Can you go into sell mode and still win enough games to make a playoff run?
It is possible but highly unlikely in terms of the 2009-10 New York Islanders.
This team most nights has worked very hard which is a credit to the character of the players, Scott Gordon and his coaching staff but having written this it's time for the tough questions.
Should General Manager Garth Snow Be In Sell Mode?
Absolutely. Standings and team numbers at the bottom in virtually every area simply do not lie that this group as it currently stands is not deep enough to win consistently and have too many basic flaws as constructed in terms of size, speed, physical/fighting elements and most of all players with finishing skills.
Outside of Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, MacDonald there is not a player on this roster Garth Snow should not consider moving if the right offer came along when the trade freeze ends. Mark Streit even enters this discussion if the return brings a talent that upgrades the roster significantly.
I detailed my thoughts on the failed prospect movement in a recent entry so no point being repetitive.
The Playoff Race:
Most years a team this far below five hundred simply are not in any kind of realistic contention. It's taken a painfully weak Eastern Conference for the New York Islanders to even barely remain in the conversation and as hard as they worked to gain an actual spot earlier, that's how quickly they lost it against bubble teams in the same spot or behind them at the time.
Having written this the window is starting to get very narrow with the sixth and seventh place teams now seven or more points ahead with two games in hand.
You know the math and the ugly numbers because I have written it enough times in these blog entries. New York in it's remaining twenty games would now need to go 18-1-1 to reach the usual eighth seed cut off of ninety five points.
Hoping for an eighth seed cut off at ninety points which is very low? Ok.
Can it happen?
Anything can happen.
Will it happen?
Reasons Why This Cannot Happen:
Given the teams rank in goals scored, five on five, special teams where does this kind of dramatic turnaround begin with a roster that has rookie Matt Martin on the first line one game, Blake Comeau the next and then Trevor Gillies dressing for Blake Comeau to play three minutes?
Are Sean Bergenheim or Frans Nielsen ready to start finishing, and can the veterans like Park and Weight, who had huge games against struggling Tampa begin to do this on a nightly basis?
Expecting Trent Hunter to break out of his latest long slump, in it's third year or Jon Sim to start scoring, as he did in Atlanta when he had back to back seventeen goal seasons? Is Rob Schremp ready to make a giant step forward in his early development, and score a bunch of goal to go with some excellent playing making ability?
John Tavares is getting closer to some goals, but asking for him to produce big numbers on a sustained basis with Bailey or Okposo is obviously too much at this very early point in their careers.
Steven Stamkos veteran supporting cast in Tampa can score and are productive/established first line talents, the New York Islander veteran supporting cast cannot produce to that level and are not first line talents.
The Tough Calls At The Deadline?
Andy Sutton: Despite the best hockey of his career and the physical element he brings, age and injury history are simply too much to ignore. If you want proof recall how he got hurt earlier this year.
Trent Hunter: Not discussed in media but it's three years of long slumps at key moments on a team that needed him as a veteran in his prime to produce despite all the other things he does very well. It's fair to write the player we saw before Sean Brown's 2004 knee on knee with that extra step is not returning.
Dwayne Roloson: He's demonstrated he can perform at a high level when he's used as a number one goaltender, he has failed to demonstrate this sharing the net and we have no idea what he would do in an extended backup role.
Bruno Gervais: Is getting a full chance and despite a lot of uneven play has performed better lately. Having written this deHaan, Haronic, Katic, Kohn, Hillen and all the other defensive prospects in the system are getting closer and a mix of veterans and young players are necessary.
Rick DiPietro: I don't care about the contract which is still a bargain but maybe he needs a fresh start. If the return is equal to his franchise potential when fully healthy, it's something to be considered. Garth Snow did not use all those high picks on goaltenders simply for insurance.
Mark Streit: How do you not listen if the return brings a franchise talent who can match his contribution years before free agency.
Everyone else in the conversation should be moved and it's not even a close call between Weight, Jackman, Park, Meyer, Martinek and Sim because most will be gone regardless at the end of this season if some do not retire. Great character players who give all they have but cannot produce enough goals.
If the return and potential are equal and improve the dynamic you have to take a chance on moving Bergenheim, Nielsen, Comeau, Tambellini (see earlier entry) this is also why Jesse Joensuu, Matt Martin, Robin Figren and many others were signed.
Yes, if Petteri Nokelainen can be on his third team Frans Nielsen can be traded despite his defensive ability.
No folks, this is not the Florida Panthers who have not seen a playoff in a decade who lost most of their stars to UFA and are promising more changes. The New York Islanders made the post-season every year they did not lead the league in injuries, if they fail to make the post season it will be the first time it was not entirely about injuries.
That makes this time different.
What Will Happen?
I do not know but I expect Garth Snow to stick to his plan, trade a few veterans to create openings for next year and hold onto all of his youth because most of them are not heading to UFA.
I'm not expecting much to happen as many trade deadlines are anti-climatic for teams that should be in sell mode. Teams in buy-mode do not trade away productive players with long term contracts which is the return Snow will want because rentals heading to UFA solve nothing.
I have no idea what the general manager thinks of his first coaching hire moving forward as he enters the final year of his contract, however what is decided here will indirectly speak to the general managers viewpoint on his coaches performances and whether he agrees with him on some players.
Like most coaches some lineup decisions have been questionable and it's fair to ask are the young players improving or failing in part due to Scott Gordon's lineup decisions or simply does the problem goes beyond coaching?
This is where we find out if the longest tenured coach in the Atlantic does work well with his general manager, or if the current record of Al Arbour being the last coach to work a third straight year is about to be broken or not.
Beyond that we will have our answers between the time the trade freeze ends with the March 3rd deadline.
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