NHL Offseason Predictions: Can New York Islanders Compete in 2012-13

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The New York Islanders have had an incredibly quiet offseason.  The biggest free agency story for the Isles was P.A. Parenteau leaving for Colorado.  While speculation abounds as to a resolution for the Nassau Coliseum situation, the Islanders team website is keeping spirits up with video footage of an ice girl working out.  Rick DiPietro has resumed hockey-related activities while leading an instructional camp; I assume DiPietro remembers hockey fondly from his days a promising, healthy goaltender.

A quiet offseason isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The New York Islanders have young prospects that developed last year.  Additionally, Evgeni Nabokov emerged as a solid goaltending option in a position where New York suddenly has depth and skill.  The Islanders were good for a few upsets last year, but can they string it together and truly contend in 2012-13?

P.A. Parenteau signed a four-year deal worth a total of 16 million dollars as he left the Islanders in favor of the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent.  The New York Islanders made a prudent decision by avoiding a ridiculous contract offer for the 29-year-old winger, but he was one of the more talented offensive players on the Isles last year.  Parenteau was one of three Islanders that produced at a high level.  Parenteau’s 67 points were third on the Islanders behind John Tavares’ 81 and Matt Moulson’s 69 points.  24-year-old right wings Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner appear ready to assume a bigger role on the wing for the New York Islanders this year.

If Okposo and Grabner have big seasons on the top lines and John Tavares continues to exceed expectations, offense won’t be a major issue for the Islanders.  Goaltending appears deep with Evgeni Nabokov returning and Rick DiPietro competing for minutes.  Even Anders Nilsson performed exceptionally well in limited action.  If Nabokov can repeat his incredible season last year, the New York Islanders will be in games, surprisingly enough, because of their goaltending depth.

Still, the New York Islanders will likely fall victim to the toughest division in hockey yet again.  The Atlantic Division is led by powerhouses like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Rangers.  All three are likely locked into playoff positions again.  The New Jersey Devils regressed with the loss of Zach Parise, but they’re still a talented and deep team.

The New York Islanders appear poised to finish 5th in the Atlantic again as they continue to develop.  The four teams they play six times each year will simply lead to too many losses to expect the Islanders to make the playoffs.  The talent is there, but the Islanders need breakout seasons from young players and consistency from a 36-year-old goalie.  Depth could also be an issue for the Isles.

Ultimately, the playoffs are a long shot, but don’t be surprised if the New York Islanders are, at the very least, a nuisance for the perennial contenders that comprise the Atlantic Division.  There’s reason for optimism again, but the Isles are still incomplete.