There is little doubt, that like every other team in the league, the Islanders have been bit by the injury bug. Without counting Josh Bailey, who returned to action Thursday night, the Isles are without five (Boychuck, deHaan, Cizikas, Ladd, Kulemin) players whom were expected to be major participants in this team’s success. It’s clear that they do not have the talent at Bridgeport to replace any/all of these players. It is now time (well, past time) to look outside the organization to fill these spots. The Islanders bottom six forwards currently include Michael Dal Colle who is not making any impact on the game and should return the Bridgeport to continue development. Alan Quine, Tanner Fritz, and Ross Johnston are three players that are just not good enough to play in the NHL, and there is no argument against this. The final group (on the current roster) includes Jason Chimera and Shane Prince. Neither of these players have shown enough to earn their roster spot no questions asked. If everyone got healthy losing either of these players would not be a significant loss. This would not be a conversation without bringing up Josh Ho-Sang, while he is the most talented of the group mentioned above, last time we saw him in the NHL he was still an immature player, and would not give the Isles what they need to move forward.
I’m not even talking about the top names (Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson, OEL) the rumor mill has to offer. Those players will not be traded until February. The Islanders need to add NHL caliber players now. There is no reason why Jussi Jokinen passed them on waivers. There is no scenario where Quine, Fritz or Johnston help this team more than Jokinen. There was no risk decision for the Islanders in making a claim. As we saw they would have ended up with the player (the Isles have a better waiver priority than Columbus). There should be additional low risk, low cost options available to them today, such as Beniot Pouliot from Buffalo and Johnny Oduya from Ottawa. Both those teams are playing out the string and would like to save a little bit of money. It is safe to say that these names would not make the Isles Cup favorites, but sometimes you need to make minor improvements. Waiting 3 weeks for the market to materialize may be too late. Even if these players can give the Isles a solid few games, it’s a move that needs to be made.
This is a no-lose situation for the Islanders, none of the obvious concerns should come into play. With both Kulemin and deHaan on long term injured reserve, the Isles could get salary cap relief. They can add similarly priced players to their roster without worrying about going over the cap. The salary cap does not apply in the playoffs. Therefore, if Kulemin or deHaan come back in April, they will be allowed to play in the playoffs without worrying about salary cap implications
The standings show that every point is important, and the Isles are letting points slip away every night by not backfilling their roster with NHL players. The Islanders have almost a full set of draft picks over the next two seasons (they are missing a 6 this year and a 4 next). The players needed today will not cost high picks, so they need to use their picks in the bottom of the draft to get NHL talent today. Garth Snow used to be good at finding players in this situation and giving them the opportunity to succeed. It has been a long time since he found a player to fit in this situation. Waiting is the worst thing this team can do right now, it’s time to hire a gun, any gun to give this team a chance to make it through February.