This is our second shot at divining the fate of our home team. With the exception of the team making the playoffs we did pretty well with our predictions last year, so we’re going to take another stab for this season. How can we predict the season outcome when the roster isn’t even set, you’re asking? Really? Go to capgeek and count the number of one way contracts presently on the books. We’ll save you the time- 19. Four are two way deals, but one of those is Casey Cizikas, and another one is Kevin Poulin. Where are those two going? Let’s be honest, there is no competition in camp, and the lines from the first of the first day of practice will be the roster that starts the season. If you think otherwise, after yelling at us and calling us fools, tell us when we’ve been wrong in predicting lines for this group.
The offseason came and went. The Islanders entered the off season without a second line center, a first line wing, a third line wing, a top 4 defenseman, and a goalie. To address this, the Islanders acquired Cal Clutterbuck, Marc Pierre Bouchard, Peter Regin and resigned Evgeny Nabokov.
Whether or not you agree with the trade or not, as far as what the Isles gave up for Clutterbuck, he will be a worthy addition. He brings toughness, two-way play and some character. The Islanders gave themselves an identity against Pittsburgh. Even though they lost, they were looked at as a hard working, gritty team. Boston took the Isles strategy and dismantled Pittsburgh. Cal Clutterbuck will help to further identify the Isles style of play. Just so long as Clutterbuck’s knee and concussion issues are behind him.
Marc Pierre Bouchard is the latest “first line” talent signed to a one-year deal. He is the third winger in 3 years that John Tavares will have had with such a deal. The goal is to have the new captain turn MPB into a 60-70 point player and then not resign him next off-season. All in all, the pick up is a decent one. Bouchard brings some skill and scoring ability to the top line that should certainly stand out against the memories of Brad “one year was enough for me, and I don’t want another one year deal and yes, Garth offered me one” Boyes. Just so long as Bouchard’s concussion issues are behind him.
Peter Regin. Yup, Peter Regin. The Isles have had a hole at the center position for quite sometime. Frans Nielsen can either be a third line center or a second line center, he can’t be both. The fill this hole, the Islanders signed….Peter Regin. Not Grabovski or Damien Brunner. They won’t promote Brock Nelson or Ryan Strome. Nope, the signed…Peter Regin. They didn’t try to sign anyone else, they only targeted…Peter Regin. He will be playing on the third line with Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck. You can’t expect much as far as points go. This move shows that Garth Snow has no faith in own draft picks. Also, Islander fans better hope that Regin’s injury issues are behind him.
The Islanders lost in the playoffs for the same reason they almost won in the first round -awful goaltending. Evgeny Nabokov did not come up with one big save. The Islanders rewarded him with a raise. Why trade for Corey Schneider, Roberto Luongo or Bernier? Nah, we can get another year out Nabokov. Last I checked he wasn’t a Subaru. The miles have taken a toll and will continue to do so. And since Snow has done a fairly terrible job of drafting, especially at goal, well, relief just is’t on the way.
Top 4 defenseman…..still waiting, even with all of the defensemen Snow has poorly drafted. Lubo is a year older, Mark Streit has departed, and Andrew MacDonald is coming off a hand injury. Some say that losing Streit is an addition by subtraction, that he was so bad that he hurt this team. First off, he isn’t Marc Andre Bergeron. He played well enough to warrant a multi year offer from Garth Snow. This means Garth recognized that the players still here were not good enough by themselves. He missed out on Streit and did nothing on the NHL level about it.
Looking back, the offseason was worse than we thought.
But let’s instead look forward. What should we expect from the team that loves to provide agita this season? Howabout we talk individuals:
John Tavares – JT91 is a top 5 center in this league. Fantasy owners found that out this season. Though his overall production last year did not reach the numbers we were hoping, his goal totals did. Each year in the league Tavares has gotten to the 20 goal plateau faster and faster. We expect that trend to continue. Assuming Matt Moulson and MPB do their part, Tavares will score between 40 and 50 goals and put up 90-100 points.
Matt Moulson – no reason to feel that he won’t return to his 30 goal form. However due to this, there is no reason to believe he will be back next year, due to his market value. Sadly, if the Islanders have their usual swoon, he may not make it past March.
Marc Pierre Bouchard – Assuming he stays healthy, Bouchard should follow PA Parenteau and Brad Boyes’ lead and hit the 60 point mark. He should display more creativity and a better goal scoring touch than those prior. Downside could be over handling of the puck.
Frans Nielsen – Frans will do what Frans does. He will play solid but overrated two-way hockey and quietly get 40 pts. Goal total will be 10-15.
Josh Bailey – Josh takes enough shots during the season from this blog so we will take it east here. Understand he played the best hockey of his career, in March last season. Also understand he always plays his best hockey in March. Expect more of the same. Around 35 points, not shooting enough and leading the second half all-stars. Follow @joshbarely on twitter to get snarky in game Bailey commentary.
Kyle Okposo – Enough with the Jeckyl and Hyde act for Kyle. This season he either puts up or should be moved out. We say 20 goals and 45 points. Whether or not he plays with the tenacity that we all love him for or not is impossible to predict.
Peter Regin – Average two way play at best will make you miss Keith Aucoin. 10 goals and 25 points would be a godsend. Don’t expect miracles.
Michael Grabner – Will be routinely misused but will still net 25 goals.
Cal Clutterbuck – Recovering from knee surgery is never a pleasant thing for hockey players. Ask Jon Sim and Trent Hunter. Luckily Cal has some intangibles. We say 12 goals and 25 points.
Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Colin McDonald – This trio will solidify themselves as one of the hard working, pain in the ass to play against 4th line with the knack for a big goal. Just not often.
The defense will be overmatched by players with size. See the combined 20 points that Malkin and Iginla dumped on the Islanders in their playoff disappointment. And yes, losing is disappointing no matter where you do it- ask Penguins fans who expected to win a Stanley cup. Lubomir Visnovsky is the only hope for any sort of point production. We expect 50 points from the aging vet in replacing Mark Streit. Travis Hamonic should be the force we expect him to be and the one he was during the second half of the season. Hopefully his point totals go up instead of down this year. He has potential to both shoot and score. Depending on how he’s used, we can see 35 points. Assuming they are paired together, Andrew MacDonald should be on the plus side while adding 20-25 points. Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey, certainly should not hurt the team- well, unless it’s Strait in the playoffs- but we do not expect them to be contribute consistently.
Hopefully they won’t have us wishing Griffin Reinhart was back with his junior club while we watch Matt Donovan demand a trade. Hell, we’re even interested to see see what Shoulders 2 could do. (Mats Lindgren is Shoulders 1, Calvin DeHann is Shoulders 2)
Evgeny Nabokov and Kevin Poulin, should be a solid tandem in net. How much rest the Isles give Nabby and how well Poulin plays when given a chance is hard to predict. There is no reason to feel that the Islanders won’t ride Nabokov to a fault. We expect 35-40 wins from Nabokov and a 2.5 GAA, because that’s what Nabokov does. To go one step further, .911 goals against average.
Assuming Poulin is ready for it, we would rather see a platoon happening in net. If he can’t handle it and his playing doesn’t warrant that, he should not be here.
The Islanders are basically treading water from last season to this upcoming one. One may say. “well, they made the playoffs last year, stayed basically the same, so they should still make the playoffs this year.” To better analyze this let’s look at our conference opponents, both new and old.
Three teams per division make the playoffs. Two more are wildcards. Let’s break them down:
Sure bets for playoffs- Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers. These five are locks. Yes, the disgusting Rangers, because they have a top 2 goalie in the NHL, and their GM will make moves to improve the team. And they still have Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mike Richards, Michael Del Zotto, and are gaining a Staal.
The “bubble” – Toronto nearly beat Boston last season, and made some moves in the offseason that should keep them afloat, including adding a goalie that the Islanders should have moved for. Washington has Alexander Ovechkin, a healthy Mike Green, and a full season of Martin Erat. Ottawa gets back a Norris trophy candidate, adds Bobby Ryan (another great non-move by Snow), and has a talented nucleus that actually won a round of playoffs last season. Imagine that, Islander fans- WINNING a playoff round? The Flyers have a great coach, a new power play pointman, a recycled all star center, and questionable goaltending. With Pronger retiring (he will) their cap grief will vanish, and Philly is never afraid to make a move. Columbus made improvements, have a defenseman joining the lineup that Snow offered a whole draft for, get a full season of Marian Gaborik who closed last season well, and have a Vezina winning goalie.
The Islanders have John Tavares.
Teams that should miss- Carolina has a lot of Staal, a banged up Skinner, and Cam Ward. Depending on Alexander Semin, these guys could be pests. New Jersey is entering a rebuild, and although they rarely miss the playoffs two years in a row, it’s very possible. Tampa Bay is a team that has consistently underachieved with the fantastic Steven Stamkos. Lucky for Islander fans that Charles Wang allegedly overrode Snow’s draft pick, or else Tampa’s Crosby/Malkin would be Stamkos/Tavares.
Teams with no hope – Florida. Buffalo. Sorry for your losses.
In all, when the season is winding down, the Isles should be on the heels of making their second straight playoff birth. Whether at the trade deadline or before, Garth Snow must put them in a position to secure said position. This season cannot consist of waiting for Kyle Okposo to turn on the jets, or watching Michael Grabner miss break away after breakaway, or waiting until March for Josh Bailey to score, or watching Frans Nielsen get beat on every defensive zone draw he takes , especially against anyone over 6’0 (when Okposo isn’t taking them). The Islanders can’t waste time in the early stages of the season waiting for Nabokov to reach mid-season form, or the defense to shoot the puck. This team was a playoff team and it has a nice group of players to build on. The key here is to build upon them. Based on his history, Garth will add nothing now, and follow it up with doing nothing during the season. This will be the lynch pin in the Islanders season that makes or breaks it. So what do we expect from this bubble team? More of the same.
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely