June 24th 2000 Is a Day for Islander Fans to look back on.

By Bill Bennett

The Deal:
Mark Parrish-Oleg Kvasha for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen. Which also had the domino effect of the Islanders drafting a goalie first overall, something that is not conventional and was never done since the current draft format was put into place.

Rick DiPietro and Mark Parrish:
There is no doubting the skills and talents of Rick DiPietro or Mark Parrish. Both are progressing well and at some point the Islanders will have DiPietro here as a starter or backup. Osgood’s inconsistent play mandates the Isles find out if DiPietro can be a consistent top goalie and they stick to the plan.

As good as Mark Parrish is and as much a stand up player he is, he cannot match the skills and talents of Marian Gaborik or Dany Heatley as their rookie years with weak teams produced more points than Parrish’s year with an experienced team that had 96 points that could not find a right wing for Alexei Yashin.

Was DiPietro’s promise that great that it was worth cashing in Luongo, a goalie who was well-known and projected to be a franchise goalie based all thru his career in Juniors ?

DiPietro’s incredible year at Boston University was only one season.

This placed the Isles into a long-term waiting game with DiPietro (after unreasonable expectations he could play in the NHL at eighteen) and put the Islanders in a position where they had make moves to acquire John Vanbiesbrouck and Chris Osgood which made the team spend more salary than they would have on Luongo. It also led to DiPietro getting an NHL contract with bonus money that is a factor in his status until the end of this season when the deal expires.

Worst of all was Kvasha, a player long coveted by Mike Milbury worth all this potential considering he was a third rd pick in 1996 by Florida and 65th overall ?

Let’s not forget how Olli Jokinen came here and where he was taken in his draft class and who had the most potential because Olli Jokinen was the third overall pick in the 1997 entry draft. It’s more a shock he has underachieved in three organizations than it is that Kvasha has to this point, even though Oleg is still a year younger.

BTW, the Isles used a third rounder to make Eric Godard Islander property last summer.

So what would have happened without the deals ?

If Gaborik was drafted here and played the Isles may have had a center to play next to Czerkawaki because Tim Connolly, Stapleton and the minor league players (Jeff Tom’s, Jesse Belanger, Petrovicky) were not the answer or not ready.

Luongo would likely have played as he did for Florida and the Isles would have done about the same or a little better because Beezer kept the Isles in games and played at a high level with little help.

Parrish would have left a hole that did produce seventeen goals. If Dany Heatley were drafted and stayed at Wisconsin it would not have changed much because the Isles did finish 30th. Jokinen and Kvasha would likely have been a wash, even though Jokinen had a solid second half for the Isles in his only year but did not finish well.

Here’s where things get interesting because the Islanders do not need to spend the money on Chris Osgood and may have been available for another player. Luongo would have been the starter around a very solid defense and that makes all the difference.

That said Osgood’s and Parrish’s first month got this team in the playoffs and it would have been tough for Luongo to match that month.

Heatley or Gaborik would be here and it’s very hard to say what this would have done to the
Yashin-Peca deals or the players involved, but in the end the points both players had were greater than Parrish’s best year to date. Last year for the most part would have been another wash between Jokinen and Kvasha, but let’s not forget Oleg was placed on Alexei Yashin’s line and had a quiet season until the final month. Mike Keenan came in and would not give up on the inconsistent Jokinen in a situtation where Keenan could be patient.

Here we are in December 2002. On a night where the Islanders traveled to Florida to play both players in the deal it was clear that despite Roberto Luongo’s poor numbers on a young team he is a franchise goalie who’s numbers will improve with the team and had put up impressive save pct numbers regardless since the trade. Olli Jokinen is not only better than Kvasha (a healthy scratch in Florida and several times this season) but is producing double the goals Alexei Yashin has scored. Bure has not played much for Florida.

To make things worse Branislav Mezei, a player the Isles felt would need a few more years and could only be a fifth or sixth defender in the NHL returned to the Panthers lineup. Mezei was the only remaining defensive prospect drafted in the top fifty in the Islanders system.

A system that at the moment has no players under twenty five playing defense for the Tigers and sent Evegeny Korolev (24) sent back to Russia. Korolev, you may recall was not on last year’s clear day roster for Bridgeport
(Jim Cummins was) and was hardly used by Peter
Laviolette in the playoffs.

Speaking of Laviolette:
Hate second guessing coaches on game decisions but the Panthers game falls directly on Peter Laviolette.

Having Eric Godard with his three games of NHL experience on the ice with a one goal lead and four minutes remaining was a bad move regardless of how it worked. It was not fair to Godard (who did well in the enforcer role) to play in that situation because that is not his game. The Isles have plenty of forwards with long experience that have closed out games almost to perfection over the last year under Laviolette’s tenure and there was no reason to change something that was working.

Godard’s turnover in the Isles zone directly led to the tying goal and kept them from moving closer to 500. The duo-penalties by Godard and Steve Webb (in center ice and the offensive zone) that put the team two-men shorthanded in the second period cannot happen to any team, much less one that leads the NHL in minor penalties that talks about discipline often and does not demonstrate it on the ice.

Recall/Prospect Fallout:

The Islanders recalled journeyman Sven Butenschon, signed by Florida as a free agent this summer who was traded to the Islanders for Juraj Kolnik, who has become San Antonio’s leading goal scorer for the Panthers AHL affiliate. Kolnik scored two against Rick DiPietro Saturday night in the Rampage’s win.

Isles need all the prospect scoring they can get and as well as Butenschon has played, that is a steep price considering the expectations the Isles had for years on Kolnik and how little they have behind Trent Hunter on right wing for scoring. Or to include in a trade.

Some of the falloff to that deal is that Bridgeport added several players from other organizations in Mike Souza, Daniel Tkaczuk and Jeremy Adduono. This has forced some movement of Islander prospects: Marco Charpentier (concussion) back to Trenton, Graham Belak being moved to Cincinnati’s ECHL affiliate and for one of the rare times Steve Stirling has had a forward surplus. Bridgeport signed journeyman Mike Gaffney (26) to replace Butenschon on a tryout contract on the teams Texas Trip.

So what’s the plan and what’s ahead ?

There is no taking back the deals. The Isles can either show Kvasha the patience Mike Keenan has showed with Jokinen or it’s time to for Milbury to take Kvasha’s low contract and see what can be traded for him in a market where teams want low contracts and potential that needs a fresh start. A conditioning stint will not do much with the Tigers only playing five games thru the remainder of the month.

Sitting solves nothing and Mattias Weinhandl has earned a spot in the Isles lineup for now when he returns. Isles have to get in the playoff race and cannot worry about anyone’s time who is not contributing.

Mark Parrish is a solid player who plays hard, will get his goals and pays the price in front of the opposing goal and is an emerging team leader and the Isles have a big-time character guy. Maybe he can someday find forty goals.

For DiPietro the Isles have to find out if he can be a top-ten goalie here and match the long-term potential of Luongo, regardless of Chris Osgood’s contract or how he plays. Something from the 2000 deal has to work out big and that is the most promising potential remaining from a day Islander fans are drawn back to again and again and will be for a long time.