Phrases like “circus” and “a mess” have been tossed around aplenty when people discuss the New York Islanders. The timing of Ted Nolan’s firing this summer and the general direction of the franchise haven’t done much to help eradicate those opinions. But the Islanders do have some young players they hope will help excite a dormant fan base, and hopefully help point the organization back to consistent playoff contention.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
2007-08: 35-38-9, 79 points (fifth in Atlantic)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Rick DiPietro had a steady season in net before it was cut short by injury. Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin were serviceable as scoring options without much help behind them. Coach Ted Nolan did a commendable job for the second straight year of keeping this team afloat until DiPietro went down. Maybe the biggest development was Kyle Okposo looking like he belonged in a brief stint with the team.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Okposo left school mid-season and the war of words in the aftermath wasn’t great p.r. for a franchise that has had plenty of negative press in recent years. That was minor compared to this organization’s other problems. Nolan was fired and reports have said it is because he didn’t want to play the kids as much as GM Garth Snow wanted him to. The Islanders finished the season last in the league in goals per game, and the power play was also terrible.
ARRIVALS: D Mark Streit, C Doug Weight, G Yann Denis
DEPARTURES: LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Miroslav Satan, D Aaron Johnson, G Wade Dubielewicz
IMPACT PROSPECTS: RW Kyle Okposo, C Frans Nielsen, RW Blake Comeau
Is Mark Streit the solution for the power play?
Streit is a forward masquerading as a defenseman, but he racked up points on the power play with the Canadiens. He had 49 assists last season, which was how many points Comrie had to lead the Islanders. Streit should help, but remember that everyone said Montreal’s power play would struggle without Sheldon Souray after he left, and that didn’t happen.
Will the young guys have bigger roles?
New coach Scott Gordon probably wouldn’t be the new coach if his philosophy didn’t mesh with Snow’s, so expect to see guys like Okposo, Nielsen, Comeau and Jeff Tambellini getting more minutes. It isn’t like there are a ton of veterans on this team that should be chewing up all of the playing time anyway.
PROGNOSIS: It would appear that the Islanders have finally embraced moving into rebuilding mode, which is what should have happened a while ago. Scoring goals is again likely to be a problem. Streit gives the team an offensive-minded defenseman, but Brendan Witt better be ready to defend a lot of 2-on-1s. Scoring depth was a problem last season, and two of those guys (Fedotenko and Satan) left town. It will be up to the youth movement to provide said depth. Best-case scenario is probably having a couple of the kids prove they belong and with Gordon’s influence this becomes an exciting young team to watch like Phoenix and Edmonton last year. Worst-case scenario is the young guys are overmatched and Islanders fans spend the first six months of 2009 debating the merits of John Tavares and Viktor Hedman.
|Sean Bergenheim||Mike Comrie||Kyle Okposo|
|Jeff Tambellini||Doug Weight||Bill Guerin|
|Jon Sim||Mike Sillinger||Trent Hunter|
|Andy Hilbert/Tim Jackman||Frans Nielsen||Blake Comeau/Richard Park|
|Brendan Witt||Mark Streit|
|Chris Campoli||Radek Martinek|
|Andy Sutton||Freddy Meyer|
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations