Connolly and Spezza on Long Island: Perfect Together

By Bill Bennett
In the last few weeks Islander fans in cyberspace have been treated to every possible rumor regarding who they will draft, or who they will trade the pick for.

Even the chance at moving up to draft first has been in the headlines. Mike Milbury has openly talked about what the pick could bring and has even hinted that next year’s pick could be traded as well in an interview on Wfan.

What Mike Milbury, the Islanders Owners, and the Scouting Staff should do is take a step back in the remaining time before June 23rd and look at all the players on other teams that have been drafted by this organization and understand it’s time to keep the core group of players here that began with the 1999 draft and let them finish what they started even if it means some Unrestricted Free Agents decide not to come here. NHL General Managers always talk about using the Devils as models as to how to put together a winning franchise long term, the Islanders now can do just that.

Some credit to the New Islanders owners has to be given because very quietly among the criticism for keeping Mike Milbury they have signed many of their drafted prospects in: Rick DiPietro, Juraj Kolnik, Taylor Pyatt, Raffi Torres, Branislav Mezei and now Justin Mapletoft to go with their brand new AHL franchise in Bridgeport.

I can only speak for myself in this article, but from what I have read from many fans what they want is for the franchise to stick to a plan, keep the kids and close down the Mad Mike Show on draft day. It’s old, tired, and it’s not working. It’s time for a new Mike Milbury, one who is going to stick to the plan he started even if it means his job.

Of course, the return of Mad Mike would be nice on July 1st, when he can go mad spending money at players for Connolly to set up next season.


The Special One:

With that said there is one star player in this draft for Islander fans and it’s Jason Spezza. Mike Milbury has the record for taking high goalies and does not need the record for taking the first Russian. What they need is this phenomenal prospect who has been talked about for over two years, who saw his stock drop because of a bad month at the end. Spezza would be a great marketing fit for the young Islanders and would have players a few years older to help him grow into an NHL star as an Islander. If it takes longer for him to make it to Long Island, who cares ? You do not pass on a prospect like this because they do not come along often.


A few reminders for Mike Milbury if he does trade:

The Islanders are not the team dumping salary, the teams that need to make a trade and get rid of the player are the ones that have to compromise. Time to offer back those ninth rd picks.


And a few words on the rumors of players coming here in trade for the pick:

Mike Peca is an outstanding player and has great leadership and would be a plus for the Islanders. Only problem is he only scored twenty goals his last NHL season, the Islanders need scoring and have someone with the same qualities in Dave Scatchard, who also had twenty goals. Willing to give up Tim Connolly or the pick for him ?

Alexi Yashin is one of the games outstanding talents and would be a great prize for the Islanders to land to improve the team next season. For many years until he holds out, or decides he wants to play in Manhattan when he reaches unrestricted status, the Isles would get lots of press with Yashin in an Islander uniform and most of it would be negative unless the team turned things around next season. If the team did not win, the daily rumors of trading would never end. Willing to give up Tim Connolly or the pick and even more to get him ? BTW, last summer Charles Wang did not want someone who holds out coming here.

Jagr is considered by many to be one of the two best players in the sport. The potential to land someone like this and put the league spotlight on Long Island daily would be great for the fans, the franchise and may even be worth the gamble for the short term which is two years. After that he is gone via unrestricted free agency and all the players you traded for him are reaching their prime and playing in a rival city in Pittsburgh to say nothing if he signs with the Rangers, Devils or Flyers. Willing to give up all your best prospects for that ?

The best trade for the Islanders is the one they do not make with their young prospects.


And a quick word on Rick DiPietro:

Anyone who is watching the finals knows what value a goalie who can move the puck as well as Martin Brodeur can do for a team. It is like having another defenseman on the ice. DiPietro has this ability and showed it a few times last year and really took some teams off their game when it was working. (StLouis)

It’s going to take years to know how this pick worked out, but without a doubt the kid has talent and got plenty of experience with the Wolves in Chicago, the WJC, the Islanders, and even in the World Championships. Wild ride for a ninteen year old.


Notables from the papers:

Steve Sterling is the rumored candidate to become the Sound Tigers Head Coach.
Vladimir Orszagh signed with Nashville.
Many of the teams young players will be training in Islip for a month.
New Coach Peter Laviolette had a very classy letter to the fans.
If Lorne Henning stays he will get half what he was making , unless Laviolette decides to have him on his coaching staff.
Laviolette would prefer to see DiPietro in the minors, Milbury wants him to stay unless he has a terrible camp.
The Islanders were the other team in the Kyle Wanvig sweepstakes last Friday.


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