Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What if...?

With one day remaining for teams in the NHL to complete trades, you are by now well versed in the "who." The "to where" and "for whom" are still mired in the swamps of speculation. Odds are that they won't become any clearer until you see those Islanders logos pop up on whatever ticker you choose to follow. But what if certain deals don't go through? What will it mean for the Islanders over these final weeks and into next year?

What if Bill Guerin doesn't get traded?

If a deal cannot be worked out for Guerin, then he returns to the active lineup. He and Scott Gordon conduct themselves like the professionals they are. Up until the point when Guerin was removed from the lineup, Gordon had not marginalized the captain. Yes, he was bumped down to the second power play unit so that the coach could see what Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, and Josh Bailey would do with first-unit responsbility. And Guerin likely would have to live with that situation again. He shouldn't look at it as an indignity.

As for the domino effect, who loses out to Guerin? Easy enough—Jon Sim is on waivers again, Trent Hunter is hurting, and Guerin's replacement, the fresh-faced Jesse Joensuu, wasn't expected to see the NHL season. Things only start to get uncomfortable if Sim stays, and Hunter, Doug Weight, Richard Park, and Nate Thompson all get healthy (and haven't themselves been traded). In that scenario, I don't envy Gordon. I'm sure he was counting on having extra forward slots to fill over the final twenty games.

Does Guerin retain the captaincy? Yes, absolutely. Unless he speaks out in a way that is detrimental to the coach's authority, Guerin deserves to remain captain.

Does Guerin re-sign with the Isles? It's entirely possible that Guerin and Gordon can put their differences behind them and come to understanding about how to make it work together. I don't imagine it playing out that way.

What if Brendan Witt doesn't get traded?

If you've read Point Blank, you know that one expert feels that Witt isn't going anywhere. The logical domino effect, then, is that Garth Snow uses Radek Martinek to bolster his draft ledger or prospect pool. It seems like a downgrade in trade value, and therefore a downgrade in return. But Martinek's fragility probably has him past the peak of his value, both on the ice and on the trade market. Despite some promising prospects in the system and competent showings by the likes of Joe Callahan and Andrew MacDonald, the Isles aren't deep enough on defense to trade both of these guys. Gordon adjusted his defense, and Witt adjusted his attitude toward being a part of it. If Witt stays, you could be looking at the next captain.

But what happens next year? Gordon did indeed make adjustments this year that were agreeable to Witt. That doesn't mean that the coach won't show up at training camp in September with designs on restoring his system to its original state and having another go that way. Can Witt make it work under those circumstances? That seems problematic. Will Gordon be willing to adjust again if things aren't working? I think so.

Witt has expressed the kind of genuine enthusiasm for staying that makes you believe. If he can keep the elbows down, his presence in the lineup will be welcomed for another two years. And if things don't work out, there's always next March when Witt will have one fewer contract year for a trade partner to absorb.

What if Doug Weight doesn't get traded?

The biggest impact here is on next year. The Weight experiment has produced good results and he would be valuable on next year's roster. But what happens if the Islanders are able (and willing) to draft John Tavares? They will will head into camp next year with Tavares, Bailey, and Nielsen at center, not to mention Richard Park and a host of RFAs currently in the organization who could be re-signed. So certainly the draft could play a role in Weight's future as an Islander. This one's impossible to predict.

What if none of the Islanders remaining best chips gets traded?

First of all, Garth Snow will come under heavy criticism from the fan base for failing to convert assets, especially the expiring ones, into draft picks. Second, Snow will be more likely to move his secondary assets for whatever he can get. Here's where you start talking about names like Joey MacDonald or Yann Danis and Bruno Gervais, who suddenly looks like he could fill Martinek's role.

The MacDonald/Danis question is a tricky one because Danis benefits from the recency effect. It's like the 11-1 college football team (pre-BCS) that lost its one game in September being ranked higher than the 11-1 team that suffered its only loss in November. Danis is excelling right now, whereas MacDonald's stretch of excellence is a distant memory.

Islanders 4, Avalanche 2

Goal scorers: McAmmond, Joensuu, Gervais, Tambellini. If that's not the unlikeliest bunch of Islanders goal scorers you've seen, it's gotta be close. But congratulations to Jesse on his first, and to Sim (3 assists) and Tambellini (1 goal, 1 assist) on their multi-point efforts. One more big question for Garth: Being that he's already signed, does Tambellini get another shot, I mean a real shot, at launching NHL Career 2.0 next year? If he survives the deadline, I'm leaning toward yes.

(This post was originally published at http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=19765.)

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