5 Offseason Changes New York Islanders Must Make

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5 Offseason Changes Islanders Must Make

Islanders
Ron Chenoy - USA TODAY Sports

After making the playoffs last season, the New York Islanders are going to be looking for a repeat performance in 2013. The Islanders surprised a lot of people a year ago, making the playoffs for the first time in six years. Things went great for the team a year ago, even pushing the best team in the conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins, to six games in the opening round. It was a quick ending to the season for the team, but it was a much needed step in the right direction for a club that has spent the last few years in a rebuilding mode.

A year ago, players on the team stepped up in big ways at key moments. John Tavares had an MVP type year, most nights being the best player on the ice for either team. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey both scored big goals in key situations down the stretch for the club and Evgeni Nabokov had another outstanding season between the pipes, helping lead the charge into postseason play. With all the success they had last season, there is still room for improvement on the team, especially with a full season of play and new divisions and opponents to contend with. The team has plenty of young talent in the system who look ready to break out in 2013. Given the right opportunity, this core of young talent could really be able to shine. As many good things as the Islanders did last year, there were also some noticeable holes that need to be filled.

Last year, there weren’t a solid set third and fourth line, and that somewhat hurt the Islanders down the stretch. Lack of scoring depth has been a problem for the team over the past few years, even though the Islanders still made the playoffs last year, there is plenty of room for improvement on that front. There hasn’t really been a set right winger to play along with Tavares in Moulson. Brad Boyes looked pretty good playing with those two a year ago, but as of right now he isn’t back in the mix yet and the team hasn’t found a replacement for him yet. Defensively, the Islanders have been an average team, but with the Eastern Conference getting tougher this year, the Islanders blue line is in need of some stronger stability.

The Islanders have already made a few moves this summer to make the hockey team better, but there is still work to be done before the regular season begins. So now, here are five things the Islanders need to do to be a success this hockey season.

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No. 5: Strengthen Blue Line

Blueline
Marc DesRosiers - USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the guys on the Islanders blue line are good, but there is so much more that can be done. Don’t get me wrong, re-signing both Lubomir Visnovsky and Travis Hamonic to deals are great. Both guys were key components to that Islander defense core a year ago, along with Andrew McDonald. It’s the rest of the Islanders' blue line that has me worried. Matt Carkner had a decent year, but let’s be honest, he isn’t really going to be winning the league’s best defenseman award anytime soon. Brain Strait could be good, same thing with Thomas Hickey and Joe Finlay.

The blue line is good, but with how much better everybody else is in conference, I don’t feel the Islanders' blueline is going to get them into the playoffs. Some of the players the Islanders have in the system, like Calvin De Hann, could make a big impact on defense this season. Still, I feel adding another blue liner via free agency would set the Islanders up for success. Going after free agents like Ryan Whitney and Douglas Murry would be a good fit on the team. Just one more free agent defenseman would be a great fit for the Islanders.

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No. 4: Bring Back Brad Boyes

Brad Boyes
Tom Szczerbowski - USA TODAY Sports

I know a few people are going to be unhappy with this idea, but hey it’s worth a shot. Boyes put up good numbers with the team last year, and seemed to have a good fit with Moulson and Tavares. With a full 82-game season under his belt, playing with those two guys, Boyes can prove he still has the talent to be a top-six forward in this league.

We all know he had good years playing in St. Louis, and that was because he was playing with guys who best complemented his style of play. Boyes has that once again playing with Tavares and Moulson, and it will bring out the best in him. The Islanders signed him last summer for cheap, so it wouldn’t hurt them at all to give it another try with Boyes.

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No. 3: Grab A Top-Line Winger

Right Winger
Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

It would be nice to try and get a hold of Boyes again in the lineup, but if that option isn’t available anymore, the Islanders need to go out and grab a top-six forward. There are still some pretty talented wingers available on the free agent market that the Islanders can make a play for. Two guys in particular stand out to me that the Islanders should go for.

Brendan Morrow comes to mind as a good fit for the Islanders. He’s a solid goal scorer, has he has scored big goals during his career. Also he brings a physical presence which, even though has already been addressed by the team with the signing of Cal Clutterbuck, could still be helped out with a guy like Morrow. Damien Brunner would also be a good fit with the Islanders. Brunner is quick, has good hands and could become a top six forward over the course of time. Whether the Islanders pick up these players or not, I don’t know. They need to do something if they really want to compete in the East.

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No. 2: Current Forwards Need To Step Up

Kyle Okposo
Anthony Gruppuso - USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the Islanders do have some talent at the forward position. The guys who are here now are good, but a few of them really need to step up and have good years this year. Three guys in particular really need to have breakout seasons this year. First is Kyle Okposo. I know he had a solid season last year, and he has been able to produce a little in past years. I also know that there is a lot more talent inside of Okposo, a level he has yet to achieve. For some reason, Okposo has yet to reach his fullest potential as an offensive weapon, and this offseason would be the perfect time to discover that potential and bring it to camp.

Josh Bailey also really needs to have a big year this year. Don’t get me wrong, Bailey scored some big goals late last year, but during a full 82-game schedule he has yet to really show me that consistent goal-scorers touch. Bailey has to be able to produce for a full 82-game season, and this year is the perfect time to start showing it. Finally, Michael Grabner needs to try and return to form. It’s not that Grabner had a bad year last year because he had a decent one. This was a guy who scored 34 goals his first year on long island, and in the last two seasons, he hasn’t really looked like that guy. Grabner needs to find that type of game again and get back to what made him a 34-goal scorer two years ago to really be effective.

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No. 1: Have Young Talent Make An Impact

Brock Nelson
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

There are a few guys in the Islanders' system who have a ton of talent and can make this Islanders club better. Two in particular would be perfect to have playing on the big club this year. First is Calvin De Hann. He is a quick defenseman with a good shot. He can cover his own end of the rink as well as rush up the ice. De Han can also bring a bit of a physical element in as well, which has been lacking for some time for a defenseman on Long Island. Another guy who should be in the lineup most of the year this year is Ryan Strome. This kid is quick, can make plays and can score goals. Both these guys would be good fits in the Islanders' lineup from opening night on.

Two guys who made their debut last season can also have an impact on this year’s club. Andres Lee showed fans last year a little taste of what he can do, by scoring on his first shot. He has good hands and can use his size to his advantage in front of the net. Same thing can be said about Brock Nelson.

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