Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: New York Islanders

When you have spent as much time in the basement as the Islanders have, fans are bound to get a bit restless. It doesn't help that there stadium referendum was vetoed this summer as well. As for the on-ice product, they are young and on the way up, but how far up can they go above 13 this season in the East?

Strengths: The youth on the team is innumerable, and impressive. They are led by John Tavares, the young centermen who has tons of scoring ability and distributes the puck well. Around him, the Isles have Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Nino Niederrieter, and the near Calder winner from a year ago in Michael Grabner, who burst onto the scene. Even behind those top 6, there is considerable depth and good potential around the line up, and they are good secondary scoring options for this team. They have impressive depth at the forward position after having scoring troubles in the past few seasons.

Weaknesses: Defense and goaltending are still issues for this hockey team. Mark Streit is the best defensive player for the Islanders, but there is very little around him and behind him in the defense corps to captain the power play, or guys to be big hitters on the forecheck. They will need someone in that group to emerge alongside Streit in order for this team to be impressive. In net, there is a true logjam. Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, and Al Montoya are all in this goaltending triangle, and no one has done anything to completely standout. It doesn't look like anyone will stand out at this point.

Any Help Coming? C Ryan Strome has plenty of point scoring  potential, and should be a solid top 2 centermen at some point in the future. He may still have to build on some muscle on to his frame though. D Calvin de Haan is very solid overall, and can skate very well, but has a small frame and still needs to build some muscle. C Brock Nelson is a big center who has good potential all around.

Outlook: They will be in plenty of high scoring games, but their defense and goaltending issues may outweigh their offensive strong suits. In the East, it looks like the Islanders may have another long season due to their competition and overall lack of soundness behind a very solid group of forwards. They are on the right track, but defense and goaltending need to be more sound before they take the next step.

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