Definitely fitting into the category of the many “rebuilding” teams in the NHL, the New York Islanders go into this season hoping to improve upon last year when they finished last in the competitive Atlantic Division. With a stable full of young talent and a scrappy, chip-on-their-shoulders attitude from recent regular season shortcomings the Islanders will do their best to make the playoffs this year. It would be the first time in four years that the Isles reach the postseason. Injuries will play a big factor on this shallow depth chart, so in order to stay out of the NHL’s basement the Islanders will need a 150 percent effort all year from every able bodied skater.
Offense: C+ The Islanders sport one of the youngest forward groups in the NHL with eight of the twelve coming in at under 26 years old. Thats not to say these youngsters aren’t talented, however. Former first overall draft pick John Tavares will try to live up to expectations and improve upon a solid 53 point rookie season. Before last year, left wing Matt Moulson was largely unknown, yet after potting 30 goals and assisting on 18 more people have realized this kid has a nose for the net. Look for him to see more attention from opposing defenseman. If he rises above and continues to produce then we will know last season wasn’t a fluke for the 26 year old Cornell graduate. Assistant captain Kyle Okposo had 52 points last season and will likely play on the first line along with Tavares and Moulson. 21 year old Josh Bailey is coming off a 35 point season and shows no signs of slowing down.
Defense: D+ In September, before the season had even started, the NHL’s third most porous defense had lost its best blueliner, Mark Streit. Streit was injured in a scrimmage during practice and is expected to miss six months recovering from a shoulder injury. While General Manager Garth Snow slightly improved the defense by bringing in Mark Eaton, James Wisniewski, and Milan Jurcina, the trio will likely be unable to pick up the slack left by Streit’s departure. With the only other options on the back end being Jack Hillen, Andrew MacDonald, Dylan Reese, Radek Martinek, and a few unproven prospects, look for Snow to fill Streit’s hole from outside the organization.
Goaltending: C- The goaltending situation on Long Island is almost as bleak as the defensive one. Since being signed to what is essentially a lifetime contract, Rick DiPietro became synonymous with injury prone, and he has not played more than 8 games in a season since the 2007-2008 campaign. This leaves the net minding responsibility on 40 year old Dwayne Roloson, who will see most of the starting time, and backup Martin Biron. The goaltending prospects further down the depth chart have a combined grand total of zero NHL games played. Roloson and Biron will need to play lights out behind a team with plenty of holes in it if the Isles have any chance at cracking the top eight teams in the east.