In Order to Make Playoffs, Isles Need More Offense
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

While the first 35 games of the season were nothing short of a miracle for the New York Islanders and their fans, the past ten games have been a disaster and have made the teamís biggest weakness a glaring one, for all the NHL to see.

They need more offense.

Earlier in the season when Islanders captain Alexei Yashin was healthy and firing on all cylinders, the problem wasnít too apparent because Jason Blake was on fire as well and the team was winning, making any problems the team had at the time seem minimal at best. Islander fans just hoped players like Miroslav Satan, Trent Hunter and Viktor Kozlov would step up a little bit more and the problem would eventually fix itself.

For a while, it almost seemed like it did.

When Yashin went down with a knee injury early last month, Kozlov and players like Arron Asham stepped up and again Jason Blake was playing probably the best hockey of his career and the Isles offensive struggles werenít as apparent to the rest of the league. However, now with Yashin playing with an injured knee and Blake suddenly forgetting how to finish, scoring only one goal in his past six games, the Islanders scoring problems are as apparent as ever.

It doesnít matter that guys like Kozlov, Satan, Hunter and Sillinger are producing lately and Yashin and Blake are working hard, they still need another proven scorer to pick up the slack for a group of players on the team that arenít doing much of anything lately. Itís also possible that if the lunch-palers on the Isles such as Richard Park, Shawn Bates and Chris Simon step up, the team wouldnít even need to go acquire another scorer, but with only 12 goals between the three all season, that doesnít seem like itís going to happen any time soon.

Despite being a fan favorite on the Islanders for over five years, Bates has failed to grace the team with one of his annual hot streaks this season and is on pace for his worst season as an Isle. Early last season, Bates was considered one of the best players on the team scoring 10 goals in the first 25 games of the season before going down with an injury. Now with only three goals in 43 games this season, Bates may find himself on the block to help the team acquire a proven scorer.

Park and Simon probably arenít on the block because they arenít expected to score as much as Bates, who scored 52 points his first season with the team and provide the energy and physicality the Isles need out of their third and fourth line players. Given that and his $1.85 million a year contract, it seems almost obvious that unless he gets hot soon, Batesís days on the Islanders are numbered.

With the trading deadline February 27 this year, the Islanders have a short time to decide if Bates is worth keeping and even less time to try and find someone to deal with that can give them the extra boost they need on offense in order to make the playoffs this season. With less than half the season left already, the Isles need to find someone and fast, or else risk disappointing an already reduced fan base with another missed opportunity of making the playoffs.