“Maybe the Islanders aren’t as deep as we thought…
It took 7 and a half games to come to light, but midway through the second period of the Islanders 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the “deepest” Islanders team in recent memory was looking paper thin. With Lubomir Visnovsky already exiting the game in the first period with a concussion, Matt Carkner barreled into Evgeni Nabokov halfway through the second period following a ridiculously bad change by the Isles. Following a few tense minutes laying semi motionless on the ice, Nabokov would stay in the game, but the seed of doubt was planted in every Islander fan’s mind, “Maybe we need to have a better backup plan?”
Among hockey experts, the Islanders’ organization is known to have a top 5 prospect pool. It is also well known that with the exception of Ryan Strome, the franchise is filled with second tier prospects. These are players who will someday be serviceable to above average players in the league, but lack “star” power that can be instantly plugged into an NHL lineup (see Seth Jones).
There are options up front; Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee. These are the names that have somewhat altered the depth perception of the Islander organization. All three will be regular forwards on the roster within the next few seasons. The problem is there has been so much talk about the promise of these young forwards, that the timetable for the organization’s defensemen has been lost in the shuffle.
Matt Donovan has broken the roster. The team has seemed hesitant to play Donovan on a night in, night out basis. With the injury to Visnovksy, Garth Snow will have to play his hand quicker than he probably would have liked. Minus Lubo, the Islanders are forced to have both Matt Donovan & Matt Carkner in the lineup. I’m not sure how that sits with Snow. Will he move up a player within the organization? Calvin de Haan is a player that had a decent training camp, but with the team’s lack of everyday confidence in Donovan, do they really feel anyone in Bridgeport is ready for the assignment?
The other immediate option is to sign long time Islander Radek Martinek. Martinek has been skating with the team this season, but has yet to officially sign a game contract. Is Martinek an upgrade over Carkner, Donovan, or de Haan? The only other possibility would be to make a trade for someone outside the organization. Snow doesn’t like to push the panic button, so such a drastic move might not happen this early in the season.
But does the Visnovksy injury warrant a major move? It was alarming to me that they diagnosed Visnovksy right away with a concussion. Usually during a game, such injuries would be classified as “upper body injuries that will be re-evaluated later.” The first period wasn’t even over yet, and it was common knowledge that Lubo had a concussion. And to be honest, he did not look good leaving the ice. It will be interesting to see how Garth Snow handles a long term absence of his best offensive defenseman.
The second issue presented during the Hurricanes’ game was the lack of NHL experience in net. Nabokov hater or not, he’s the only goaltender in the organization with any substantial NHL experience, and it’s becoming more apparent that Kevin Poulin is becoming the problem in the corner of the room that no one wants to talk about. The Islanders haven’t reached a stretch with numerous back to backs yet, but I’m not sure many are going to like the answers when we get there.
The Islanders will score. The 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes proved that when this team wants to skate, the goals can come in flurries. The loss also proved that the team has a long way to go in their own end to be considered a legitimate threat. One D man down, and one Nabby scare was all it took to put the Islanders’ depth into perspective.