As the Islanders begin the 2010-2011 season they enter with more questions then GM Garth Snow would have anticipated. With devastating training camp injuries to the 2 most important players on the team, Scott Gordon now has the challenge of figuring out who his number 1 defenseman and top forward will be. Mark Streit will be out until at least the All Star Break recuperating from his torn rotator cuff and labrum , and Kyle Okposo, who had surgery on his own labrum, wont be back until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That leaves Coach Gordon in a bit of a tight spot in the last year of his contract.
The Islanders will debut several new additions tonight. The most exciting will be 18 year old Nino Niederreiter, who was the 5th overall pick back in June. Niederreiter with his display of maturity, speed and skill will have at the very least 9 additional games to prove he belongs. The defense will debut 4 new members as Mark Eaton, James Wisniewski, Mike Mottau and Milan Jurcina all have joined the Islanders over the summer. Not shockingly Bruno Gervais and Jack Hillen are in the sky box tonight. Hillen who was very solid last season, has not impressed the coaching staff this camp and found himself with reduced minutes and playing in B scrimmages. All the returning defesneman from last season had to know it was going to be a battle for ice time this camp with solid additions Eaton and Wisniewski, and with top prospects Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic banging on the door, Hillen and Gervais have just not shown enough to be in the lineup everyday. Finally the team will debut 2 new forwards in Zenon Konopka and PA Parenteau. Konopka lead the NHL in fighting majors last season and is amazingly enough, is very proficient in the face off circle (not a traditional combination). Konopka and Trevor Gillies will be tasked with keeping teams honest with their physical play. Snow is hoping to have similar results with Parenteau that he had with now 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson. Parenteau has terrific hands and a knack for scoring clutch goals in the AHL, but has never been given a real shot, he’ll finally get that shot as he’s now playing on the right side of John Tavares’ line.
Who gets the minutes?
Streit was the leader on defense playing in every situation, Okposo was the the same amongst the forwards. Who takes those minutes? In a perfect world, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau step up and make Okposo’s absence less of a burden on goalies DiPietro and Roloson. With Streit, amazingly it shouldn’t be as bad as originally thought. With the addition of the professional Mottau, the majority should be spread out to Wisniewski, Mottau, Eaton and hopefully a healthy Radek Martinek. Since the Islanders power play was ranked 27th in the NHL last season….it really can’t go anywhere but up, so hopefully the newly bolstered defense will lessen the blow of losing it’s top player.
For the first time in 3 years Rick DiPietro enters camp as a player not as a patient. He was able to train as a normal athlete this summer and not have to worry about rehabilitating an injury in addition to getting ready for camp. The team has obviously learned from prior mistakes with DP and have agreed to days off in advance. He looks healthy, he’s seems back to his old self and that is nothing but good news for Islanders fans. With a healthy Ricky, it also gives them a top flight backup in Dwayne Roloson. Roloson who will be 41 this year isn’t suited for 60-70 games anymore, but should fill in nicely for his 25 – 35 games he’ll get into this year.
Lame Duck Coach?
Scott Gordon has done an admirable job with this team. I still feel he has yet to show he can lead this team to the next level, which is why i believe he hasn’t received a contract extension as of yet. It’s not that I believe that it isn’t possible that he can, I just feel he has yet to do it. Why I think the team will take into account that Streit and Okposo will both miss extensive time, though he’s been given the talent to show more improvement over last season’s 18 point jump.
I’m not going to sit here and predict how this season is going to play out. But I will tell you the Islanders do have enough talent to hang around to the deadline and give Snow a chance to acquire someone to push them over the top. Of course this all depends on health, which no one can predict.
Along with Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervias, newly acquired forward Michael Grabner will sit out tonight and Monday’s games.
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan will drop the puck for the ceremonial face off tonight. Considering what he has done with the Jets, I hope some of it rubs off on the Islanders.
At some point this season, every hockey fan should see Edmonton’s 2 prized rookies Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall play. I watched the Edmonton/Calgary game the other night and these 2 kids are ubertalented. They are going to make that team into something special very quickly.
Bridgeport has named Andy Hilbert and Dylan Reese Assistant Captains this year. Mark Wotton has been the Sound Tigers Captain for the past 3 seasons.
Enjoy the game tonight folks…..as always, comments are welcome and encouraged.
About the Author: The New York Islanders have been a huge part of my life since I was 7 years old, and during the past 27 years I have experience many ups and downs with this team. The back end of 4 straight Stanley Cups, the Drive for 5, the Easter Epic, trading of my heroes John Tonelli, and Kelly Hrudey. Mike Bossy's early retirement, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hunter, David Volek, Ron Hextall, Al Arbour's retirement, Bill Torrey to Florida, Mike Milbury, John Spano, The Milstein's, Hoistgate, the sale to Charles Wang, Draft Day 2000, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, Milbury's "reassignement", 40 days of Neil Smith, Ted Nolan, The Lighthouse Project, Kate Murray, Scott Gordon, going from 5 to 7 to 9, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin deHaan, El Nino, the 2 Kirill's and hopefully.....much, much more. I have been an Islanders blogger for the past 3 years, starting on Myspace, then for IslesNation.com and currently for HockeyIndependent.com, and I have been selected to the 2010-2011 New York Islanders Blog Box. I am an IT Manager for a quite large facility working for a government agency. I am married for 7 years to an incredibly patient woman and am the proud father of a beautiful 1 year old daughter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile