A big decision is coming for the New York Islanders regarding Frans Nielsen's pending UFA status, his value may have gone down a bit from last year in the views of some, however that's a subjective view.
Last year some considered him a dark-horse for the Selke, he is a highly regarded player with intangibles that go beyond a score sheet.
Having written this it's time to face some hard facts.
Nielsen is a strong defensive player, not a physical player who is going to score many goals at five on five or turn a game with a big hit. He was drafted in 2003 so he's had sufficient time for his offensive game to progress.
Nielsen is outstanding in the shootout, his pk work is strong, he deserves credit for the team pp success, with three goals after producing none the previous two years.
This year his short-handed scoring has dropped from seven goals to zero goals.
His five on five scoring is up from a year ago, where he had his second goal in February last year, both poor efforts allowed by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Short Term Problem:
He only has four goals at even strength, none since Nov 15th on a club desperate for secondary scoring:
1-Redircted slap pass from Streit 10/10 against Wild.
2-Opening goal in Pittsburgh 10/27.
3-One against four goal on rush against Caps 11/5 where Vokoun played shot poorly.
4-11/15 goal against Rangers.
Former Islander 1st rounder, Petteri Nokelainen, scored the kind of goal this year to beat the Isles in Montreal, Nielsen has never produced when needed, outside of one overtime game against Boston.
Long Term Problem:
Long term the depth chart does not lie.
John Tavares is a center, Josh Bailey has to play center and management needs to surround him with some skilled players to get him the puck.
* Ryan Strome is a center, like Tavares you don't make same mistake that was made with Bailey and change his position.
* In Minnesota, Brock Nelson was listed as a center, many sites list him at forward.
* Casey Cizikas is a center.
* David Ullstrom had his position changed from center to wing.
* Obviously future Islander draft picks will be natural centers.
Seems the only workable alternative is to finally fill the fourth line center spot with Nielsen who will produce a positive rating, score the occasional goal, still fill the special team role and take all critical face-offs.
When was the last time the NY Islanders put out a fourth line that came out of a season with a plus rating vs it's counter-parts with all these one-goal losses?
Marty Reasoner has not been that player, he is signed for 2012-13.
The future trend of fourth line players is going far away from fighters by appointment, you need one or two at best on a team.
If Garth Snow has to overpay Nielsen for the fourth line center role, with a ton of special teams play, it's the best long-term move. There is no law he cannot move up to another line as we saw with Richard Park countless times.
If Nielsen feels that's not best for his career, it's in the clubs best interest to make a trade come the deadline to improve their core long-term, Nielsen would bring some interesting value to a defense that will likely have some holes to be filled and needs a top four defender with better intangibles than Milan Jurcina.
To say nothing of a defender who can produce goals from the point, another critical weakness of the 2011-12 New York Islanders.
Only watched the third period/highlights in the loss to Toronto, my twitter has comments. Have to expect a sluggish team playing it's fifth game in seven days that has traveled a lot.
Still, it was 1-0 in the third, without a pp drawn by New York. Tavares went past Toronto defense with speed on one impressive rush, he had other chances.
Two changes cost them two goals, they had chances to tie in the third. Capuano reunited Parenteau with Tavares/Moulson late and put on big pressure, but were exhausted/changing when Lombardi beat Bailey, who was waiting to get on.
The 2-0 goal was the game.
Perhaps the last change helps in New York, or Leafs size is too much for a club about to play it's sixth game in eight days that may have hit a wall.
Standings don't lie, they needed the two regulation points Monday desperately, as they need secondary scoring.
Tavares scoring streak, no NHL.com coverage or writer from Brown-Dellapina NHL media relations department Saturday.
Isles shutout, writer assigned to cover Leaf win on NHL.com.