After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year, the Islanders must address several issues heading into next season.
Here are the five most important questions facing the organization in the immediate future:
1. When will they announce next season’s head coach?
Notice the question is not “who” but “when.” Without a doubt, the Islanders want Jack Capuano back as bench boss for the 2011-12 season. Expect an announcement on his future with the organization soon.
2. What will Garth Snow do to make the team better?
It’s no secret that Snow has trouble landing top-shelf free agents, despite his willingness to pay more than the competition (see last July’s pursuit of defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Paul Martin). But players want to win and a 14th place finish in the Eastern Conference doesn’t help his cause. Snow’s best shot at procuring high-end talent likely will be via trade. Who will Snow target and more importantly, who is he willing to give up?
3. What will the organization do to secure its core players?
The Islanders need only to extend qualifying offers to Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau, but the organization could send a message of their commitment to their young nucleus by signing any or all to multi-year deals.
4. Who will step up as the next team captain?
With 40-year-old veteran Doug Weight leaning toward retirement, someone will need to step into the primary leadership role. Mark Streit possesses all the requisite qualities; young players like Kyle Okposo, Andrew MacDonald, Frans Nielsen and John Tavares could all potentially wear the “A.”
5. Who will be the Islanders’ starting goaltender?
Rick DiPietro made it clear on break-up day he wasn’t too concerned with the competition, but both Al Montoya and Kevin Poulin should get the opportunity to win the job as well. DiPietro made strides this past season health-wise—playing 26 games, more than the previous three years combined—but still struggled to prove he is capable of handling the bulk of the workload. Both Montoya and Poulin posted far better numbers.