When I saw the Isles won the draft lottery, my first thought was that the NHL should step in and not let them trade it, as the Islanders are a little bit like Jack from JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. If any other GM offers them some beans for the pick, the Islanders are all in.
If the Islanders grab John Tavares, though, I think the Islanders will have the potential to become the Blackhawks of the east. Not that all of the pieces are in place by any stretch, but solid goaltending and a more experienced blue-line would do wonders in terms of moving the Islanders toward that goal. And while it’s not a given Tavares will effortlessly transition into the NHL game, Islanders coach Scott Gordon is the perfect guy to shepherd the move.
Very few people thought Kyle Okposo was remotely ready for the NHL game right out of college, but Okposo really blossomed under Gordon (although to be fair, previous Isles coach Ted Nolan did a lot in terms of moving Okposo’s development along). Tavares shouldn’t be any different.
Meanwhile, moving over to the land of the living, the Blackhawks are hip to Calgary’s game plan. The Hawks are expecting a bruising series. The Hawks are also planning on riding goalie Nikolai Khabibulin into the playoffs. Khabibulin presents an interesting scenario, as he could take his team deep into the playoffs and then walk away a free-agent. Khabibulin’s goaltending partner, Cristobal Huet, is probably just ready for this season to end so he can have the job to himself. Khabibulin has been like the Huet house guest who won’t leave. The house guest who won’t leave and who does Huet’s job a lot better.
The Flyers Marty Biron is in a similar situation to Khabibulin’s, although you have to think the Flyers will re-sign him if he as a strong, consistent playoff run.
The Penguins are also gearing up to get physical against the Flyers, although I suspect that will be the second option. I’m assuming the Penguins first option will be speed up the middle, putting pressure on Philadelphia’s once-again-hobbled defense.