Isles Going In Different Direction

by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Thursday, April 10, 2008

Missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the New York Islanders will obviously have a lot of problems to sort out this offseason. However, with a host of unrestricted free agents on their roster, the Isles may have an opportunity to drastically change their team and finally start the rebuilding process that many feel should have started in the 1999 and 2000 entry drafts, when the team had a combined six first round picks.

Watching the play of rookies Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Jeremy Colliton and Frans Nielsen over the last quarter of the NHL season, one would be hard pressed to say that they werenít ready for serious ice time. However, with head coach Ted Nolanís long held ideology of giving playing time to veterans over youngsters, the question remains to be seen just how crucial these players will be to the Islanders next season.

Regardless of what his coach may think about the matter, Islanders owner Charles Wang seems to think that itís time for the team to look in another direction, with the youngsters being the GPS system to lead them past the wasteland of mediocrity they were in all season.

Winning the fifth pick in this yearís draft as well, the Islanders will be have an opportunity to build through the draft and organization, similar to the turnovers teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have had over the past five seasons, who, not ironically, find themselves in the playoffs this season, while the Islanders do not.

"If you look at what has happened - and it certainly has changed in the last two months or so - they've proven him wrong," Wang told Newsday. "We all may have a predetermined way of looking at something. But what we should do after the season is look in the mirror and say, 'What have I learned from this thing?' I'm sure Teddy will say, 'Boy, these kids are good. These kids add energy. These kids add a spark.' He's said that to me many times, as he's said it to you and all the players many times. They are the future."

With veterans Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter, Richard Park, Andy Sutton and Brendan Witt and other developing youngsters like Chris Campoli, Jack Hillen and Sean Bergenheim, the Islanders rookies may have the support and confidence to rise to the next level. Wang has even said that he has no problem going out on the free agent market and landing another free agent to play with them if itís someone that can really help them.

"Right now, we're going to build it through the draft and through our young players," Wang told Newsday. "But I've never said no to them if they feel there's some unrestricted free agent who could make the big difference."

Getting the opportunity of a lifetime, the youngsters in the organization know that next season will be a pivotal one and they seem ready to take their future and run with it.

"I thought we really started to gel the last few games," Okposo told Newsday. ďIt's something I hope I'll be part of for quite some time."