An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Monday, September 11, 2017

2017 KoC New York Islanders Season Preview

Doug Weight renewed the teams’ focus at the end of last season and the offense and defensive units went through some restructuring. The special teams were a bit scattered and ultimately they missed the playoffs by a point. My take on last season and supporting stats can be found in part one and part two of last season’s recap.

Considering the coming season and what might be in store for our New York Islanders, a few things stand out. The foremost thing on the minds of the fan base is the John Tavares contract extension. It’s been said by JT and his teammates, that this shouldn’t be an issue entering the season. Tavares seems comfortable with the situation right now and is waiting to see the final roster, chemistry and most importantly, the future venue of the Islanders. The back and forth of the Barclays Center, its problematic ice and state of the art, yet abbreviated amenities experienced by Islanders fans has been a hot button issue since the team has moved to Brooklyn. Rumors of a Belmont Park bid should come into focus at the end of the month and could be tied to the team’s future with Tavares.

But the real question we all have is who will be playing with John Tavares on the Isles top line. Anders Lee had a break out year (3rd in team points with 52 pts) last season and Josh Bailey played the best hockey he’s ever shown (2nd in team pts with 56) as an Islander. Both wingers had chemistry while playing with Tavares, but it’s also interesting to think about recent acquisition, Jordan Eberle (51 points with EDM last season) playing with Tavares on that first line. Isles country is excited to see what Eberle will bring and to see if he can be a pure scorer as advertised or the talented player that only scores against weaker teams. Apparently, Connor McDavid certainly wasn’t happy to see Eberle go. “It sucks' losing … Eberle to trade, but it's a business.” – McDavid. What can be said is that Eberle is a friend and countryman of Tavares, very familiar with him on the ice after much international play with team Canada since the junior level. As informal skates turn into camp and the team starts evaluating their roster, it will be interesting to see how the lines shake out.

Bailey would look good on the second line with Brock Nelson and exciting forward, Josh Ho-Sang who should secure a regular spot with the big club this season. Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier should also get a serious look out of camp and would be a good fit with an experienced and renewed Andrew Ladd after a big push (31 pts for 7th on team) on the stat sheet at the end of last season.

Jason Chimera also enjoyed a surge (33 points, good for 6th on team) as the Isles made their playoff push and might make the perfect complement to Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Cizikas (25pts) and Clutterbuck (20 pts) need a bounce back season and will be relied upon to bring their intangible energy and snarl to the Islanders offense. Shane Prince will miss up to 6 months due to injury while versatile Nikolay Kulemin ($4.187M) and big hearted, Alan Quine ($612K) both have 1 year left on their deals and will need to show other teams what they can offer or somehow make quite a splash to remain. Especially with cap room at such a premium.

UPDATE: 9/12 Per Arthur Staple, “Alan Quine out 4-6 weeks with an upper body injury. Opens a spot up front for a young player out of camp.”

On the defensive side, Nick Leddy (4th on team with 46pts) will be relied upon even more from the blue line with Travis Hamonic being lost (CGY) to free agency. Leddy has grown to be the Isles go to, all-purpose D-man since being acquired in a trade with Chicago for defensemen T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka and the rights to restricted free-agent goaltender Anders Nilsson in October of 2014. The Isles will also look to Johnny Boychuk to bounce back after missing 16 games last season and add his brand of high level defensive and special teams prowess. The ever steady Thomas Hickey will be back for at least one more season (2018-19 UFA) and Calvin de Haan will be looking to make a statement as well and build on last season’s strong career showing to show management he is a cornerstone for the Isles future playoff plan. 

Dennis Seidenberg earned an extension after being more than just a stop gap last season and should lend some veteran stability to New York's defensive core, especially with newly re-signed Adam Pelech and hungry, talented prospects like Scott Mayfield and Ryan Pulock fighting to get noticed in camp. Never forget the shows put on by Devon Toews, Sebastian Aho, Robin Salo, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wortherspoon last season, scrimmage this summer and this season’s rookie camp currently under way. The rookie camp will also feature a rookie game in Philadelphia on Wednesday Sept. 13 against the Flyers.

In net, Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak will get a shot at earning the number one spot. Greiss (26-18, 2.69 gaa, .913Sv%) has been a reliable anchor when slotted as a number one and we all know Halak (12-9, 2.80 gaa, .915Sv%) can be a top NHL goalie when healthy. Management wants Greiss in the future plan after re-signing him to a three-year extension, but Halak (1 Yr @ $4.5M remaining) will be a free agent next summer. The Isles added Kristers Gudlevskis for NHL-AHL depth along with BST goaltenders, Eamon McAdam and Christopher Gibson. Linus Soderstrom is at least a year out from the organizational fold, but is sure to be featured prominently in their soon to be future.

The Islanders have $2,984,167 in Cap Space (CapFriendlyand a need to manage their money and assets extra carefully with re-signing Tavares in their immediate plans. They also need to hope Doug Weight’s new look coaching staff of Greg Cronin (Assoc.), Kelley Buchberger (Asst.), Luke Richardson (Asst.), ScottGomez (Asst.), Matt Berttani (Asst.) and Fred Braithwaite (Goaltending) along with Chris Terreri (Goaltending Development Coach and Goalie Coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers) can make an impact as well. Improvements on offense, defense, special teams and consistency are all needed to take the next step. That’s a collection of mostly experienced and all talented coaches to partner with a new look Islanders team with a ton on the line and time ticking away on the new ownership's dime.

Here’s to a new season, a million possibilities and a single goal in mind.

Isles Notes:

Nassau Coliseum not an option for Islanders, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says.

Former Isles captains concerned about franchise's future.

The Hartford and the Belmont Dilemma.

New Isles Practice Jerseys


Take a moment to remember the fallen heroes & people who lost their lives 

in the 9/11 attacks. #NeverForget