I know how good this New York Islanders team is. The best player on the team is hands down John Tavares. He was up for the Hart Trophy last year as league MVP. Him and Matt Moulson make one of the better one-two punches in the league. As of now, though, the team doesn’t really have a top-end right winger to complement those two guys. Sure the club has talented right wingers, like Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner, but I don’t think as of now that those two guys are going to be the perfect fit for that top line.
As we all know, the team got a little deeper at center by locking up Josh Bailey long term, and added a little more depth with the signing of Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Also, the toughness of the team has been upgraded with the signing of Cal Clutterbuck.
A year ago, the Islanderssurprised quite a few people in the hockey world by making the playoffs for the first time in six years. Now with that playoff experience under their belt, the Islanders are hungry for more heading into the 2013-14 NHL season. There are some new faces in the lineup heading into this year, and with a full 82-game regular season and the Olympics to contend with as well, its going to be fun to see if the Islanders can make the playoffs this year.
Does head coach Jack Cappuano have a good team to work with this season? Absolutely, he does. Is this team good enough to make another run at a playoff spot? Absolutely, it is. Does this team have enough talent to go deep into the playoffs? I don’t think so just yet.
The defense is going to look a little bit different this year. Mark Streit is gone, and Lubomir Visnovsky will be called upon to take more of a leadership role on the blueline. Same thing can be said about Travis Hamonic, with the new contract extension he just signed. The physical presence is solid on defense, as Matt Carkner and Joe Finley will be switching off playing time this year as well.
Goaltending has been once again solidified by bringing back Evgeni Nabokov for one more season. He’s still a reliable goalie, and will also serve to help move along the progress of the younger goalies in Kevin Poulin and Andres Nilsson. So, along with the veterans coming back for next year, there will also be an influx of young guys from the Islanders AHL team who will try and have an impact on the big club.
With all that being said, I do think this team is good enough to have a chance to get into the playoffs again in one of the final three available playoff spots. The talent level is there, that of which I have no doubt. What does worry me is that the talent level isn’t there yet to be able to compete for a Stanley Cup title.
Yes, the offense is good, but you don’t know what kind of mix you will get with the players that are already here. I’m sorry, but from what I’m sensing heading into camp, I don’ t know how consistent a team, scoring wise, they will be. They are still missing that one top-end forward who can give them two solid scoring lines. The defense is still a little suspect, and I feel that there is a little more the front office can do to fix these holes.
Of course, there is still plenty of time between now and the start of training camp to possibly add more pieces to the puzzle, if management so desires. Like I said, this team is good enough to make the playoffs again this year. Does it have enough to get over the hump and go for a deep run in the playoffs? Not just yet. Just give it time and the Islanders will make a huge impact around the league and become solid contenders for the Stanley Cup.