The writers here at the FanSided Sports Network are now on day nine of our NHL season preview. I’d like you to skate over to each of our sites daily and see what our talented hockey writers have to say about their teams’ upcoming season. Remember, we’re all fans and we have high expectations for our team, and previews are what they are…..previews. It will be interesting to see what the gang here has to say about their respective clubs. Will the Washington Capitals finally challenge for the Cup, what will happen to the Boston Bruins as they try to defend their championship, and can the Vancouver Canucks survive the “heartbreak” of losing in the Finals without tearing up their city….again.
Today, the entire staff of Eyes On Isles previews their New York Islanders, a team dealt a heartbreaking blow when their new arena referendum was defeated at the polls this summer. Putting that aside, the Islanders are stockpiling an impressive group of young talent through the draft, (including forwards Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome) and through free agency (including Michael Grabner, picked up after his release from the Florida Panthers). Chief among the young players is John Tavares, who signed a six year contract extension days ago to show his commitment to the organization in the face of rampant speculation as to how much longer the team will be on the island.
If GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuono can get a little luck with injuries on the blueline aand in net, it would certainly bolster their hopes of getting back to the playoffs. Writer Gary Harding said of the team’s bad injury luck:
The makeup of the Islanders defensive corps resembled the triage room at the 4077th M*A*S*H. When you look at the final stats for last season, you will see 14 players with the letter D next to their name. The number is 15, as Mark Streit did not see any playing time at all. Last season, no backliner played more than 64 games (both by the departed Radek Martinek and Jack Hillen).
With the veterans being healthy, this defensive corps is not a bad group. Mark Streit will be counted on for 27-30 minutes a game, and be involved in all three assets of the game. The two other 30+ defensemen, Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau are solid citizens, play a smart and stable game, and can provide experience and solidification of the back line.
In net, the Isles are still married to Rick DiPietro and his ridiculous contract (the Mike Milbury effect), when he’s healthy that is. The oft-injured netminder hasn’t played more than 26 games since 2007-08. When healthy and a competent defense in front of him, he has shown he can play well, but both of those conditions have eluded the team the past few seasons. Then there’s Evgeni Nabokov, the goalie who shunned the team after being claimed off waivers in the middle of last season. How long will he be around? And how effective can he be anyway?
I expect the Islanders to finish no higher than 13 in the Eastern Conference. While their young stable of forwards are as impressive as any team in the NHL, the shortcomings in net and on the back end are going to be too much to overcome, in my opinion. However, they are moving in the right direction, but Snow needs to focus on building a strong defense to match what should be a potent offense for years to come.
You can read the full preview of the Islanders 2011-12 season here. The boys over there did a fantastic job previewing their team, give it a read.
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