(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
Last Season: 47-28-7, 101 points, third in the Metropolitan Division. Lost in first round to Washington Capitals.
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
The Islanders won’t look too much different than the 2014-15 version. Thomas Greiss will place Michal Neuvirth as Jaroslav Halak’s backup in goal after inking a two-year deal worth $3 million. Meanwhile, Anders Lee (four years, $15 million) and Thomas Hickey (three years, $6.6 million) both re-signed.
There were plenty of exits, however. Defensive prospect and 2012 no. 4 overall selection Griffin Reinhart was dealt at the Draft to Edmonton in exchange for two picks. Neuvirth and Colin McDonald both signed with the Flyers and Matt Donovan went to Buffalo.
The Islanders scored 2.99 goals per game last season, good for fourth overall. But the defense allowed 2.73 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL. Neither side was bolstered over the summer, meaning Capuano and his staff will need to gameplan to keep the red light turning on in their opponent’s end, while limiting its use in their own.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. John Tavares, F
Tavares would have taken home the Art Ross Trophy had it not been for Jamie Benn’s 4-point night on the final day of the regular season. Still, his 38 goals and 86 points helped him become a Hart Trophy finalist. Despite his elite status, he’s still labeled “underrated” by some, including NHL players we spoke to in Toronto this week.
2. Kyle Okposo, F
Okposo is entering the final year of a deal that will pay him $4.5 million this season. Over the past two seasons, he’s scored 45 goals and 120 points in 131 games. He and Tavares have developed chemistry on the Islanders’ top line, but there’s uncertainty surrounding his future in Brooklyn. The team reportedly shopped him around the Draft and the lack of extension talk will only fuel trade rumors during the season.
3. Michael Grabner, F
Like Okposo, Grabner is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Islanders have tried to deal him but his $5 million salary and frequent injured status, along with diminished production (20, 16, 12, and 8 goals, respectively, in the last four seasons since he scored 34 in 2010-11), has turned teams away. Can he remain healthy enough in 2015-16 to allow GM Garth Snow to get some form of an asset in return for him?
4. Frans Nielsen, F
There’s a theme here… Nielsen can be a UFA on July 1 if the team chooses to not re-sign him. An advanced stats darling in the past, the Dane saw his traditional stats decline (25-33-58 in 2013-14 to 14-29-43 last season), as well as his fancy numbers, which Garik from Lighthouse Hockey detailed in June. At 31, and with the prospects near-ready in the system, will we be seeing the Danish Backhand of Judgment on another team next season? It’s a real possibility.
5. Ryan Strome, F
In his first full NHL season, the 22-year old Strome posted 17 goals and 50 points. The line of Strome, Lee and Brock Nelson all produced career years and all three (if Nelson ever re-signs) look poised to continue to be supporting members of the secondary offense.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
There's enough cap space and potential trade pieces that if Snow needs to upgrade any areas of this team, he can do so with plenty of suitors calling.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The power play fails to improve. The Islanders were successful on 18.7-percent of their extra man opportunities last season, which was middle of the pack in the NHL. It was that power play that helped cost them their first-round series against the Washington Capitals where it went 0-for-14, which included a late third period opportunity while trailing 1-0 in Game 7.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
Tavares with Okposo or Strome, with Johnny Boychuk’s bomb from the point is a very appealing option.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Seven. Jack Capuano has managed to guide the Islanders to the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. But unlike their appearance in 2013, this team looks like one that has staying power. That, along with the move to Brooklyn, increases the pressure for results.
Awkward Old School Video Break
Some teams use cones on the ice for practice drills, but not the '80s Islanders. They preferred to use cars.
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
Special teams improve and the defense gets stingier, allowing the team to contend without worry in the East. Getting the Okposo contract situation resolved would go a long way to preventing any mid-season distractions.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
Special teams don’t improve and a slow start in what should again be a competitive Metropolitan Division costs Capuano his job. Okposo’s negotiations don’t go well and his future in Brooklyn becomes a cloud over the team. That and any sort of injury to Tavares.
Even with the Okposo contract situation up in the air and special teams being a real big question mark, the Islanders should find themselves enjoying their first year at Barclays Center with another playoff appearance. It won’t come easy and they may not get that “x” next to their name in the NHL standings until late in the season, but it’s safe to expect steps forward to continue to be made.