Your source for behind-the-scenes New York Islanders hockey news and information.
'Tanks' a lot
Contrary to certain contrarians, the sidebar that accompanied the Islanders game story in today's Newsday did not say that injured Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit would definitely miss the rest of the season with their groin strains. It simply suggested that it would not be surprising if that happened.
Like everyone else within earshot when I asked coach Scott Gordon about shutting them down, I heard his answer plainly. "If they're healthy, yeah, I'm sure they would want to get back," Gordon said. "But we certainly don't want to jeopardize them with any further injury or any more damage to what they presently have."
It was a perfectly logical answer that clarified the situation. Yet, he also included a qualifier that acknowledged how pointless it would be at this stage to risk "any more damage" to either. Knowing Streit and Okposo, their competitive instincts undoubtedly will lead them to push to return, but the Islanders lately have shown a tendency to err on the side of caution. All things considered, that's the prudent approach.
As the story said, it's impossible to accuse the Islanders of "tanking" to improve their draft prospects when they have gone 13-14-5 over the past 32 games. But having come this far and suffered so many injuries, what is the sense in rushing anyone back into the lineup and risking the possibility of losing a chance to be assured of drafting one of the top two prospects, John Tavares or Victor Hedman?
Their competition for the No. 1 spot in the draft lottery, which is assured of a top-two pick because no team can drop more than one spot, comes from 29th-place Colorado and 28th-place Tampa Bay, which visits the Coliseum Saturday night. The Isles are five points below the Avalanche, which has gone 9-25-1 in its last 35 games, including 0-7-1 in the past eight. The Lightning, which plays tonight at New Jersey, has gone 7-15-7 in its past 29 games, including 1-4-3 in its past eight. The Isles are 2-5-1 in their past eight games.
The Islanders still can get four points out of the final 10 available to them and be assured of No. 1 position in the lottery. So, it's not like they have to lose every game.
But say it comes down to the final game of the season against Boston, and the top team in the Eastern Conference sits out its best players to rest up for the playoffs. Would the Bruins be tanking a regular-season game that could have a profound effect on the draft lottery? No, they would be doing what is in their best interests going forward. The same would be true of the Islanders if they hold out Okposo and Streit, either or both of whom could wind up playing in the World Championships April 24-May 10 in Streit's native Switzerland.
Speaking of Okposo's prospects of being selected for Team USA, Gordon said, "Any time you can play in that kind of environment, whether it's American League playoffs or World Championships, it will make you a better player. You're playing when the stakes are higher, and there's a different kind of feel to those types of games than there is in the regular season."
As for the remaining five games on the Islanders' schedule, Streit, who ranks fourth in defense scoring, and Okposo, who is eighth among rookie goal scorers, have nothing to prove by playing beyond their devotion to their teammates. No doubt, that's important, but how nice would it be if one of their teammates next season and for years to come was Tavares or Hedman?