To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: New York Islanders
2014-15 record: 47-28-7, 3rd in the Metropolitan
How they finished: Lost in seven games to Washington in the conference quarterfinals
Coach: Jack Capuano (6th season)
Notable additions: G Thomas Greiss
Notable subtractions: C Tyler Kennedy, RW Colin McDonald, G Michal Neuvirth, D Lubomir Visnovsky
Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Jan. 7 at New York, Thu. Feb. 4 at Washington, Thu. Feb. 18 at New York, Tue. Apr. 5 at Washington
Outlook: Unlike last year in which the Islanders made headlines by acquiring defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk a week before the season, this summer was rather quiet as general manager Garth Snow appears satisfied with the talent he has assembled and will look to see some measure of progress on the ice.
If you think the Caps have had a tough time lately in the playoffs, that's nothing compared to the Islanders. While the Caps have not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1998, the Islanders have not advanced past the first round since 1993. Of course, four Stanley Cups help soften that blow, but I digress.
While New York may not have made many changes on the ice, they will be making one major move off of it as this year they trade in the friendly confines of Nassau Coliseum where they played for 43 years for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That transition will be made a lot easier if the Brooklyn fans embrace their new team. If not, the Islanders will not have much of a home ice advantage to speak of the first few years.
The Islanders are of course led by John Tavares, their superstar captain who was among the finalists for the Hart Trophy last season. Tavares is entering his seventh season in the league despite the fact that he turns only 25 in September.
This is a very young team and they may actually be getting younger as Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock will challenge for roster spots in training camp. Dal Colle had 93 points in 56 games in the OHL last season while Pulock managed 17 goals and 12 assists in AHL Bridgeport.
Jaroslav Halak provides some stability for a sometimes shaky defense that will be without veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.
But while there is plenty of reason for optimism for this young roster, there are also some questions as well.
Tavares is one of the NHL's elite players, but it is safe to say the Islanders are behind where they were hoping to be six years after drafting him. Tavares has led the Islanders to the playoffs only twice and never out of the first round. In his first six years, Sidney Crosby helped the Penguins reach the playoffs five times winning the conference twice and the Stanley Cup once. Even Alex Ovechkin, often criticized for his lack of postseason success has reached the second round four times.
That lack of playoff success hasn't gone unnoticed as evidenced by the fact that, despite coming off his best season as coach of the Islanders, there was speculation as to whether Jack Capuano would remain coach. Kyle Okposo's name was also rumored to be on the trading block throughout the summer. The veteran winger is entering the last year of his contract, but he also is the second best player on this team behind only Tavares.
The Islanders find themselves with lots of cap space, but without a GM currently willing to spend it as Snow said, "these young players are going to need new contracts when they get out of their entry-level contracts. Raises are usually in order when the player performs."
Snow sees the problem Tampa is now facing and is keeping plenty of room open to ensure that he can afford to keep his budding stars. While Tampa was playing for a Stanley Cup last June, however, Snow's Islanders were watching from home.
If Snow plans too much for the future, he can't keep wondering why they aren't getting any better in the present.
Expectations: The Islanders are one of the tougher teams to predict. I could see them being one of the best teams in the division and the conference or I could see them fighting for a wild card spot.
The talent is there, no question about it, but the Islanders seem to lack that key piece that can turn them from a good team into a great one. For the Penguins, the acquisition of Bill Guerin served as a lynchpin to their Cup run. Bruce Boudreau finally got over the second round hump when the Ducks added Ryan Kessler.
The Islanders just don't have that x-factor.
With money to spend, New York is going to be at the center of every trade rumor in the NHL this season. Snow wants to keep cap space open for his young players, but if the Islanders struggle they will be in the market for rental players with expiring contracts to help them finally reach the second round.
I just don't see enough progress from the Islanders' core to think they will be able to keep up with teams like Tampa Bay, Montreal, Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh, etc. There is enough talent there to reach the postseason and, given the right matchup, maybe even the second round. Beyond that, I still believe the Islanders are a year and a player or two away from competing for the conference.
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