John Tavares (91) of the New York Islanders skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nassau Coliseum on November 17 2010 in Uniondale New York. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 4-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Despite all their woes training camp should be an exciting time for the New York Islanders. Here we have a team which is sitting at four straight seasons of being in last place in the Atlantic Division, none of which saw them be even remotely competitive for a playoff spot. Worse than their four-year streak is their streak of 17 straight seasons since they have won a playoff series. All the struggles of recent years have put the once dominant Islanders in a position where their overall regular season record is only 30 games over .500 (that does not include 43 OTLs). Then how come camp is a bright spot for the ever-struggling Islanders?
When you struggle for such a long period of time you begin to build a core of exciting young players and that is exactly what the Islanders have done. This past season they drafted big-time prospects Ryan Strome and Scott Mayfield and over the last few years have drafted Nino Niederreiter, Brock Nelson, Kirill Kabanov, John Tavares, Calvin De Haan, Josh Bailey, and Kyle Okposo. Camp is where these young stars in the making, or at least the Islanders hope they are stars in the making, get to show what they have. With the Islanders still in a building mode there is a good chance many of these players could, potentially, make the team.
Jack Capuano goes into this season without the interim title and will attempt to keep the Islanders head coaching job, unlike many of the guys he has succeeded. The last Islanders coach to coach the Islanders in more than 200 games was Al Arbour, who is also the ONLY Islanders coach to do so. Capuano also has to name who will be the Islanders captain and alternates this season. Whoever gets the honor must step up or the Islanders will not only be rebuilding but also be lost.
The Islanders have changed very little about their team going into the 2011-12 season but this may be for the best. With few new acquisitions a few of the Islander prospects may be able to break the opening day roster. Youth is where it is at for the Islanders as their recent struggles have brought them to where they are now stock full of young, emerging players. Although I foresee the Islanders finishing at the bottom of the Atlantic once again it is only due to the fact they play in a very competitive division. I do not believe the Islanders will be the welcome mat they have been over the past four years and instead the young nucleus will be excited and ready to play every night. If anything I expect the Islanders to give their fans a fun show to watch this upcoming season.