The Islanders said their good-byes to each other in what was breakup day yesterday.
They are heading to the offseason with something to be proud of. They finally advanced past the first round for the first time since 1993. This is another step in their playoff development.
Advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals was the easy part. Now, the Islanders are getting to the hard part, which is being a Stanley Cup contender. That means beating elite teams in the playoffs.
Face it. As good and resilient as the Islanders were in this year’s playoffs, they lucked out not playing the Penguins in the first round by tanking last two games to face an easier opponent in the Panthers. They knew they did not match up well with the Penguins, who will face the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals.
What went wrong for the Islanders in the Eastern Conference semifinals is they were a one-man team. They relied so much on John Tavares. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck didn’t do much.
This Islanders team wasn’t good enough to beat the Lightning. The Islanders played good, but the Lightning played better. The Lightning had all four lines working in generating offense.
The Islanders have role players that grind, but they don’t have guys that score. It was evident in their awful power play in the playoffs. They don’t have enough depth to keep up with the Lightning, Penguins, Blackhawks or any other elite NHL team.
This is going to be a problem unless the Islanders improve their roster. They need to get scorers that can complement Tavares. They need to get a playmaker to fill the second line.
That’s why getting better is the hard part. Islanders general manager Garth Snow is getting paid the big bucks to figure it out. It’s on him to make this team even better.
He has so much to do this offseason. He has to get a playmaker. He has to make tough decisions such as retaining Okposo, Nielsen, Martin and several other free agents.
Okposo and Nielsen can go. They don’t know how to finish as scorers. They haven’t been the stars the Islanders anticipated. They are nice role players, but if they are going to be overpaid, they should go somewhere else where they can be overpaid.
Martin is the only one worth keeping. He is their best defensive player. The opinion here is the Islanders will allocate all their money in resigning him. Their chances of keeping him is good. He does not want to leave.
They need to get one or two playmakers. They need a playmaker to complement Tavares.
Maybe they can trade Thomas Greiss for a scorer. Remember he has a one-year deal remaining before he is a free agent, and it would behoove the Islanders to trust him when Jaroslav Halak is a proven goaltender that has had success in the postseason.
Maybe they call up Josh Ho-Sang and see if he is mature enough to play in the NHL.
The Islanders need to do something. They have to improve this roster. There’s no way they can be content heading to next season. Snow knows this more than anyone.
There will be scrutiny on Snow heading to the offseason. There are going to be questions if he is good enough to make the Islanders a Stanley Cup contender.
Expectations will change. It’s not about making the playoffs. It’s about getting to the Stanley Cup Final moving forward.
Standards have to be much higher than just advancing past the first round for the Islanders.
It’s time for this franchise to behave like a major league franchise. The Islanders can’t be happy to make the playoffs only. Not when they have a star in Tavares. They can’t waste his talent.
This team will be under new ownership starting this offseason. Charles Wang won’t own the team anymore as Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky will start running the show as new Islanders owners.
The new owners need to spend money. That means getting better talent in the free agent market. Getting guys who know how to win in the playoffs.
The Islanders must have a good game plan in attacking the offseason.
What they do this offseason will determine how good the Islanders can be in the postseason.