The 2003 NHL Entry Draft will always be remembered among Islanders fans as the draft the team passed up Zach Parise for Robert Nilsson. The first round of that draft might go down as one of the best ever. Corey Perry was drafted at 28, Mike Richards at 24. Anaheim, then Mightier, probably scored the best value picks with Ryan Getzlaf at 19 and then getting Perry nine selections better. Only one player has not played in the NHL from the first round of that draft -- Hugh Jessiman who was picked by the New York Rangers at 12.
To say the Islanders missed because they didn’t grab Parise isn’t wrong, but it’s not 100 percent correct either. The team missed back then because Steve Bernier was drafted right after Nilsson (and right before Parise), because of Getzlaf, Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Richards, Perry and Patrick Eaves (29th) all went after Nilsson. It was hard to miss in that round and unless Nilsson (a fine person off the ice) finds his desire to play in the NHL for an entire season, the Islanders did unfortunately missed out -- but not just because of Zach Parise.
Islanders fans gravitate toward Parise because his father J.P. once played for the team. It would have been a nice story to go along with a solid selection, but that cannot factor in to a team’s decision on a draft pick. It can’t even be a tie-breaker. Every team needs to draft the player they feel is the best available. Unfortunately, the team made a mistake. It’s not the first time that’s happened to a team – Hello Ryan Leaf and San Diego Chargers.
The Islanders are currently in a rebuilding phase. Everyone is in agreement that it was necessary for the franchise to resurrect itself. The fan support was tremendous this season, a year where the team finished dead last in the league. To say the fan base was onboard with the rebuild would be an understatement.
But when a team rebuilds, it must move on from previous mistakes. The San Diego Chargers aren’t dwelling on Fred Taylor or Randy Moss anymore – Just two guys they passed up when they selected Leafs and both have had NFL Hall of Fame careers. The Chargers rebuilt, got their new quarterback, fixed their mistake and have been a successful franchise.
While it hurts to see Zach Parise succeed only because he could have been Islanders and isn’t, it’s time for everyone – myself included – to move on.
You can’t move forward with the rebuild until the past has been let go of.