ST. LOUIS -- Of all the questions that could be asked about the Islanders right now -- too many to list here, and I’ve got a plane to catch -- here’s one:
Is it time to rebuild the rebuild?
Garth Snow earned praise for jumping in as an inexperienced general manager seven years ago and committing to a bottom-to-top rebuilding of the organization. He stayed small-budget and low-key, amassing draft picks and prospects while achieving very little success on the ice.
Last season was supposed to be the breakthrough. Snow rewarded his core group with long-term deals and tried to plug the holes that remained, though there seemed to be fewer holes than in any of his previous seasons.
Turns out that was not the case. The Islanders face the Kings on Saturday night with the prospect of losing a ninth straight road game and going nine straight without a win -- we’re nearing the 1-17-3 collapse that cost Scott Gordon his job three Novembers ago, when the Islanders were widely acknowledged to not have enough talent to compete with the big boys.
So what now? Is it time to completely retool once again? What would that involve?
The first order of business, I believe, would be flipping Thomas Vanek for as big a return as possible. This is a deflating move, of course -- acquiring Vanek for Matt Moulson and a conditional 2014 first-round pick plus a 2015 second-rounder was supposed to light a fire under a 4-4-3 team. The Islanders are 4-12-2 since. Vanek has shown plenty of skill, but the rest of the team is falling apart and Vanek does not seem to be the sort who can rally the troops.
The next move is to plug in prospects where the Islanders can, which means Brock Nelson plays and Ryan Strome comes up from Bridgeport. The Islanders have tried to protect their prospects for as long as possible after some of the failures in rushing prospects in the past (Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter), but Strome is chomping at the bit and Nelson is already here, so it would seem to be time.
There are plenty of candidates to sit to make room for Strome and Nelson on a more permanent basis. Whether it’s waivers, a trade or simply benching, you can take your pick of forwards who haven’t contributed.
In goal, there are options as well. Trade Kevin Poulin for some sort of return? Bring in a veteran to team with Evgeni Nabokov? Trade Nabokov and go with the kids?
Honestly, barring a major deal in goal, the Islanders will struggle no matter who is back there based on the way things have gone.
What else is left?
You could trade Lubomir Visnovsky, provided he ever rebounds from a concussion. Michael Grabner, with a relatively modest two seasons left on his deal, could fetch something in a trade.
I would not trade Andrew MacDonald. Whatever you feel about his ability as a top-pair defenseman, he’s a valuable contributor. Is he worth $4 million per, which may be his asking price? He would be for someone, so we’ll see where that ends up.
These are some of the moves that could be made. I haven’t even mentioned a coaching change, you may have noticed. I think it may certainly happen if things continue this way, but I don’t believe it will be a drastic move. I also don’t think Snow has decided to do anything yet.