Getting away from the Islanders ownership for a moment (Probably two), I wanted to go over the teams that had ended their playoffs this past week and see how it affects the Islanders in some way, if any. But…..
Before I go any further I would like to point out (maybe gloat a little haha) that in October, I made one of two “Bold Predictions” that both Boston and Pittsburgh wouldn’t make the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately the second part to the Predictions was that the Isles made it out of the first round. That’s why we called them Bold Predictions. Just wish I had the second one right.
In my predictions for the semi’s, I had Montreal and the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, something Gary knew from the beginning. Since the start of the playoffs, I’ve had the Rangers winning the Prince of Wales Trophy this year, but to be sure I tweeted that the Rangers would win the series before the game got going.
Again, Bold predictions were perfect for the Eastern Conference. The West…well. I had San Jose and the Av’s in the Western Conference Finals, so that just blew up in my face. From a hockey fans perspective, to see the Kings and Hawks go at it will be another series for the ages and am looking forward to staying up to watch those games. It’s really a coin toss here, but I’ll go Hawks.
So let’s talk about the teams that were eliminated from playoff contention this past week and how the Islanders may be affected:
Boston Bruins: I don’t foresee the Bruins changing much as there’s no need to. The extra rest these players are now getting will only benefit them for next year. Depending on Montreal’s offseason, if you’re the Islanders, to win the Cup, it’s through the Bruins.
The Anaheim Ducks: With John Gibson taking over in these playoffs, UFA goalie Jonas Hiller is dirt cheap in my opinion which will make him very affordable come July 1st. At this point my preference would be Halak, but in case there’s a snag, the Islanders have a great chance at a good goalie at a bargain price.
Minnesota Wild: When I originally wrote about trading Thomas Vanek to the Wild before the deadline, I did so thinking that he & they would lose to the upper teams like Chicago, Anaheim, and Los Angeles. That’s what happened, but in the second round. I saw some potential in that team to be better than a bottom 8, & first round exit. Their younger players grew and the Wild may want to stick with what they have. The Wild have 17 players signed with five restricted free agents to sign. They will also have three goalies that they have to fix, so unless Minnesota does some wheeling and dealing, the idea of Vanek joining the club is not as sure as it once was. Opportunity to revisit Thomas Vanek in the summer for the Isles?
Pittsburgh Penguins: Isles fans, there’s a difference between the Bruins losing and the Penguins losing. The Bruins looked tired, but Pittsburgh looked old. There’s three things you need to win a Cup: Goaltending, Talent, and Depth. The goaltending was good, the talent was questionable, but there hasn’t been any depth all season. The Penguins remind me of the Blackhawks when they won their first Cup under Toews and Kane. They needed to restructure that team for a year or two before making consecutive runs at the Cup. That’s exactly what Pittsburgh needs to do. They need to draft and draft well in the next few years or this core group will be no more sooner rather than later.
What does this mean for the Isles? It means that there are no clear cut runaways for the divisional title next near. For the first time in a long one, there won’t be a defined leader. There could very well be a five team race for first and the Isles are right in the thick of it. Why am I so hopeful? Am I coming up with another bold prediction? Not yet, however, over the season I have talked to many season ticket holders from the Penguins and the Baby Pens and they’ve all told me the same thing: that if there was a team to knock off the Pens, it’s the Islanders. Why? They all share the same common thought: “The Islanders built their team like we once did. We saw it last year. It’s just a matter of the Islanders putting it all together.”
There are no bold predictions right now, too early. However, this coming year, starting at the draft, is the biggest opportunity for the Islanders to take control of a division that is now truly wide open. It doesn’t matter who owns the team because in the end, the players have to be ready and motivate themselves for a shot at the top. It’s theirs to lose. Enjoy the playoffs!