The New York Islanders are coming off of yet another building block season were last year they finished 14th in the Eastern Conference with a 30-39-13 record. They open up this season with a home game against the only team who finished below them in the East last season, the Florida Panthers.
Despite still being a very young team, with a very young new head coach, the Islanders come into this season with some great veteran leadership. Mark Streit was named the 13th Islanders captain in team history, and Steven Staois was given an alternate captaincy after making the team on a tryout contract.
Many of the names of the Islander forwards may not be household names, but the talent runs deep. Last season all 6 of the Islanders top 6 forwards posted seasons of over 40 points and all 6 of those players return this year with another year of experience on their belt. The bottom six is a bit more of a question with new additions Brian Rolston and Jay Pandolfo looking to extend their careers with the Islanders.
The defense of the Islanders does not exactly give the appearance of a young team like the forwards somewhat do. The 3 pairings of D-men consist of ages 38, 34, 33, 33, 25, and 21. The 1st pairing will likely have Mark Streit and Steven Staois who are a combined 71 years old. The Islanders have the hope the veteran defense can help keep the rest of the team online so they can make even more strides to be a competitive team.
The goalie situation on Long Island is as interesting as they get. The Islanders will start the season with three goalies on the active roster, Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya will all be on the roster Saturday night. More surprising may be the fact that 25 year old Montoya has been given the starting nod by Capuano for Saturday's game vs the Panthers. This means 36 year old Evgeni Nabokov and the man 5 years into a 15 year contract will be watching the young Montoya in net.
Around The League
Most "experts" seem to think the Islanders have made enough strides to remove themselves from the bottom feeders of the East but very few see the Islanders making the playoffs. Two of the 3 major media predictions that have the Islanders in the playoffs come out of New York. The remaining predictions seem to have the Islanders finishing either 10 or 11.
I do believe the Islanders have the talent to make the playoffs but their top 2 lines and top 2 defensive pairings would need to play in all 82 games. I'm taking the popular root on the Islanders and say they finish at either 10th or 11th in the East.
Likely Opening Night Lines
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - P.A. Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Brian Rolston - Josh Bailey - Blake Comeau
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Mike Mottau