Long Island Bean Counting: Metro Hockey Update
The Islanders have played well so far into this young season. The team has not had much trouble adjusting to Coach Steve Sterling’s modified trap system, which encourages more forechecking that the average 1-2-2 formation so prevalent with trapping teams today. The result has been a decent 8-6-2-0 record, which is good for sixth place in the tough Eastern Conference. However, General Manager Mike Milbury has indicated that the team does want to reduce payroll. So far, the only player let go was checking center Jason Wiemer, who was claimed off the waiver wire by the Minnesota Wild – interestingly enough, the same team Co-Owner Charles Wang wanted to model his Islanders after.
Under past ownership regimes, the phrase "cutting payroll" has been the kiss of death for the Islanders, who have dumped many talented players in the interest of "reduced operating costs."
Such practices kept the team at the bottom of the standings for nearly a decade and made the once-glorious franchise a doormat for the rest of the league – an easy two points in the standings. In recent years, and in spite of Milbury’s often bizarre trading practices, the team has managed to climb its way into respectability. However, true contention eludes the team, which may force Wang and Milbury to make some tough decisions regarding players. Who stays? Who goes? Here’s a look at three players to pay close attention to:
Mark Parrish: A big reason for the team’s resurgence two seasons ago, Parrish’s numbers have steadily declined. However, he can still score with the right linemates, and his quick, accurate wrist shot is especially useful on the power play. Aside from the top line of Alexei Yashin, Mariuz Czerkawski, and Oleg Kvasha, the Isles have few weapons on the second and third line (especially with center Dave Scatchard out with injuries). Parrish, Trent Hunter and Jason Blake are what comprise the scoring depth of the Islanders. Milbury would be ill-advised to trade any of the three.
IS HE GONE BY THE DEADLINE?: No.
Kenny Jonsson: A tireless defenseman, Jonsson has endured some lean years on the Island with nary a complaint. He, along with Roman Hamrlik, Janne Niinimaa, and Adrian Aucoin, give the Islanders one of the best blueline corps in the league. That’s four top rearguards on one team, and although all four are certainly useful, one of them may prove redundant for a team looking to cut payroll and address a lack of depth at forward (besides, they’re simply not enough minutes in game to give each of them the 20 minutes a game that they need to really be effective). Jonsson’s history of injuries makes him expendable.
IS HE GONE BY THE DEADLINE?: Yes.
Mike Peca: Now this would be a real surprise. Although a fine checking forward, Peca has reportedly triggered the wrath of management for his comments regarding the firing of former coach Peter Laviolette, with whom Peca supposedly had an icy rapport. Questions also arose last year regarding his ability to lead. However, Peca is popular among his teammates, and is one of the few Islanders who can play in any situation – even strength, the penalty kill, the power play, etc. Trading him merely because of his salary ($5 million) and a few rumored comments seems crazy even for Milbury. Still, if anything, "Mad Man" Milbury has taught us all to expect the improbable, especially at the trading table.
IS HE GONE BY THE DEADLINE?: Maybe.