FanSided’s 30 In 30 NHL Previews: New York Islanders

The likes of right wing Michael Grabner, among others, hope to lead the Islanders towards a much-improved season (Image courtesy the Islanders' official website)

Well, yesterday was fun.  Now, we continue with the rest of the league’s previews; four of the next five will feature Atlantic division teams.  Today, we take a look at the New York Islanders, who had a very disappointing 2010-2011 campaign, finishing in 14th in the Eastern Conference with just 30 wins, tied with Florida for the least among East teams.  This season, with a continually growing young nucleus of talented forwards, the ‘Isles will look to improve greatly, and perhaps compete for a playoff spot.  Over at Eyes On Isles, their staff provides a lengthy preview of what will hopefully be a better year on the Island.

The Islanders 2011-2012 slogan is not just four words.  It is going to be the culture of the team.  With the issues of the new arena, and the subsequent defeat at the polls in the summer, along with the constant rumors of the team going somewhere else, I can state with all certainty, that the Islanders WILL be on Long Island this year. They will be at the Coliseum for the next three years after that, and I know that they will be ready to commit themselves to take on the best of the NHL head on.  This team has every intention to prove to the pundits and naysayers that Long Island is NOT an inferior place to play and this team that is a solid hockey club, ready to move up the NHL ladder.

When you look at the Islanders 2010-2011 Season, you see a tale of two halves.  The first involved lengthy trips to the disabled list to two key players. Mark Streit’s shoulder at the first team practice at last year’s training camp that lost him for the entire season and  Kyle Okposo’s shoulder issues, kept him out of the lineup for over half the year. Then, the most troublesome item was the ‘one win in 20’ scenario which led to the firing of Coach Scott Gordon.  This was a hockey team that, at times, appeared to just be going through the motions; looking listless and tired.

To read the rest of this Islanders’ outlook, click here.

The first two of six matchups between the Devils and ‘Isles this season will come as a home-and-home on November 25th and 26th, the latter of which is in New Jersey.  Then, oddly enough, these teams won’t face each other until March 4th on Long Island, the first of three matchups in the course of week; the next game is March 8th at the Prudential Center, followed by March 10th back at the Coliseum.  Finally, the Devils and Islanders conclude their season series on April 3rd in New Jersey.  In past seasons, the ’Isles have always been at their “scrappiest”, if you will, against us, and have jumped all over any mistake our team has made.  When the Devils are on their game against them, however, they have the potential to blow them away.  These games should probably be the same this year, as losses to the Islanders are always excruciatingly irritating.

So, let’s take a look at the 2011-2012 Islanders, without discussing that whole Lighthouse Project mess.  Whether or not you like the ‘Isles (I, truthfully, have never really minded them; hey, we have a common enemy…), you must admit that they are an exciting bunch to watch.  Their forward group is very young and talented, led by the likes of former first overall pick John Tavares, newly-healthy Kyle Okposo, and, admittedly, one of my favorite players in hockey in Michael Grabner.  There should be improved forward depth in Long Island this year, led by this exciting bunch, among others, who give the ‘Isles much promise for the future.

Defensively, I am concerned, to say the least.  While the Islanders do have former all-star Mark Streit, who serves as an excellent first-line, puck-moving defenseman, the depth behind him is nothing to write home about.  If anything, most of their defense has proven, at least, that they are servicable NHLers, and the ‘Isles hope they will not be a liability this season.  Behind this group, all three of Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, and Al Montoya have a chance to play often this year; thus, the next few weeks of camp and preseason action should be important, to say the least, in determining who will ultimately get the majority of the playing time between the pipes.

Overall, while the Islanders were not very active this offseason (besides for us trading them Brian Rolston, at least), they should be improved from last year.  Offensively, they could see added input from all their lines this season, and their aforementioned three star youngsters could potentially light up the stat sheet.  However, this team’s play behind their own blue line may ultimately doom them, as their defensive group just doesn’t seem strong enough.  While I expect this team to improve by at least a spot or two in the Eastern Conference, they will still need to develop and draft well over the next few years to compete strongly again.

Tomorrow’s preview will feature the arch-rival New York Rangers, who were beaten in five games by the Capitals last season after fighting to earn an 8th seed sneaking into the playoffs on blind luck.

-Drew

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