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2016-17 Season preview: New York Islanders

2016-17 Season preview: New York Islanders

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: New York Islanders.

How they did last season: 45-27-10 (100 points); 4th in the Metropolitan Division; 5th in the Eastern Conference. Made the playoffs for the third time in four years but failed to advance past the second round after being eliminated by the Lightning in five games.

Notable acquisitions: LW Andrew Ladd; RW PA Parenteau; and LW Jason Chimera.

Notable departures: C Frans Nielsen; RW Kyle Okposo; LW Matt Martin; D Brian Strait; and D Marek Zidlicky.

When they will play the Caps: Oct. 15 in Brooklyn; Dec. 1 in Washington; Dec. 13 in Brooklyn; Dec. 27 in Washington; Jan. 31 in Washington.


Analysis: When the Islanders open the 2016-17 season, John Tavares' supporting cast will sport a decidedly different look.

Gone are top-six forwards Nielsen and Okposo and hard-hitting fourth liner Martin—all of whom defected via free agency. In their place, GM Garth Snow signed Ladd, a two-time Cup winner with 64 postseason games on his resume, Parenteau and Chimera, the 37-year-old winger who netted 20 goals last season in Washington.

Two of the newcomers—Ladd and Parenteau—figure to flank Tavares on the revamped first line. Ladd, 30, is good for 25 goals a season and Parenteau, 33, matched his career-high of 20 goals last season in Toronto. Parenteau played for the Islanders previously from 2010-2012.

Is the forward group improved? That’s tough to say. More likely than not, it’s just, well, different. Which could be a good thing for the Islanders, a team that’s posted back-to-back 100-point seasons but needs to take the next step with its window of opportunity wide open.

With the camp set to begin in about a month, the biggest question is in net, where Coach Jack Capuano will have a difficult decision to make. There are three goalies on the one way contracts: Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube. And having covered a situation like that in Washington, I can tell you this without hestitation: That’s one goalie too many. Sure competition is good, but there’s only one net to defend on game nights and two nets in practice.

When healthy, Halak has been mostly good for the Islanders over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, he was sidelined a few times last season by injuries, calling into question his reliability. Greiss, meantime, performed well in his absence, posting a .925 save percentage in 41 regular season games and a .923 mark in 11 playoff appearances. The Islanders are also intrigued with Berube’s potential. And, oh yeah, Halak is set to count $4.5 million against the cap next season, while Greiss and Berube will count $1.5 million and $675,000, respectively.   

Something’s got to give, obviously.    

Season prediction: In the spirit of full disclosure, I covered the Islanders through some pretty dark years for The New York Times back in the late 1990s, so I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for them given all the franchise and fan base has been through.

That said, I like this team for a lot of other reasons, too.

I think Tavares will flourish with Ladd and Parenteau on the first line. In addition, I suspect Ladd’s leadership and championship pedigree will be a good thing for the locker room.

I’m also bullish on the Nick Leddy/Travis Hamonic/Johnny Boychuk-anchored defense. I think it’s plenty good enough. And if youngster Ryan Pulock solidifies the group, as expected, I suspect it could be one of the league’s better blue lines.

And, finally, I’ve always thought of Capuano as one of the league’s savvier coaches, even if he flies under the radar a bit. But this year will be a big test for him. He’s got a sticky goaltending situation to sort out and, after two straight 100-point seasons, it’s time for Tavares and Co. to make a run. He knows it. And everyone else knows it, as well.



Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
— Tampa Bay Lightning
— Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division
— Carolina Hurricanes
— Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming soon)

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”