Puck Daddy’s 2016-17 NHL Preview: New York Islanders


Last Season

The New York Islanders broke 100 points for the second straight season, going 45-27-10 (100 points) while taking the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. Only this time, the Islanders won a round in the playoffs, dispatching Atlantic Division champion Florida in six games, before losing to that other Sunshine State team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in five games.

The season was the Islanders’ first at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where it was a clunky transition for fans, the views were somewhat obstructed and the atmosphere didn’t really get rocking outside of the Rangers’ visits and the playoffs. Oh, and those jerseys stunk.

John Tavares led the Islanders with 33 goals and 70 points, with Kyle Okposo second with 64 points and Frans Nielsen third with 53 points. The latter two players are now former Islanders, bolting to the Sabres and Red Wings on rich free-agent deals. Matt Martin, one of the team’s best grinders, left for Toronto.

In goal, injuries limited Jaroslav Halak, but Thomas Greiss stepped in and stepped up, posting better numbers (.925 save percentage) than his friend Halak. Greiss made all 11 starts in the playoffs.

2015-16 Season, In One Picture


Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?


Okposo was Tavares’s running mate for years, and the Islanders captain hoped that the finances worked out and he returned. But the Sabres anted up for him, and the Islanders chose not to match it.

Enter 30-year-old Andrew Ladd, who signed a seven-year, $38.5-million contract to play left wing with Tavares. He’s going to be good for 25 goals and 60 points provided he clicks with his new center. Also added to the offense: P.A. Parenteau for one year, and Jason Chimera, the 37-year-old former Washington Capitals speedster for two years.

The loss of Nielsen is a huge blow, not only because of his versatility in the top six but because of how many roles he could play. Not easily replaced.

Five Most Fascinating Players

1 – Andrew Ladd

Ladd was acquired to bring points and experience to John Tavares’s wing, after years as a top-line player for the Winnipeg Jets. This is a transitional year for Tavares, as he’ll have two new linemates. The pressure’s on Ladd to make the most of it and justify the investment in him.

2 – Brock Nelson

“Potential” is something often synonymous with the 24-year-old forward, and he showed some more of it in his third NHL season: a career-high 26 goals, and 23 of them at even strength. Is he going to be a second or third line center on this team?

3 – Ryan Pulock

The rookie defenseman had four points in 15 regular-season games and three more in six playoff games. He’s probably going to start as a third-pairing defenseman, but he did enough last season to be a point of intrigue for the Islanders this season. Unless his spot is taken by Dennis Seidenberg, the former Boston Bruins defenseman who entered the World Cup of Hockey with Team Europe without an NHL gig, and left with a one-year contract from the Islanders.

4 – Jaroslav Halak

Speaking of the World Cup of Hockey, Halak reminded everyone of his abilities when healthy in leading Europe to the championship final. With Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube in the mix, are we likely to see a three-headed monster, a demotion or a trade?

5 – Mathew Barzal

Is the time now for the 19-year-old center, who just tore up the WHL with Seattle for a third straight season? Some depth charts have him pegged as the team’s No. 2 center, between Anders Lee (36 points) and Ryan Strome (28 points).

Mascot Hijinks Video Break

Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?


The Islanders were just under 50 percent in 5-on-5 adjusted Corsi at 49.67. They scored the seventh most goals at even strength with 159, and gave up 152 goals. Tavares had 51 of his 70 points at even strength. Anders Lee was tied with Tavares for the highest adjusted Corsi percentage on the team at 51.71 percent.

Defensemen Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan were also positive possession players; expect them to be paired with Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, respectively.

Thomas Greiss was sixth in the NHL in EV save percentage with a .933, for goalies that had more than 30 games.

One point of concern: That without Matt Martin, the team’s very effective fourth line with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas could be less so. But Jason Chimera could be a solid substitute.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?


The Islanders were 17th on the power play last season at 18.3 percent. They lost Okposo and Nielsen from that group, but that opens the door for players like Ladd, Strome, Nelson, Josh Bailey and Lee, who had 14 power-play points last season, to grab more power-play time.

On the penalty kill, the Islanders were fourth in the NHL at a 84.5-percent conversion rate. Boychuk, Hamonic and de Haan were leaned on heavily. Cizikas and Nikolay Kulemin were the two most used forwards. Ladd and Chimera have been both used on the PK as well.

Can We Trust Their Goaltending?

Berube might be the odd-man out again, as the Islanders were happy with the combination of Greiss (who was great) and Halak (who can be great, as seen in the World Cup). Can they be trusted? In Greiss’s case, one wonders if last season can be repeated.

Player Mostly Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season

The most likely candidate, given the numbers on the blue line, would be Thomas Hickey. But might the Islanders leave Jason Chimera exposed for former Capitals GM George McPhee?

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

Eight. On the one hand, Jack Capuano has led his team to back to back 100-point seasons. On the other, they’ve yet to advance past the second round in three playoff appearances. He’s basically seven years into this job. That’s a long lifespan in NHL coaches’ years.


It’s a transitional year, not only with the players who left but with Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky taking over as owners. It’s not out of the realm of possibility this team, which was already on the wild card bubble, takes a step back. But as usual with the Islanders, the intrigue is off the ice: How do they fare in Brooklyn in Year 2, and what happens with John Tavares two years away from unrestricted free agency?

2016-17 Season Preview
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