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The New York Islanders Have a Solid Core-Are They Poised for a Breakout Year?

Over the last few days, the national and local media have been focusing solely on the initial plan to borrow $400 million for a brand new New York Islanders arena.  I am going to focus on something else-the future of the hockey team.  “Remember, this is not an ending, this is a beginning,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said after the referendum was voted down.

Owner Charles Wang and GM Garth Snow may be disappointed, but they have reason for optimism.  The fans also have reason to look at the glass half full.  For the sake and sanity of Isles fans, hopefully the team will have a solid year and allow the fans to focus solely on hockey.

The Islanders are coming off a 30 win, 73 point season where they suffered devastating injuries to some of their core players.  They recently re-signed their most important restricted free agents-Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau.  Coming off a season in which Comeau set career highs in goals (24), assists (22) and points (46), it is only expected that he increases those numbers this season.  Michael Grabner is on the verge of becoming a star.  Grabner, fresh off a rookie season when he scored 34 goals, is poised to become a 40 goal scorer.  Matt Moulson, coming off a 2010-2011 season when he played all 82 games, will be even more improved after notching 53 points.  After suffering a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff last season, stalwart defensemen Mark Streit will be 100% healthy.  And, who knows, will Evgeni Nabokov re-emerge as a star?

The Isles also recently acquired Brian Rolston, who should provide some veteran stability in the lineup.  After adding Rolston’s $5 million salary, the Islanders remain $1.3 million short of the salary cap floor, so they should be able to add another valuable addition.

Don’t get me wrong, the Islanders are in a tough Atlantic Division.  The New York Rangers made quite a splash this offseason and should be much improved.  The Penguins will get Sid the Kid and Malkin back from injury.  The Devils hired Peter DeBoer to replace Jacques Lemaire in Newark.  And, of course, the Flyers will come back strong after a 106 point regular season and a flurry of offseason transactions.  The Islanders might not win the division, but they will be improved, very competitive and will hopefully make the playoffs. 

The Islanders have a chance to start out the season on a positive note with four home games against the Panthers, Wild, Lightning, and Rangers.

Islander fans have a lot to be optimistic about, but can they remain solely focused on hockey during the season when their mind may be elsewhere?  As owner Charles Wang stated in his letter to fans after the August 1st referendum was voted down, “I am not giving up on Long Island and I hope you won’t either.”

William Morrison

Filed in: NHL Teams, New York Islanders, William Morrison, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

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I don’t like the moves the Flyers made.  I think they’ll take a step back this year and the Rangers never fail to disappoint, regardless of who they sign.  If the Islanders stay healthy, they’ll make the playoffs.  With a young team, depth is usually an issue.

Posted by RogerNYLA on 08/10/11 at 01:24 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

I like some of the Isles moves recently, but I still think they are 2+ years away from the playoffs.  They have an envious group of talented young forwards, but their blue line is fairly weak. Combine that with the questionable goaltending and I don’t see playoffs for them this year.  I think we’re likely to see Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, NYR, with NJD, Philly, and Carolina battling for the last few seeds.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 08/10/11 at 02:21 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

Sorry, forgot to add Tampa Bay in there too.  They should be considered a playoff lock if Roli stays healthy.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 08/10/11 at 02:24 PM ET

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While the goaltending may be questionable at this point, if Nabokov stays focused he could provide stability at the position and turn the position into a strength for the team.

Posted by William Morrison on 08/10/11 at 02:26 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

True, but just as easily he could become a deadline deal to a team in a better position to succeed.  I just don’t think they have what it takes on the back end to get their this year, though they’re on the right track.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 08/10/11 at 02:40 PM ET

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I absolutely agree that they will have some trouble on the blue line-at least at the beginning of the year, as that is a huge question mark for the team.  However, I think Hamonic will have a really good season and the Isles D-Men have a chance to surprise some people.

Posted by William Morrison on 08/10/11 at 02:54 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

This is going to be a scary-good team in a couple of years, no matter how hard Wang and Snow tried to mess it up.

Tavares, Grabner, Okposo, Comeau, Moulson, Parenteau, Bailey, Niederreiter, Strome, Cizikas, Hamonic, De Haan…...even a guy like Kabanov could come around and be an offensive threat in a couple years.  It seems like they were getting a bit of a groove under Capuano - I say they make it this year.

Posted by BrendonR on 08/10/11 at 03:00 PM ET

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Snow tried to mess it up.

Tavares, Grabner, Moulson, Parenteau, Bailey, Niederreiter, Strome, Cizikas, Hamonic, De Haan and Kabanov were all brought in by Snow.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/10/11 at 03:35 PM ET

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I’m of the opinion that the Islanders will challenge for the Atlantic lead in the first half of next season because nobody will take them seriously, but they aren’t the joke they were in terms of personnel, say, two or three years ago (aside from employing Trevor Gillies, who couldn’t be trusted with 4th line minutes in Greensboro of the E and hasn’t gotten any better). Provided he comes to camp in shape (which he probably will), Grabner might be good for 40. His production is not a fluke.

I also think the floor will fall out big-time after either New Years or the ASB. Once teams start prepping for them with the seriousness they would prep for facing a team in playoff contention, there’s no avoiding the holes in goal and d (Streit is underrated, MacDonald is reliable {but a 3rd pairing guy -at best- on, say, Philly}, Hamonic has a bright future, but isn’t reliable now…the rest of these guys would have trouble making any other team, other than Eaton who is injury prone and probably washed up and possibly De Haan, who has yet to skate a shift), or that the first line, while quite handsy, is neither fast nor strong. Lacking either is doable (Pat Kane is weak and quite effective; Anaheim’s big line isn’t exactly filled with figure skaters), lacking both is a problem if the other coaches are looking hard for ways to neutralize them.

Still, it’ll be a year to build on. Maybe if they finish 7th-9th, those Russian guys (not Yashin, the 3 Russian draft picks who’ve thumbed their nose at Snow) will be more open to the idea of crossing the Atlantic, which would make an already solid team at F deadly if any of them pan out.

Posted by steviesteve on 08/10/11 at 04:06 PM ET

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3 Russian draft picks who’ve thumbed their nose at Snow

Petrov is under contract in the KHL and therefore no thumbing required. Snow could afford to draft him since he didn’t need his services right away and will be in the fold when his obligations are done.  Kabanov is just about maturing into form and is under his entry level contract. Is Nabakov the third? He’s in camp at a reduced $500k rate thanks to a poor understanding on his part of the CBA. Filatov was picked by Columbus so Snow could take Bailey and Hamonic.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/10/11 at 04:37 PM ET

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I was thinking of Klementiev, who is a Defenseman, not a forward, which is my mistake and since it looks like he’s on Bridgeport, I guess he got over any reticence to cross the pond he may or may not have had, uh, immediately after being drafted. Mea Culpa.

Posted by steviesteve on 08/10/11 at 05:16 PM ET

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Got it.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 08/10/11 at 05:42 PM ET

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The Isles have a good group of forwards, but their blueline and murky goaltending situation will sink them quickly.  Remember that Nabokov doesn’t really want to be there, so he’ll have very little motivation to play his best.  He just wants a paycheck.  The Isles will remain at the bottom of the division until they can solve their defensive issues.  (They should be a ton of fun to watch, though, since this is a great combination of good forwards and bad defense to equal high scoring games)

Posted by njdss4 on 08/11/11 at 03:43 AM ET

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Voters would have been more friendly with a better team. they are building towards something special but fans (and voters) look at the results not what could be. If the Isles perform on ice and still don’t get approval for a new building, then that shinny new arena in Brooklyn might be an option worth looking at…

Posted by Brian on 08/12/11 at 03:52 PM ET

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Hopefully the team will shore up their D core with an addition prior to the season.  I think the goaltending position has potential to be one of the strong points of the team.  It also could go the other way though and could be a huge liability.  Only time will tell.

Posted by William Morrison on 08/14/11 at 04:32 PM ET

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Why Did New York Islanders’ General Manager Garth Snow Choose To Go With The Youth Movement? How About If Garth Snow Adds More Superstar Veterans?
The Way That I See It The Youth Movement Has Already Backfired For The New York Islanders.
          .

Posted by John Johnson from Alberta on 08/30/11 at 07:48 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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