Your source for behind-the-scenes New York Islanders hockey news and information.
Training Camp Preview
As many of the Islanders were teeing off at the team's annual golf event today, I was working on my training camp preview, which should appear in tomorrow's paper. Here's a little to chew on until tomorrow, just basically the main issues heading into camp which opens Saturday in Saskatoon and overarching themes for the upcoming season.
Two very important numbers to consider:
583- The number of man-games lost for the Islanders last season; no matter how good you are, that is a pretty insurmountable obstacle.
0-The number of players on the Islanders last season who scored 20+ goals. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the first time in Islanders history that the team has not had a single player score 20 goals. That's also the first time for an NHL team to not produce a 20-goal scorer since the 2003-2004 Hurricanes. (Keep in mind, however, that this stat is slightly skewed for two reasons: 1) Bill Guerin was traded to Pittsburgh before he could reach that plateau, and 2) several key contributors battled injuries throughout the season).
OK, so here are some the main storylines heading into camp/season:
.1. John Tavares
The Islanders used the first overall pick in this year's draft to address the team's absence of pure goal-scorers by selecting Tavares, a standout sniper the past four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. The Islanders hope that Tavares’ skill can translate to the NHL level and help with the club's glaring lack of offensive production.
Starting goaltender Rick DiPietro was sidelined for the season by injury after playing only five games last season, leaving the Islanders without a legitimate starting goaltender. As a result, backup goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis were thrust into starting roles to fill the void for the remainder of the season. To avoid a similar situation this year, the Islanders signed two legitimate starting goaltenders this offseason--Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron-- providing depth at the position and DiPietro the necessary time to recover before returning. Without question, the Islanders have improved in this area, but what remains to be seen is how both Roloson and Biron will be used and what will happen once DiPietro returns.
3. Staying Healthy
Injuries were a debilitating factor in the team's success and development in last year. The Islanders were saddled with a whopping 583 man-games lost to injury. Not only did the team suffer injuries to cornerstone players such as DiPietro, Doug Weight, and Trent Hunter but also several key young players like Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey which put a cramp in the team's rebuilding process.
And here are some lingering questions as the season approaches:
1. What immediate impact will John Tavares have on the team? The Islanders must evaluate whether Tavares, who set scoring records in junior hockey, can not only play but contribute at the NHL level.
2. With former Islander captain Bill Guerin gone, who will step in to provide leadership? The obvious choice is 38 year-old Doug Weight, but someone must guide the team’s youth movement and show the younger players how to train and play like professionals.
3. What is going on with franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro's rehabilitation? Because general manager Garth Snow shrewdly signed both Roloson and Biron, DiPietro can be cautious with his rehabilitation. DiPietro began skating last month and said he'll adhere to a strict schedule of gradually increasing his workload, but when will he be ready to play?
Flying out to Saskatoon tomorrow morning, so will report back on the place the Islanders call home for the next week-and-a-half!