Islanders: Time to focus on the draft
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
GalleriesIslanders goalies since Billy Smith
With the Islanders entering last night's game against the Canadiens in 15th in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Montreal and a dozen points from eighth with 11 games to play, it might be time to look ahead to the June draft.
The Isles, who fought into March to stay relevant in the playoff hunt, are 28th in the league right now -- farther back than they were after 71 games last season, even though they are two points ahead of last season's total to this point.
If the Islanders pick third, as they would if the draft order stays the same, they could get a crack at the top defenseman available from a crop of talented blueliners.
Ryan Murray, a 6-1 defenseman from Everett of the Western League, was the top-ranked defenseman among North American prospects in Central Scouting's midterm rankings. Murray has nine goals and 21 assists in 44 games for Everett and was the only draft-eligible D-man on Canada's bronze medal-winning squad at the World Junior championships.
"Murray is one of those calm, cool and collected guys," Central Scouting chief David Gregory told nhl.com. "An excellent skater with a lot of poise."
Bruce Ratner's appearance between the first and second periods on the Islanders' broadcast Thursday night was a bit of a surprise, as were his strong comments about wanting the Islanders to move to Brooklyn and Barclays Center if things don't work out on Long Island beyond 2015.
This was another small moment in the march toward the end of the Islanders' lease with Nassau County, which comes in three years. Islanders owner Charles Wang and the various entities who need to get the ball rolling for a new arena in Uniondale aren't talking, so the gamesmanship has begun.
Ratner's comments were a part of that. Brooklyn would indeed keep the Islanders local, but it's not believed to be the dream destination should New York State, Nassau and the Town of Hempstead not come to some sort of agreement to make a deal for a new arena.
Wang has kept very quiet on the arena issue all season long. Ratner did some of the talking for him Thursday as the dance continues.
A Swiss magazine quoted rookie Nino Niederreiter as saying "the coach doesn't talk to me," referring to Islanders coach Jack Capuano.
Through a team spokesman, Niederreiter -- who voiced his displeasure with being a healthy scratch for three games last month -- said coaches in the NHL don't talk to players as much as they do in Europe.
He did not mean to imply that Capuano does not talk to him. The 19-year-old rookie has one goal and no assists through 46 games.