[Note: Many fans have taken the opportunity on the Comments section of the NYI Point Blank blog (http://nyipointblank.blogspot.com/) to seek answers to burning questions around the Islanders. By far, the hottest topics of late are Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini, the farm system, Chris Simon and the trade deadline. We emailed these questions to Islanders general manager Garth Snow so fans could get his direct take].How is Kyle Okposo doing in Bridgeport? Can you share your plans for him for the rest of this season?
Kyle’s been outstanding. The coaches are raving not just about his play, but his attitude. That doesn’t surprise me because that’s what our scouts saw in him – a player that perfectly fits what we’re trying to do here. As for our plans for him, it really is a day at a time. It’s important we bring him to the NHL when he’s ready for us and we’re ready for him. I’m fairly certain he’ll see some action with the Islanders this season, but there is no point in making any guarantees. We’re going to do what’s best for Kyle Okposo
in the long run.I know you’re well aware how interested our fans are in the development and status of Jeff Tambellini.
Absolutely, and I totally understand why. Jeff is tearing it up in the American Hockey League. He’s one of the best prospects in the AHL. Jeff has had a taste of the NHL with mixed results and fans want to know when he’ll be here to stay. The only thing I can say is that he’ll be here when the time is right. I also want to add that Jeff Tambellini is one of the classiest kids you’d ever want to meet. His positive attitude never changes. Everyone knows about how he welcomed Kyle Okposo
into his home when he first arrived in Bridgeport. I can understand the Islanders fans rooting for Jeff because I do, too.Besides Tambellini and Okposo, who else has been impressive in Bridgeport?
You can’t talk about Jeff and Kyle without talking about their center, Frans Nielsen
. Frans is an equal part of that equation. Islanders fans saw a bit of him last season and he’s only getting better. He’s a very crafty player and a bonafide prospect, as is Ben Walter. We have several good young defensemen with the Sound Tigers with our recent second round pick, Dustin Kohn, showing a lot of upside.Besides the prospects in Bridgeport, you also have several excellent young players in junior hockey, Europe and elsewhere that you have to start making decisions on.
It’s a good problem to have. The scouts did a terrific job with the 2006 draft. Robin Figren (3rd round) had an outstanding showing at the World Junior Championships and has really stepped it up with Edmonton of the Western League. Tomas Marcinko
(4th round) is another player in Canadian junior we’re looking at. In Europe, there’s the goalie Stefan Ridderwall (6th round) who made Team Sweden at the WJC and Jesse Joensuu
(2nd round), a 6-4 forward from Finland who deserves a long look. Rhett Rakhshani
(4th round) made Team USA at the WJC. Even still, I’m not mentioning everyone. Our 2007 draft was also very strong. Our scouts and player development people are out in the field every day, analyzing, making their recommendations. Is the return of Chris Simon to practice imminent?
You can pretty much count on it. Since the incident in the game against Pittsburgh, Chris has done everything we have asked of him. We made a commitment to Chris that if he worked with us, he would have a place on our team. He made a mistake that he acknowledges, but he deserves our loyalty. Chris Simon is one of the best teammates you could ever have and a valuable player when he’s in our lineup. We look forward to his return.Now that it’s a month away, any idea what we can expect from the Islanders at the trade deadline?
The only guarantee is that we will make a deal if it makes our team better. If a proposed deal does not help us reach our goal of winning the Stanley Cup, I’m not interested. You see a lot of talk heading into the trade deadline about which teams are buyers and which teams are sellers. I don’t buy into that discussion, and not just because practically every team in the NHL is in the playoff hunt. A trade that is viewed by others as a ‘sell’ might not necessarily be that at all.
My last season as a player, we made a trade before the deadline when we moved (Mark) Parrish and Brent Sopel to Los Angeles for Jeff Tambellini, (Denis) Grebeshkov – who became Marc-Andre Bergeron and a good draft pick – and we also got a third round pick from LA. Besides being a good trade for us for the future, especially because Parrish was leaving as a free agent, we went on a winning streak immediately. We called up some young players, they added some enthusiasm, and I feel we would have made the playoffs if we didn’t get hit with some major injuries.
The bottom line is, we’ll make the right moves if they are there to be made. And if the decision is to stand pat, sometimes that’s the best move. Too early to tell right now.