterans and bright young prospects. Their top line, for example, could be an all-free agent affair: Winger Ruslan Fedotenko (12-20-32 for Tampa Bay), center Mike "Duff Diver" Comrie (20-25-45 with Phoenix and Ottawa) and winger Bill Guerin (36-20-56), who is probably still getting over the shock of being named captain of the Islanders just about a week after they signed him.
While Smyth was the most public defection, the loss of 40-goal scorer Jason Blake hurts more. A scoring winger with an uncanny nose for the net, the only good thing that might come from Blake's absence is that it will give promising kids Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim more ice time. Either one could slide into a second line role with Josef Vasicek and Miro Satan, who still needs to sign with New Jersey one day and wear No. 6 in order to create the single biggest-selling personalized hockey sweater of all time.
Sillinger and Trent Hunter will help fill out the other two lines -- which will miss the grit of Arron Asham -- as will Jon Sim, Shawn Bates and Chris Simon, as long as he keeps his batting practice off the ice this season. For the first time in five seasons, the Islanders won't have Alexei Yashin to underwhelm their expectations; Yashin, who signed a balls-out crazy contract years before it was cool to give them to 24-year-old goalies, signed to play in Russia after being bought-out by the Isles -- but please, do not weep for Carol Alt.
Defensively, the Islanders failed to bring in a rock-solid citizen like Scott Hannan to sure-up the group in front of DiPi, but the top four of Marc-Andre Bergeron (a career-high 46 points with Edmonton and New York), the thug-o-licious Brendan Witt, hulking free agent Andy Sutton and Radek Martinek (a team best plus-19 last season) could be dependable if average. After them are guys like Bruno Gervais, who's had a slightly more distinguished NHL career than Ricky Gervais.
Who's On The Hook: Miroslav Satan hasn't cracked 70 points in a season since 2003 and regressed offensively last season when many other Islanders were thriving. He failed to earn more playing time on special teams last season and lost other ice time to players like Blake. With Blake and his 40 goals now in Toronto, the Islanders need Satan to carry a larger load offensively. He might be up to the task -- like Blake was last season, Satan is in his walk year and could Samsonov his way to some flashy stats by the trade deadline.
I'd say DiPietro is also on the hook, but what's the point? He's got another 14 years ahead of him...or at least 10 more before he might start thinking about taking over as general manager.
Where They'll Finish: Even if Al Arbour coached the entire season instead of just one more night behind the Islanders' bench, the NYI will be the caboose in the Atlantic Division and miss the playoffs. I'll be stunned if Nolan can recapture lighting in a bottle again with this hodge-podge...but then again, I was stunned when they made the postseason in his first tour of duty, too.
Blogs To Watch: On The Islanders Beat, Islanders Army, View from Section 317.
Gratuitous YouTube Embed: Coach Nolan wants you to make a habit of buying Islanders tickets, and has highlights of Wade Dubielewicz to entice you. As this television ad proclaims, "We're All Islanders"... well, save for Ryan Smyth.