What’s up, Hockey Independent? Some of you might be familiar with my current blog, Islanders Op-Timism. Thank you all for reading. While I continue running that site, I will be contributing over here as well.
For those who aren’t familiar with Islanders Op-Timism, I believe there is one thing that we should all know about myself. I have a very positive attitude towards the New York Islanders, and I am not afraid to be optimistic about the team, even through its darkest moments.
I don’t believe the Islanders are done making moves this off-season. I do see this team making strides towards a Stanley Cup, and I do not see this team doing anything to change its current course.
The Islanders will not be signing anybody that isn’t seen in their long-term plans, but that’s not a bad thing. It actually goes along with my theory that the Islanders are ready to take the next step. As the Islanders head into year six of the rebuild, the team should be ready to make things interesting. If not by this year, next season should be a definite playoff lock, but this year should at least be the season where the Islanders crawl in between the 10th and 16th draft positions.
Well, I know a lot of people will tell me that I am crazy for saying any of this. I can hear it now: “The Islanders will never make the playoffs under Snow and Wang,” and “The Islanders cannot win because of their building,” and my personal favorite “The Islanders let go of Michael Haley and Trevor Gillies! The Islanders management is a joke!”
Well, listen. The Islanders have been stuck in a powerhouse division for the past 4-5 seasons. Every season seems like another year where the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, and Devils are in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, since the lockout, each one of those teams has only missed the playoffs once.
This past season, the Atlantic Division had the top-four teams in terms of points (OK, the Devils tied Boston) with each team registering at least 102 points. The Islanders finished with 79. Sure, it seems like a long way to go, but some of those teams might not be as dominant next season. Let’s look into the Atlantic because I think the Islanders might have their best chance to strike in years.
How can things change so drastically from one season to the next? Well, no one said drastically, but I do think we could see the Islanders out of the Atlantic Division basement for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
I don’t know where to begin. Well, the New Jersey Devils just lost Zach Parise. Let’s start with that. The Eastern Conference Champions have lost their Captain. We can argue that the New Jersey Devils have other stars, such as Ilya Kovalchuk and the aging Martin Brodeur, but we cannot argue that the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season when Zach missed all but 13 games due to an injury.
Parise, who has scored over 80 points twice including a 94-point season, is not the type of player the Devils could afford to lose. His 31 goals this past season are not easily replaceable for a team that is very top-heavy with its scoring.
What about Philadelphia? The only team that missed the 2007 NHL Playoffs, the Flyers aren’t exactly in the best place to be. One of their biggest issues happens to be goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov is letting up beach balls, which seems to be the norm for any goalie in Philly. Although the Flyers scored a ton in the playoffs, their goalies were scored on even more.
On top of that, the team is still going through changes. Jaromir Jagr is gone, so does that mean Scott Hartnell comes back to Earth now? If he does, the Flyers are losing the production of Jagr AND Hartnell, the second and third top-scorers on the team this past season.
I also know they were extremely successful last season, but does the fact that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter won a Stanley Cup on the Kings change the psyche of the front office? I know it might sound ridiculous, but maybe they feel desperate and go for a “superstar” in Bobby Ryan or Rick Nash by ripping apart what made them so successful?
The Flyers also signed Bruno Gervais.
In Pittsburgh, while the talent exists, there are several questions needing answers. Will Sidney Crosby stay healthy? If he doesn’t, Malkin goes back into his featured role, but without Jordan Staal, who no longer wanted to play in Crosby and Malkin’s shadow.
Even with all three centres, including a healthy Crosby, did anyone notice that the Pens imploded in the Playoffs. Yes, the games were exciting, but they had one of the worst displays of hockey I have ever seen. Maybe they found some insurance with Tomas Vokoun as a backup to Fleury, but if they cannot keep the puck out of the net, the Pens, who have a boatload of firepower, can find some trouble. (As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Pens are in the best shape in this group).
Last, but not least, The Rangers may also find that they need an adjustment. How long can this defense-oriented team remain at the top of the division? A lot of people say these guys will be around forever with their young core, but how long can they stay afloat scoring only 2 goals a game. Their offense in the playoffs was abysmal, and now they will be without their leading goal-scorer, Marian Gaborik, for the first two months of the regular season.
Did anyone really notice Brad Richards last season? I noticed their overpaid centre had fewer points than John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and PA Parenteau. I will not discredit him for the amount of timely goals he would score throughout the season, but for his price tag, you would expect a bit more production.
The team also has the potential to breakdown due to their defensive game. They block shots, something that is truly admirable, but blocking shots wears players down. Islanders’ fans know how easy it is to lose players as a result of clogging the shooting lanes. The Islanders have lost a number of players for a few weeks at a time because they sacrificed the body. All it takes is one shot.
My last point is that the Rangers are going hard after Rick Nash. For those who don’t know, I believe Rick Nash is very overrated. I am practically begging the Rangers to trade for him. If they lose any part of their core, whether it be Del Zotto, Stepan, Kreider (not going to happen), McDonagh, or a combination of some of these names, the team is worse off. Nash can play, but he cannot play. One 70-point season for a 9-year “superstar” is a tad low for the hype. I get it. He plays for Columbus. Sorry, but I believe a true superstar finds a way to excel without the talent around him. Tavares scored 81 points this season. Kovalchuk was a force in Atlanta. There are so many examples, and Rick Nash isn’t one of them. Maybe the Rangers go ahead and break-up their core. That would make me smile for days.
Look, the Islanders have talent, and their talent is now another year experienced. Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo began to play the hockey Islanders fans have wanted to see. Michael Grabner still has his chances every game! He just did not convert this season. John Tavares? It’s scary to think how he is going to play with another year under his belt.
The addition of Brad Boyes, a former 40-goal scorer will also boost this teams offense.
The Islanders also have a defense that is already way better than what was seen in the Coliseum last year. Islanders Captain, Mark Streit, will lead the way. One full season separating now and his lost 2010-11 Season, Streit is poised to be great. Visnovsky will also add a special element to the blue-line. Hamonic and MacDonald are another year experienced. Matt Carkner adds toughness that we haven’t seen from the Islanders defense since Andy Sutton was hurting people at the blue-line.
The Islanders goalies are finally in place too. Nabokov will not just be getting on the ice in December. Nabby will be in net for the Islanders on Opening Day. For the first time in years, the Islanders have an actual starter slated for the first game of the year. It’s exciting.
The Islanders will make some noise this season. It will be noise for the right reasons, too. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
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Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants