The Islanders have been going down a similar road the past several seasons. A poor first half followed by a renaissance that leaves them out of the playoffs and still managing to get a high lottery pick. The team has a tough road ahead of itself if making the playoffs is going to happen for them. More likely that that, the team is playing for self respect. There has been growth with some players, and not enough in others (see Comeau, Blake). When the plan is to rely on growth to take you to the next level and that doesn’t happen, seasons like this are inevitable. I’m feeling the same way this year as I did last though, which is optimistic about the future of the club.
After last years renaissance, many fans thought the Isles could be real contenders, as they played great down the stretch. This year is turning into a repeat of last year, save for the development of a few players that I consider the core of this squad:
John Tavares is the obvious leader of this group, as he is becoming the great hope of the fans and is their first bonafide superstar in some time. He’s still just a kid too. He’s a blue chipper that amazes as much with his talent as he does with his hard work.
Travis Hamonic has come from being a 2nd round draft pick to being one of the steadiest defenders on the team. He shows some offensive potential and plays a sandpaper game. He’s got fight in him, and you have to look at this as a positive reason that Hamonic continues to stay with the big club and impress.
Matt Moulson gets dogged as being a one dimensional player and the beneficiary of being on a line with John Tavares. I laugh when I think about this. Being one dimensional may bad quality, but when your one dimension is that you finish frequently in the NHL, that is enough to make you a desirable commodity and a multi-millionaire to boot. Give some credit to his linemate JT, but accept that Moulson is better than you think and is getting better along with JT.
On the fence:
Kyle Okposo – Moving onto JT’s wing has ignited some goal scoring for KO. The team needs secondary scoring, which he wasn’t able to provide much of before. He has obvious talent and charisma, and it’s easy to see his potential. Hopefully he finds it on an every game basis.
PA Parenteau – Lock this man up to a 3 year deal ASAP. Either that or trade for a 3-4 D-man. The team has nurtured him and he’s had more success than most people could believe. He’s becoming a genuine offensive threat. When he limits turnovers he is a huge asset, and is starting to provide some secondary scoring. If he gets’ signed, I’d add him to the core.
Al Montoya – Young and good, he deserves a chance to button down the back line for the Isles. Still need to see if he isn’t a fluke.
Andy MacDonald – Young and good, coming of hip surgery this year. Needs to get better and hopefully show some more offense. Big difference to me between he and Hamonic, is Hamonic’s aggressiveness.
Marc Streit – Streit is still a huge piece of this club, but can he rebound with a great year in his walk season (next year) or will he continue an injury laced decline?
Michael Grabner – Still managing to score some goals. He needs to work on his finishing touch. Does the NHL have any breakaway coaches? If so, then send one to the Island. Even improving his breakaway conversion rate a little bit will do wonders for the secondary scoring on the team. Could be the best investment the team can make to as far as value for the dollar. His top end is through the roof if he can start to convert more of his chances. Are there any takers for 60 goals a year of Grabner?
Frans Nielsen – Good player or core player? Need to play him in a more suitable role. Offensively challenged. Shootout specialist. He’s worth keeping, but in what role and at what cost?
Matt Martin – Going to lead the league in hits. Heart and soul player. Offensively challenged. Good 4th liner. Fans love his hustle. He’s been the best player on the team many nights in his limited role.