Tag:New York Islanders
Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:52 pm
 

What to expect for Brad Marchand, remaining RFAs

By Brian Stubits

Remember back a few months, when they were actually playing hockey. The breakout star of the playoffs was Brad Marchand for the Bruins. He was second in goals scored for the entire playoffs despite playing in his first postseason, a run that included two goals in the Game 7 win in Vancouver.

But success isn't cheap. That's why Marchand still doesn't have a contract to talk about at this point. Clearly Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Marchand's camp can't agree on what kind of money he should receive. There is no doubt both sides want to stay together. The B's have a promising player coming out of his rookie season while Marchand found himself on a championship team and fitting in with Boston.

Therein lies the dilemma. Is Marchand worth big bucks after showing all that he's capable of in the playoffs? That's what his agent has to be saying. Or could it be that he played just a little over his head in the playoffs. He wouldn't be the first to have done that. That has to be the concern for Chiarelli.

Now you have to give the Bruins GM this: he's being very prudent. Boston has the room to sign Marchand to a relatively big contract. Per Cap Geek, the B's still have more than $7 million in cap space available. So you could understand if he conceded to get Marchand back in the fold ASAP. But the goal is to set up a longtime winner and that could be damaged by bad contracts. Not to say signing Marchand to a big deal would be a bad contract, but it could be.

In cases like this, you are always on the lookout for precedents. Thankfully, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren gave a pretty good one last week when he signed James van Riemsdyk to an extension. Philly gave him a six-year deal that carries a $4.25 million annual cap hit.

Comparing the two, JVR has two full NHL seasons under his belt as opposed to one-plus for Marchand. But last season, the players had strikingly similar numbers. In 75 games, Van Riemsdyk had 21 goals and 19 assists. In 77 games, Marchand had 21 goals and 20 assists. They both also stepped up their scoring pace in the playoffs as Van Riemsdyk had seven goals in 11 games while Marchand had 11 tallies and eight assists in 25 games.

So at this point, the two could pass for career twins. So if Chiarelli was looking to keep the figure low, this didn't help. When the sides finally get this worked out, I'd expect to see a deal very similar to Van Riemsdyk's, just for a shorter length.

In the meantime, Marchand can continue to work on the promising rapping career.

Now a look at the other high-profile restricted free agents still sans deals.

Drew Doughty, Kings: This one has been discussed at incredible length this offseason, but we can't ignore it here. The assumption was that the deal coming from Shea Weber's arbitration hearing would lead to a resolution in Los Angeles. Now it wasn't expected that Doughty would receive the same money that Weber would, but something close. It's hard to imagine this getting resolved without Doughty getting north of $5.5 million-plus, and that's on the conservative side.

Luke Schenn, Maple Leafs: The Leafs continue to try and bring Schenn into the fold long-term, hoping he can be a significant piece to their future. The good news for fans in Toronto is that GM Brian Burke remains confident Schenn will be signed before training camp begins, indicating that the sides might not be that far apart. Judging by the fact that Burke has been unwilling to trade Schenn and the Leafs seem to believe he will develop into an elite shutdown defenseman, you are left to assume Schenn will get a decent amount of scratch, probably somewhere around $3 million-$3.5 million annually, along the likes of the Rangers' Marc Staal. But with Burke it's almost impossible to accurately guess.

Zach Bogosian, Jets: Bogosian was billed as a very solid two-way defenseman coming out of the 2008 draft, but so far he hasn't matched that billing. Five goals and 12 assists like a season ago don't exactly scream two-way star. Realistically, he shouldn't expect to get a pay day similar to Schenn, perhaps a comparable player. The only problem in their numbers from last season being very similar, Schenn isn't expected to give a lot on the offensive side while Bogosian is. Of course there's still plenty of time from Bogosian to grow and perhaps become the player scouts envisioned once upon a time. But considering he's still a second-pairing defenseman for Winnipeg, the best guess would be a modest money amount over a shorter length to give more time to evaluate Bogosian's NHL value.

The rest of the RFAs:

Kyle Turris, Coyotes: The third overall draft pick in 2007, he doesn't appear to be near a deal with Phoenix at this point, asking for about $4 million annually over three years per ESPN.com. As you would guess, the Coyotes aren't willing to go near that mark. This one will take some serious concessions, likely on Turris' behalf.

Shawn Matthias, Panthers: The former prized prospect is going to have to swallow the fact the Panthers won't give him a guaranteed, one-way contract. That seems to the hold up in the negotiations here, but the Panthers feel there is too much competition for roster spots to guarantee a guy who hasn't proven he deserves a spot yet.

Josh Bailey, Islanders: He has shown some promise for becoming a decent scorer in the NHL, finding the net 16 times as a 20-year-old two seasons ago. Lighthouse Hockey did a good job of comparing Bailey to Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker and his recent $1.1 million annual contract a few weeks back, concluding Bailey has shown he deserves more than that.

Kyle Cumiskey, Avalanche: The Avs did give him a qualifying offer on the heels of an 18-game season, but that's as far as negotiations have gone. But Adrian Dater at the Denver Post expects the hurdles will be overcome in the next week and Cumiskey will be back for camp.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 5, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: September 5, 2011 10:12 am
 

Daily Skate: Burmistrov feels at home in Winnipeg

By: Adam Gretz

BURMISTROV FEELS AT HOME There have been rumblings in recent months that some players aren't looking forward to playing in Winnipeg. One player that is seems to be excited about it is 19-year-old winger Alexander Burmistrov, the team's first-round draft pick last year. Burmistrov told the Winnipeg Sun how much he's looking forward to playing in Winnipeg because "people love hockey here and it's cold here, and that's what I know." In 74 games last season he scored six goals to go with 14 assists while playing just over 13 minutes of ice-time per game.

CONCERNS FOR MONTREAL DEFENSE The biggest question mark for the Montreal Canadiens this season: injuries to their defense. Andrei Markov played in just seven games last season and is coming off his second major surgery in as many years. His health, as well as the health of Josh Gorges, will play a huge factor in what success the Canadiens are able to have in 2011.

THOMAS' DAY WITH THE CUP Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas had his deal with the Stanley Cup on Saturday morning and took it back to Vermont where he spent his college days stopping pucks.

PANDOLFO GETS TRYOUT WITH Islanders The New York Islanders announced over the weekend that veteran forward Jay Pandolfo will attend their training camp on a tryout basis. He last played in the NHL during the 2009-10 season as a member of the New Jersey Devils (the only NHL team he's ever played for) scoring four goals in 52 games. In 819 career games he's scored 99 goals. He spent last season making a brief appearance in the American Hockey League with the Springfield Falcons, recording six points (two goals, four assists) in 12 games.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:17 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 12:18 pm
 

Islanders now have an official tattoo shop



By: Adam Gretz


Have you ever found yourself sitting at a hockey game and said to yourself, "man, I'd like to go and get a tattoo between periods?"

If so, and if you happen to be a fan of the New York Islanders, you're in luck because the club has reached an agreement with Tattoo Lou's to become the official tattoo shop of the Islanders, according to a team press release.

Not only will Tattoo Lou's been known as the official tattoo shop of the team, they will also be setting up a tattoo and body piercing station at 10 home games during the 2011-12 season, and will also sell Islanders-related jewelry and tattoo-inspired shirts. Keep in mind, this is also the same organization that signed a deal to have an official cupcake supplier last season. So they're definitely no strangers to unique corporate partnerships

Islanders Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Justin Johnson, said the team is thrilled to bring another Long Island institution to the arena, and that “Tattoo Lou’s is an innovative brand with a creative vision. They’re a great fit with our energetic team on the ice and our youthful fan base around Long Island.”

Lou Rubino, the President of Tattoo Lou's, considers the partnership a victory for the Tattoo Industry.

"For a long time, tattoos were frowned upon," said Rubino. "But now, we’ve become more and more mainstream. One of the main things I love about this partnership is the history the Islanders have. My dad opened his first shop in 1958. We’re a part of Long Island history just like the Islanders.”

Tattoo's really aren't my cup of tea, mainly because I'm not sure I have the pain tolerance to sit through the entire process, and also because I would probably change my mind and want something different within a couple years of actually getting the thing. Still, I find the partnership to be, if nothing else, very interesting.

And it's not like hockey and tattoo's are an unheard of match, as a large percentage of the players across the league have had some tattoo work done at one time or another.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Category: NHL
Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Eastern Conference spots seem set for some time

By Brian Stubits

Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.

That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.

At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.

Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.

Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.

So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.

But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.

Last four seasons
Team Average finish (Eastern Conference) Playoff appearances 2011-12 payroll (capgeek.com)
Capitals 1.75 4 $65,190,128
Penguins 3.5 4 $62,737,500
Bruins 4.5 4 $56,682,976
Flyers 5 4 $64,124,761
Devils 5 3 $58,429,167
Canadiens 5.75 4 $59,770,510
Rangers 7.25 3 $62,935,334
Sabres 7.5 2 $67,895,357
Hurricanes 8.75 1 $49,775,000
Senators 9 2 $51,845,834
Lightning 11.5 1 $59,326,083
Maple Leafs 12.25 0 $59,115,000
Jets/Thrashers 12.25 0 $48,284,166
Panthers 12.25 0 $49,882,042
Islanders 13.75 0 $45,970,166

You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.

By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.

And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.

That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.

Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.

The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.

Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.

Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.

In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 26, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: August 27, 2011 10:17 am
 

Daily Skate: Islanders getting closer to playoffs

By Brian Stubits

CLOSING IN: The New York Islanders continue to rebuild, seemingly getting closer to the playoffs with each passing season. Now they are at a point of at least being competitive for the playoffs. That's what four different NHL pro scouts told Chris Botta at Islanders Point Blank. "They'll be in the playoff race in the East until the end." It isn't exactly a large sample size, but four scouts all recognizing the growth of the franchise is a sign that things are getting better for fans on the island.

THINKING LONG TERM: Just because the Predators and Shea Weber couldn't work out a deal before arbitration and the player won the biggest award ever in a hearing, doesn't mean the two sides are ready to sever ties after next year. Nashville will have the daunting task of re-signing all three of Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne with conventional wisdom being they can't bring all three of them back. The assumption was that it could be Weber because of the cost of keeping him this offseason, but that's not necessarily the case (The Sports Xchange). Weber recognizes the negotiations for what they were when asked if things are OK with the club: "Yeah, for sure. I think that was just part of the business.

OUT OF TOUCH: The troubles of staying on the cutting edge of modern communication is brought to light by Adrian Dater of sportsillustrated.com. He points out that as players are never seen without their headphones or iPod when they travel any more, the classic team bonding of yesteryear isn't happening as often. It's a very interesting and salient point made that coaches and team executives are more than vexed by.

A-MAZE-ING: When Tim Thomas took the Stanley Cup to his hometown of Davison, Mich., he was met with many a dedication, one of which being a corn maze of him lifting up the Stanley Cup (from Puck Daddy). Well, not to be outdone are the non-Thomas fans in Michigan, mostly the Red Wings fans. Check out this corn maze of a Winged Wheel and a "Go Wings" scribbled in it in the Casco Township. Time for a battle of the corn! (Photo courtesy of Twitpic.)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: August 22, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Dave Scatchard retires due to concussions

By: Adam Gretz

Dave Scatchard, an 11-year NHL veteran, announced his retirement with a series of Tweets on Monday and informed his followers that he was calling it a career due to ongoing issues with concussions. Scatchard explained that after a few days of testing at the Mayo Clinic the doctors advised the 35-year-old forward that it would be unsafe for him to continue playing.

Originally a second-round draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks in 1994, Scatchard scored 128 goals in 659 regular season games as a member of the Canucks, Islanders, Bruins, Coyotes, Predators and Blues, playing most recently with St. Louis this past season, appearing in just eight games. He played in just 24 games since the end of the 2006-07 season.

Concussions and head injuries are a hot topic in professional sports right now, especially in the NHL where players like Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Boston's Marc Savard have had longer than expected recoveries from their injuries, while in years past players like Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros had their careers end prematurely as a result of concussions they had suffered.

While Scatchard wasn't quite the offensive force those players were, he was still a solid NHL player that still feels like he has something to offer a team and is no longer able to do that.

What the NHL can do to help prevent these injuries is an ongoing topic of debate with no easy solution that would please everybody or completely fix the problem. The game will always carry some amount of risk with injuries being a part of that. And while the league has recently banned blindside hits that target the head (like the one Savard received from Matt Cooke two years ago, starting his string of concussion problems) with Rule 48, there have been some calls -- met with plenty of resistence, of course -- for the league to ban all contact to the head. That doesn't seem to be close to happening, but as long as concussions continue to be a problem -- and as more is learned about them and the effects they have on long-term health -- the debate will continue to rage on.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 22, 2011 10:12 am
 

Daily Skate: Anybody like Alex Semin? Market talk

By Brian Stubits

EVERYBODY HATES SEMIN? With such vilified D.C. sports Stars like Albert Haynesworth and Gilbert Arenas no longer in town, it's time to wonder who, exactly, is Washington's most hated athlete? That's the question being presented by Capitals Outsider with the conclusion being that it might very well be recently maligned Caps forward Alex Semin. While he's still in the minor leagues, I have a feeling that Nationals prospect Bryce Harper might be on that list some day, unless Gregg Doyel can change minds.

MARKET VIABILITY: Since the Thrashers moved, the Islanders lost their vote on a new arena and the Coyotes have been on the block for seemingly a decade, the idea of relocation is constantly floating around the NHL. One go-to destination is always former NHL home Quebec City. But according to a Business Journal study (h/t to Puck Daddy) Quebec is way down the list of markets capable of hosting. Granted, this is a study that folks solely on the monetary aspects, that's why Honolulu and Atlanta are "more viable" destinations, but it's interesting to see nonetheless, even if it's not very practical.

U.S. LADIES LOSE: In the rubber match of their Women's Under-18 Series showdown, the American women lost a 3-1 first-period lead to the Canadians and dropped the final game by a score of 6-4. Women's hockey doesn't get much attention, but USA-Canada is good in any hockey match and provides for a very equal matchup in the women's side.

FANS SEEING RED: The Florida Panthers have had a massive renovation this offseason, much of publicly on the ice. But they have done a lot off the ice for to reach the fan base as well and among the ideas was to create a couple sections of super seats. The Panthers' home arena, the BankAtlantic Center, is a year-round facility that hosts numerous concerts and shows in addition to hockey. SO the idea seemed smart enough: sell some seats that are yours for whatever event is happening at the arena. The only problem? Long-time season-ticket holders sitting in those seats are going to be forced to pay a substantially higher price or forced to relocate, or even give up their tickets. Litter Box Cats has more.

JERSEY JUGGLE: Having a hard time keeping up with the different sweater changes this summer? Me too. Thankfully icethetics has the rundown of all the new sweaters and the tweaks we will see this season, such as this one.

Photo: Icethetics

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 19, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Debating which 80s dynasty returns first

80sDynasty

By: Adam Gretz and Brian Stubits

Even though they've struggled in recent years, the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders were the two most dominant teams in the NHL during the 1980s. Adam Gretz and Brian Stubits debate which one of these franchises with promising young talent returns to glory first.

Adam Gretz: The Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders were the two most dominant teams of the 1980s. How dominant? Between 1980 and 1990 they combined to win nine of the 11 Stanley Cups, with Edmonton winning five (and owning the last half of the decade) and the Islanders winning four (and owning the first half of the decade). Recently the two teams have fallen on some tougher times. Both teams are looking for new buildings, and postseason success has been few and far between, as have actual trips to the postseason. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993 with only four playoff appearances since then, while Edmonton, outside of its Stanley Cup Final trip in 2005-06, hasn't advanced past the first round since 1998.

I don't think, at this point, either one of these teams are a playoff team right now, but which one do you think returns to glory first? Or is closest?

Brian Stubits: I'm not convinced the Islanders aren't a playoff team this year. They will be in contention to the end is my guess at this point. I am really liking the nucleus they are putting together. As for Edmonton, I don't see a team that's ready to battle for the playoffs yet. In their rebuilding phases, I think the Isles are ahead of the Oilers, as you would expect considering they had a slight head start in the bad seasons department.

Gretz: I think the Islanders might be closer (or more likely) to simply earning a playoff spot this season because the Eastern Conference is probably a bit easier for them to potentially sneak in than the Western Conference is for Edmonton. But I still like Edmonton's group of forwards and think, at this point, they have a bit more upside, especially with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hall looks like he's on his way to being a player, and assuming Nugent-Hopkins becomes the player he's expected to become, that's quite a core. Add in players Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and, heck, even an older (relatively speaking, as he's still only 28) player like Ales Hemsky who is close to a point-per-game player when he's healthy (and that always seems to be the key for him) and that's an impressive group. You win with impact players, and Edmonton has quite a few impact players up front.

Stubits: We think they have impact players. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have a long way to go to get to that level. I agree, it looks like the Oilers are future impact players, but there are no guarantees of that, especially seeing as though Nugent-Hopkins hasn't skated in an NHL game yet. Don't forget the Islanders have been drafting high, including getting the No. 1 spot themselves in recent years. John Tavares is showing he too has a bright future ahead of him, leading the team in points last season with 67. The Isles had six players total more than any Oiler, who were led by Jordan Eberle at 43 points. But New York has a trio of 30-goal scorers now (well, 29-plus) in Tavares (29 last season), Michael Grabner (34 goals) and Matt Moulson (31). Plus, the organization feels like they drafted a winner in Ryan Strome earlier this summer. I know you remember his skills, Adam, considering this post you put up. There is impact on the island, too.

Gretz: Yes, potential impact, that's obviously what I meant. I mean, a lot of this is talking about upside and projection because both teams are dealing with potential and question marks. The one thing I will say is both teams seem to have some concerns on the back end with their defense and goaltending. The Islanders are locked into Rick DiPietro for what seems like forever, while the Oilers have Nikolai Khabibulin and a bunch of question marks behind him. Devan Dubynk was a first-round pick back in 2004, and had a solid sophomore campaign last season, but no matter which guy is between the pipes, the defense in front of them is going to struggle this year. It needs a serious upgrade.

Again, I don't expect the Oilers to be a playoff team this season (in fact, they'll probably be near the bottom of the conference again, which could lead to another potential impact player in the 2012 draft, which will only help the future -- and yes, eventually you want to stop picking at the top of the draft), but that's not really what I'm looking for here: I'm looking at which team becomes a true contender for the Stanley Cup, not just simply making the playoffs, and I just think their core group of forwards offers a bit more potential and upside and the ability to help turn a franchise around than the Islanders core.

Stubits: I think you might be underrating the Islanders' organizational depth. In July, puckprospectus.com proclaimed the Islanders the second best in talent in the system, highlighting Kiril Kabonov and Matt Donovan in addition to recent draft picks Strome and Scott Mayfield. I understand the concerns in net, but this is a team that has one luxury: it has three goaltenders on the payroll that there's a decent chance one of them can be good enough to play behind an improving and maturing defense.

The team's biggest obstacle right now isn't cultivating talent, it's being appealing to free agents. A team can usually build the core of it's franchise through the draft, but it's the final free-agent and trade pieces that put a team over the top. Until the Isles get their arena situation squared away, that won't happen. Nobody wants to make a commitment to an organization that they don't know its whereabouts in four years. The sooner they can resolve this issue, the better, because I believe they have a very nice foundation at this point to win. As already stated, I think the Islanders will be a borderline playoff team this year, and by following logic they grow from there. It's a very young roster. That's why I like them to get back to that elite level first, they should continue to grow together and I think there are some very talented prospects in there.

Gretz: Yes, the Islanders certainly have a strong group, and you may be right that I'm underrating what they have, but I guess at the end of the day, for me, it simply comes down to thinking the Oilers players (particularly Hall and Nugent-Hopkins as top overall picks) have a bit more upside, and we've seen with other teams how much of an impact two young players like that can make. Granted, they need the complementary players around them and an upgrade on defense, but I still really like what Edmonton is building up front and the potential they have. Maybe not this year, but soon.

Stubits: Not that I have any reason to whatsoever, but I feel like Garth Snow has built himself a solid enough core. It's shocking to type that. I guess we'll find out in a couple of years.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey, @agretz and @brianstubitsNHL on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com