The 2011-12 campaign was a fairly typical year for the Islanders. That is, if you were told Rick DiPietro missed most of it due to injury and the team finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
It was the fifth straight year the Isles finished in the bottom three in the East, but they did come away with some positives last season. Evgeni Nabokov proved to be a capable replacement for DiPietro and was re-signed for 2012-13, while players like Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald really emerged on the blue line.
The 14th place finish in the East also led to the addition of yet another strong prospect, Griffin Reinhart, selected fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.
There's no doubt the Islanders have some young talent on their roster, but it's hard to argue that they're at the level needed to compete in the tough Atlantic Division.
After putting their top prospects on the fast track to the NHL in past seasons, the Islanders have shown some degree of patience in recent years (save for Nino Niederreiter).
That patience has allowed youngsters like Ryan Strome and Calvin de Haan to develop outside of the NHL. That said, both those players could be ready to go this season, especially Strome, who could help boost the team's secondary scoring. Strome absolutely went off in November to the tune of 35 points in just 13 games with Niagara.
Reinhart, the team's first round pick this year, has loads of potential and with the Islanders relatively set on the blue line, he likely won't be rushed to the NHL.
John Tavares is a legitimate star. The first-overall pick in 2009 had the best season of his three-year career last year, averaging a point per game while also improving his plus-minus totals. On top of that, Tavares makes those around him better. He helped turn now-departed PA Parenteau into a 20-goal scorer, so Isles fan have to be optimistic for what he can do for one-time goal 40-goal scorer Brad Boyes or Top 10 draft pick Kyle Okposo - the very candidates replacing Parenteau on the top line.
Behind Tavares, the Islanders have accumulated a number of high draft picks that for various reasons haven't developed into the secondary scoring unit the team needs to reasonably contend for the playoffs. More is needed out of players like Okposo, Niederreiter and Josh Bailey to take pressure off Tavares and the top line. Even Michael Grabner fell short last year, one season removed from his impressive rookie campaign. The good news for the Islanders is that all these players are still very young with plenty of room for development.
A look at where Islanders players went during the lockout:
Josh Bailey (Bietigheim Steelers, German League - T2), Casey Cizikas (Bridgeport, AHL), Rick DiPietro (SC Riessersee, German League - T2), Michael Grabner (Villacher SV, Austria),Travis Hamonic (Bridgeport, AHL), Jesse Joensuu (Assat, Finnish Elite), Andrew MacDonald (HC Karlovy Vary, Czech League), Nino Niederreiter (Bridgeport, AHL), Frans Nielsen (Rauma, Finnish Elite), Kevin Poulin (Bridgeport, AHL), Mark Streit (Bern, Swiss Elite), John Tavares (Bern, Swiss Elite), Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovan Bratislava, KHL)