Islanders back to rebuilding mode after disappointing season

Thomas Vanek
The Thomas Vanek trade proved disastrous for Garth Snow and the Islanders.
Credit: Getty Images

As he sat in front of a media throng at Barclays Center on Sept. 12, 2013, Islanders owner Charles Wang was unequivocal: the Islanders were a year behind schedule.

If that is the case, then the question becomes how he and organizational decision-makers view what transpired in 2013-14.

One season after qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006-07, the Islanders finished 2013-14 with a 34-37-11 record and a spot in the draft lottery.

“We certainly didn’t find way to win games,” Travis Hamonic told Metro New York after the Islanders’ 3-2 shootout win over the Devils on April 11. “It sucks.”

To a man, the Islanders recognized the 2013-14 season may force the organization to make changes, even though general manager Garth Snow told Newsday Monday head coach Jack Capuano will return in that capacity next year. The Islanders finished this season with a minus-42 goal differential (267-225) as they allowed 3.18 goals per game while scoring 2.63 goals per game.

“It’s an audition for everybody. It’s a business where we can be moved,” Matt Martin told Metro New York on April 11.

Only six Islanders finished in double figures in goal scoring, led by Kyle Okposo’s 27. Frans Nielsen and John Tavares were second and third with 25 and 24 goals, respectively. Tavares, it should be noted, only played in 59 games after tearing the MCL and meniscus in his left knee during the Olympics but he is expected to be fully recovered by the time training camp begins in September.

As the franchise enters their final offseason on Long Island — the Islanders will move into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center before the 2015-16 season — the objective will be how to correct missteps made by Snow.

Snow essentially stood pat last offseason, then traded Matt Moulson, a conditional first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek in October. At the time of the trade, the Islanders were averaging 3.09 goals scored per game and 3.09 goals allowed per game.

While Vanek meshed well with Tavares and Okposo — he recorded 44 points in 47 games — he turned down an extension with the Islanders, forcing Snow to trade him to Montreal on trade deadline day for a second-round pick and forward prospect Sebastian Collberg.

Acquiring Vanek was ambitious but ultimately disastrous as the returns for Vanek, Moulson, a first-round pick, a second-round and a fifth-round pick were a second-round pick and Collberg, who has 18 points in 121 games with the Swedish Hockey League.

It is believed the Islanders have the option of sending this June’s or their 2015 first-round pick to Buffalo as part of the Vanek trade. While the 2015 NHL Draft is highly regarded, the possibility exists that Snow could surrender next year’s first pick and use this June’s selection on a player or in a trade to fill a need. Among potential trade targets are Toronto goaltender James Reimer, who told reporters in Toronto Monday he “had no idea” if he would return to the Leafs.

The 26-year-old Reimer compiled a 12-16-1 record with a shutout, a .911 save percentage and 3.29 goals against in 36 games this season. For his career, Reimer has a 65-48-15 mark, 11 shutouts, .914 save percentage and 2.85 goals against.

Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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