There are two facts about doing brackets for the NHL playoffs: First, I’m really good at picking the Eastern Conference as all the teams I had picked moved on. Second, I’m wretched at the Western Conference, as I had the Avs and Sharks in my Conference Finals with San Jose winning the Cup. Now that my humiliation is over, let’s see what Islanders fans can take from other teams losing early in the first round:
Tampa Bay: They’ll be looking for an upgrade on defense and will probably make their backup goalie Lindback available. This was certainly Ben Bishops year, but if Tampa wants to repeat what they did, both Stamkos and Bishop need to be healthier and the defense needs improvement. No free agents from this team if you’re the Islanders.
From the sound of things, it appears the Blues may not give goalie Ryan Miller a contract extension. Word is they may resign Brian Elliot and bring up promising goalie Jake Allen. Miller, at 34 years old, appears like his best days are behind him. Could the Islanders still make a pitch for him?
Dallas put up a great series against the Ducks, but like the Isles, will be seeking defensive help and a top six winger. If free agents had to choose, it would probably be the Stars.
The Colorado Avalanche had a great season and will look to improve next year, but they, like the Isles (and apparently everyone else) are going to be looking for a skilled defenceman. They have the offense and goaltending but you give them the defenseman they need and they could go further. Anyone the Isles could use on the team will not be given up by the Avs.
San Jose just imploded. Changes will be coming, but it’s too early to tell who’s available. Give them a few days to see.
Minnesota moving on in the next round was a statement series. They’re getting the goaltending from the young Kuemper which makes Bryzgalov, Harding, and Backstrom available. Bryz will be a UFA, but getting Harding and Backstrom for a bag of pucks will be easy for the Isles. It also means Thomas Vanek has more incentive to go to Minnesota now, so that would leave them as number one destination and the Islanders number 2. Why the Isles still at 2? Because Montreal needs to lock up P.K. Subban and Markov along with a few of their restricted free agents and won’t be able to afford Vanek. Even if Minnesota can go the distance against the Hawks, that may be all she wrote for the Isles getting Vanek.
Philly gave the Rangers everything they had. Mason was the real deal this year, but if you’re the Flyers, an upgrade to the backup position will help if Mason regresses. The Flyers do not have any UFA that would appeal to the Islanders needs.
Columbus gave the Pens a decent scare, but to be somewhat selfish, I believe the Islanders gave Pittsburgh a bigger scare last year and Pitt learned from that to take care of the Blue Jackets. Again defense will be a concern for this team, but they have an excellent farm system, so they may just improve from within.
The Red Wings made it to the playoffs despite all the injuries. They have such a good young crop of players coming up that they’ll be spenders in this free agency and I don’t see the isles looking in their direction. A possibility would be the Monster Jonas Gustavsson, but he’s injury prone and there appears to be plenty of goalies ahead of him for picking.
Here’s the bottom line: Defense is going to be in demand this offseason. If you’ve seen the free agents that are available, then you know it’s not promising for the Islanders. Another reason for Islanders 2012 first round pick Griffin Reinhart to make this team out of camp next year, but I would look for the Islanders to pull a Lubomir Visnovsky move around the draft to help with the defense. As far as free agents for a top six winger, you won’t find it from these teams. Fans may have to wait and see which players resigns before July 1st to see who’s left. The biggest point is that there are plenty of goalies to choose from if you’re the Islanders. You can probably add Miller to your wish list after this first round.
In keeping with my picks in the Eastern Conference, I have the Rangers over the Pens and my upset of the year, the Habs over the Bruins. I’m playing the history card with that one. So in the East, it’s back to 1979: The Canadiens & Rangers. As for the West, would love to see the Kings play the Hawks again, but to see Selanne win another Cup would be something special as well.