Islanders Can Stop Rebuilding Now

Hornqvist setting a screen
Photo by Paul Nicholson

I understand the nature of teams is to go through ebbs and flows. Some periods are defined by success, while other periods, not so much.

Smart teams build from the failure, using the downtime to replenish, developing prospects and trading pieces of the present for pieces of the future.

The Islanders are in yet another period of failure and are yet again trying to rebuild by trading away the few bright spots they have.

And it’s just not cool.

This weekend, the Isles traded goalie Dwayne Roloson to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Ty Wishart.

Wishart reported to the Islanders’ AHL team.

Roloson and his steady play has been one of the Islanders’ few bright spots this season.

Islanders’ GM Garth Snow said he traded Roloson because his value was high and not because Snow has given up on the season.

But obviously, Snow has given up on the season.

Prior to trading away Roloson, Snow traded defenseman James Wisniewski to Montreal for draft picks.

This has been a pattern for the Islanders. They make some off-season moves, go into some kind of free fall, and then trade away whatever pieces were working for them, whether it’s Bill Guerin or Mike Comrie or Michael Peca or even Nate Thompson.

None of them is horribly impressive, but they’re all the solid kind of players that allow teams to form a core. They’re players who teams could have been built around. None was a game-changer, but what came back in return hasn’t turned things around for the Islanders yet, either.

The Islanders are actually on a hot streak right now. It’s probably too late to save their season, but by holding onto Roloson, they might have kept the streak going. And more importantly, if the streak had kept rolling, the younger Islanders might have actually have learned what it feels like to consistently win.

Rookie John Tavares, the first overall pick of the 2009 draft, is having a solid season, with 11 goals and 13 assists in his first 33 games. He’s been streaky, though, and a huge part of that is because he has no one to play with. The Islanders are understaffed and overly injured and the combination of the two factors could do long-term damage to Tavares’ development.

His takeaway from his first NHL seasons will be that winning is optional.

Snow needs to be realistic. He can’t act like this is a playoff team. But at the same time, he can’t just give up on the season before the All-Star break. He needs to build toward the future but he can’t just give up on his present. Not with all of the young players he has on his roster.

By trading away any kind of valuable part they can, the Islanders aren’t getting any better. They aren’t building toward anything. All they’re doing is treading water at the bottom of the standings. It’s not fair to their fans and it’s not fair to their players.

If Snow held onto valuable players rather than trading them away, the team might not find itself trying to build up from nothing, personnel-wise, each and every season.