Friday, October 2, 2009

Curiosities Entering the Season

With the league and Islander stats predictions in and the home opener not even 36 hours away, one can’t help but have a few other questions about the upcoming season, for example:

- What role will the injury bug play this year? Arguably, few other teams have been hit as hard the past two seasons as our beloved Islanders have been. Will things change? Well, if the preseason is any indication…
- For a team putting heavy emphasis on younger players, we have a blueline that is long in the tooth and perhaps short on talent. As the lone draftee playing amongst the top 7, will Gervais continue to build on the steps he took during the second half of the 08-09 season?
- Other than Streit, who is going to man this team’s point on the power play? Hillen looked like he was getting a shot in the preseason, but last season saw players like Weight and Okposo get a good amount of time manning the points. Will Gordon look to go that route again, sometimes even having 5 forwards on the ice at once?
- Speaking of Gordon, he’s no longer got the bye of being a pure NHL rookie. At the same time, he’s hardly entering this season with a better line-up than he had last season. The question is, will the continuity of having retained a good 85% of the line-up allow this team to now show the true colors of Gordon’s more complicated overspeed system?
- Even more so than Gervais, Jeff Tambellini really turned things around down the stretch run last season. It seemed to come as a result of his readiness to be a player who contributes in areas other than scoring, which had been his chief responsibility at every other station thus far in his career. He does work hard and he is fast, but can he now take it all to another level this season?
- Roloson and Biron instead of MacDonald and Danis: on paper, a huge upgrade in the goaltending department. How much of an upgrade will it translate into in the standings?
- Will Streit solidify his standing as one of the NHL’s top 15 defenseman? I mean common’, can he really duplicate the type of season he had last year?
- Can any of Sim, Bergenheim, Comeau, Tambellini or Moulson be an answer in the secondary scoring department this season?
- Will any of the kids who took nice strides last season take a few steps back this year?
- Will Bailey quietly become one of the NHL’s top young two-way centers?
- How much of a jump will Okposo take after having a very convincing rookie year?
- At what juncture this season will we fans become more concerned about next summer’s draft than with our battle for a playoff spot?
- Once the trade deadline approaches, which of Weight, Witt, Biron/Roloson, Park, Sim, Moulson, Sutton, Meyer or Martinek – or anyone else deemed worthy of exchanging – will Snow be able to turn into another asset for this franchise? Or will we actually be able to be a buyer?
- The biggest off-ice issue in Islanderland? We should know by the end of the season if the Islanders’ future will take place on Long Island, or not.
- The biggest on-ice issue in Islanderland? In Tavares, we now have a Canadian kid who has garnered more attention than any other non-NHL player over the past two years. In fact, he simply is the most talked about kid coming out of juniors since Crosby joined the NHL’s ranks. Now his time has come to make his NHL dreams true, but he doesn’t necessarily have a lot to work with out there. Just what kind of season is he going to have?

Here’s looking forward to a nice start to the season as well as some positive answers to the questions above. The opener will see our Isles facing a Penguins team that is hopefully going to be showing signs of a Stanley Cup hangover. It’s also a team that might be coming in here without a few important players like Cooke, Talbot and the aforementioned Crosby. The Isles will have a few nights off after the big home opener and will then hit the road for games in Ottawa and Boston on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. By the end of October, our Islanders will have played roughly a sixth of the season.

For those in attendance tomorrow, have fun and make some noise!

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