The Islanders are playing some very solid hockey these days, a fact many attribute to head coach Jack Capuano and his simplified game style registering with this young team. In his blog the other day, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek stated he believes Capuano has done enough to merit the coaching gig on a permanent basis.
If that’s the case, then the Islanders are starting to take shape for the 2011-12 season ... and their current winning ways might be setting them back.
First, let's agree that the only thing that's holding the Islanders back from the Eastern Conference playoffs right now is talent. Recently, and for whatever reason, the Isles have only been able to acquire truly elite talent through the draft. The last truly established point producer they were able to bring in through free agency was probably Mark Streit. Whether it's antiquated facilities, the preference of players to join recent playoff teams or the unwillingness of ownership to spend money, the Islanders simply aren't getting talent rich by inking free agents. That makes the draft doubly important.
This season’s NHL draft is believed to be about four-deep with future all-stars -- centers Sean Couturier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, defenseman Adam Larsson and winger Gabriel Landeskog. All four project to be future greats according to scouts and rate as the top four prospects according to ESPN’s rankings of the Top 50 prospects of 2011, published Tuesday.
Only trouble for the Islanders there is that, with Colorado and Florida in a free fall, the upswinging Isles may end up picking fifth. So it’s time for that classic question: Do you hope to lose to get a better draft pick? Or do you go Herm Edwards and play to win the game? Feel free to comment below.