New York Islanders: Selling Hope for the Future Since 2007

Adam GrahamAnalyst IINovember 13, 2011

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 29: (L-R) John Tavares #91 and Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders sit on the bench as head coach Jack Capuano watches the action against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum on December 29, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 2-1 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tonight the New York Islanders will wrap up their brief three-game road trip in Vancouver against a Canucks team that’s returning home after a six-game road trip.

The recent road trips might be the only thing these two franchises have in common right now, though. Vancouver is selling the realistic possibility of a Stanley Cup to Canucks nation after they came so close last spring.

The Islanders, on the other hand, are selling hope. It’s the same hope they’ve been selling for five seasons in a row if you include the current campaign. It’s the hope that their four consecutive top-10 draft picks and their patience will finally pay off.

The question is, how much longer will Islanders fans wait?

If you look at the history of the Long Island franchise, the fans aren’t accustomed to waiting very long for a contender. The only other time this team really started building from scratch was when they entered the NHL as an expansion team in 1972. Three years later they advanced to the third round of the playoffs, and five years after that they started a dynasty by winning four consecutive Stanley Cups.

However, that type of quick rise to the top is the exception to the rule, and it’s clearly going to take a lot longer than that to build a winner this time around.

John Tavares is a great building block, and so are Michael Grabner and Travis Hamonic. Aside from that, there’s not much in the way of young talent producing at the NHL level right now.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be in the years to come. Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome will likely establish themselves as legitimate top-six forwards in the next three or four seasons, and the windows haven’t closed on Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo either. They’re only 22 and 23 years old, respectively, and can still become top-six forwards as well.

Isles fans need to look no further than their opposition tonight to find proof that patience is a virtue. Many fans in Vancouver had written Henrik and Daniel Sedin off before they turned into two of the NHL's best players in their late 20s. Ryan Kesler is another example of a player who took a few years to start scoring on a regular basis.

The problem with the Islanders before GM Garth Snow started the rebuild in 2007 is that they dealt away too many high draft picks and prospects, so it would be in Snow’s best interest to stick with his plan.

Just think about what could have been for the Islanders if they didn’t trade away former prospects like Todd Bertuzzi, Olli Jokinen, Zdeno Chara, the draft pick that turned into Jason Spezza and Roberto Luongo, who ironically is now tending goal for the Canucks.

Instead, the Islanders have one of the worst contracts in the league in Rick DiPietro, who they’ll have to pay $4.5 million annually for the next 10 years.

While the goaltending situation might be the biggest thing holding the Islanders back from becoming a playoff team, there is still hope because of young studs like Tavares and Grabner, who are under contract until 2016 and 2018, respectively.

If they can add a few more quality young players to the mix, the Islanders could have a bright future. It won’t happen this season, and it might not happen next season either, but if GM Garth Snow stays the course, fans of the Islanders will have a contender to cheer for if they’re able to wait long enough.

Now, if only they could get the money to build a new arena. That’s another story for another time, though.


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