Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the New York Islanders are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season, the issues they face this season, and Scott Cullen's fantasy analysis. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Islanders!
New York Islanders
2009-10: 34-37-11 (13th in East, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Garth Snow (4th Season)
Head Coach: Scott Gordon (3rd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The Isles re-signed Matt Moulson and Rob Schremp while buying out defenceman Brendan Witt. It took much longer than expected but eventually captain Doug Weight put pen to paper and agreed to a one-year contract extension. Nino Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall while Mark Eaton, Zenon Kenopka and Jon Sim were signed as a free agents. James Wisniewski was acquired from the salary cap strapped Ducks. While the Isles sniffed around Ilya Kovalchuk for a bit, that deal never materialized and it was a very quiet summer in Long Island.
Biggest issue facing the team:
It is generally not a very good sign for an NHL team when your highest paid player is currently playing in Russia. Yes the Isles will be paying Alexei Yashin over $4.7 million this season to not play for them. The good news is that after this season there is only four years left on his deal…wait that's not very good news at all. While the Isles have not lost any significant pieces from last year's team they have not exactly added too many impact players to a team that finished 13th in the East, struggled with offense and is by an large comprised of third and fourth line players. Should John Tavares go through a sophomore slump or should Moulson's 30 goal tally prove to be just an aberration, then the Islanders are going to be in a lot of trouble. Maybe they can convince Yashin to abandon SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL and return to New York to inject some much needed offensive pop to a team in desperate need of it. On second thought, maybe Yashin is fine right where he is.
Player to watch:
After missing out on a Calder Trophy nomination last season, John Tavares is looking to break out offensively this campaign the same way Steven Stamkos did during his sophomore season. Tavares is far and away the most talented offensive player on the Isles, however he does not have a great deal of help around him, and when he went through lengthy goal-scoring droughts, there was no one to pick up the slack. Although Mark Streit is a legitimate power play quarterback, New York is largely lacking in wingers who know how to put the biscuit in the basket. While Moulson's 30 goals was an extremely pleasant surprise, many do not believe that he can accomplish the feat again. Budding power forward Kyle Okposo has not developed as quickly as the team would undoubtedly like. Youngsters such as Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey all made strides in the right direction in their first full NHL seasons; however it is clear that this team will live and die with the offensive talents of the ‘John John Phenomenon.'
Fortunately for New York, Tavares is a remarkable talent that has been able to pile up points wherever he goes. In one year's time we will likely be saying his name in the same hushed tones reserved for the truly elite talents in the game. Until then he will face one of his toughest ever tests as he attempts to drag this once proud franchise back to credibility.
For additional Islanders analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.