So tonight kicks off what could be the most important season in recent years for the Islanders. With a few new additions to the roster as well as a new coaching staff, the Isles have a new look that some critics are underestimating.
Key Additions: Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal (rookie).
Key Exits: Travis Hamonic, Ryan Strome, Mikhail Grabovski, J.F. Berube.
This past off season has had its ups and downs, but the addition of Eberle on the first line with Tavares and Lee could bring a threat to the Eastern Conference. NHL.com has ranked this first line as 13th best in the league, which I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact Eberle is the new comer and needs to get accustomed to new teammates. With veteran defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk filling out that first line, the Islanders in my opinion have one of the deepest first lines in the league.
Much of the success for this season relies on veteran players mentoring the younger guys. Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho Sang got a taste of the big league last season and they definitely made an impact. Ho Sang has started to be mentioned as a possible candidate for the Calder Trophy. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Mathew Barzal and the success he’s had in the WHL. Pairing these young guns with Isles vets like Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey should be interesting to watch. Throw in that fourth line of Clutterbuck, Cizikas and Kulemin which has made its impact physically over the last few seasons.
With the rest of the league saying that the Isles will just miss the playoffs again, this team needs to come out stronger than ever to start the season. The Eastern Conference on paper is very difficult especially with Pittsburgh gunning for a third straight Stanley Cup, and teams such has Columbus and Washington knocking at the door. Providing this team stays healthy (especially our goalies), they have the ability to make a playoff run this year.
This team needs to play for their captain this year. If Tavares feels this is not the franchise that can win him a cup, we are looking at the biggest rebuild of the franchise since the mid 90’s (Mike Milbury years we’d all love to forget). Ownership is going to get a new arena one way or another, now it is just in the hands of New York State to give the final stamp of approval (my sources close to the team say its a done deal, but lets wait for the ink to dry).
Tonight kicks off the first game in Columbus, and Saturday will be the home opener against Buffalo. Yours truly will be there, beer in hand and ready for another season. The Isles slogan going in to this season is “Hit ‘Em First”…..lets hope so.