John Tavares has 14 goals and 27 points in 24 games, while the Islanders sit three points out of a playoff spot. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Welcome to another THN mailbag. If you don’t know how this works by now, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe see if a commenter at the bottom of this article will explain. Let’s get right to business (and thanks as always to all who submit questions):
Adam, with the Islanders’ improved play, do you think they have a chance at the playoffs?
Lyle Gillen, Long Island, N.Y.
A chance? Sure. A great chance? Not so sure. And that’s not a negative comment that dismisses the good work GM Garth Snow has done. It’s an acknowledgement of the incredible collection of talent in the Isles’ division and the work the franchise still has to do to be considered in the same class as the Penguins, Rangers, Devils and Flyers.
Of course, the continued growth in the game of star center John Tavares is reason enough to think the Islanders could surprise a few people this season. But the drop-off in offensive production after Tavares and linemate Matt Moulson is significant and representative of the depth issues the franchise still faces.
As well – and as usual – the Isles have some difficult contract decisions to make in the coming weeks: veteran blueliners Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer and would attract attention on the trade market. If you’re Snow, do you keep both beyond the April 3 trade deadline – and possibly lose them for nothing in the off-season – or do you deal one or both and potentially derail any playoff hopes?
That’s the decision Snow and owner Charles Wang face. They don’t have a blemish-free record in the decisions department, but a few more pieces (especially veteran pieces) added to the roster in the next few seasons could lead to the breakthrough Islanders fans have ached for. It might come this season, but I’d be skeptical until the proof appears on the ice. And I don’t think the Isles are quite there yet.
Adam, I was upset to see the NHLPA approving proposed re-alignment for next season. I just wanted to know your opinion on the proposed new setup. Thanks.
Domenic Scuderi, Windsor, Ont.
Not sure why you’re upset, but I’m fine with the realignment the PA voted in favor of this week. Is it a perfect setup? No, but in a 30-team league that sticks with a four-division format, there’s not going to be a solution that is ideal for all teams. For instance, ask Winnipeg what they think of being in the Southeast Division this year. They’re not pleased, but they have to live with it.
If there is expansion in the next decade, the NHL could realign in a manner that gives every team an equal shot at the post-season – something that isn’t true of the system that will take effect next season – but until then, there are people who feel they got short-changed. Speaking of expansion…
Hi Adam. Now that the NHLPA has agreed to the new realignment plan, does this close the door on Quebec City or a second team in southern Ontario? By having 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West, it seems like any relocation/expansion teams would need to be moved west in order to balance the conferences (Seattle?) or else teams like Detroit or Columbus would just end up being moved back to the West when a team moves into Quebec City or Toronto. Or does the window close in three years with the NHLPA's agreement to review the realignment then?
Dennis Cookson, Regina, Sask.
No, I don’t think realignment will have any effect on league expansion. If there comes a point Quebec City and/or Toronto’s second team becomes a reality, the owners of those teams would know well beforehand what they’re getting into. The NHL isn’t going to surprise them with the future they’re going to face. The current 30 owners will want the hundreds of millions in expansion fees and the two new owners will want the hundreds of millions in revenue they’d receive just from admittance into the league.
Hey Adam, why don’t veteran NHL players with expiring contracts such as Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson request trades to playoff contending teams and re-sign with their former teams in the off-season?
Cameron Lorentz, Fort McMurray, Alta.
The short answer is that hockey breeds intense feelings of loyalty in its elite players – and even when they near the end of their careers, many want to underscore their connection to a franchise and city where they enjoyed success. That certainly was true of Mats Sundin in Toronto, to the detriment of the Leafs’ future.
Like Sundin, both Iginla and Alfredsson are icons in their respective communities and would think long and hard about uprooting their families and their place in the history of their teams, even just for a few weeks of a playoff run.
As well, as soon as a team implies, subtly or overtly, that they’d like to part ways with a franchise cornerstone, it’s not always easy to keep the bridge between player and team from burning. It does happen on occasion (see Tkachuk, Keith), but by and large, it’s an incredibly tough sell for very proud athletes.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.