RALEIGH, N.C. – The Islanders are well aware of the somewhat dire predictions of how they’ll perform this season, that after two straight playoff misses the organization will take another step back with John Tavares gone to Toronto.
So there’s no doubt the Islanders are motivated to prove the naysayers wrong as they open their season against the Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.
“There’s no question that I think the expectation on the outside of this room is for us to be not as good,” right wing Cal Clutterbuck said. “Because, obviously, people think that the success of one player defines a group. Which is totally inaccurate. But I think we have a game plan, it’s clear and it’s geared toward our strengths. And we have a lot of strengths.”
The Islanders went 35-37-10 last season under Doug Weight, prompting an offseason upheaval that saw Lou Lamoriello assume command as the president and general manager and Barry Trotz move behind the bench after winning the Stanley Cup with the Capitals.
Still, Bovada sports book listed the Islanders as a 90-1 shot to win the Cup, even behind the rebuilding Rangers, who are 80-1.
Center Brock Nelson described the team as having a “chip on its shoulders.”
“With everything that went on through the summer, people probably started talking and speculating,” Nelson said. “You try not to read into the outside and get involved with all of that. It was hard not to with John leaving and the coverage on that one was through the roof. People probably are down on us a bit. But we believe in each other in here and we’re ready to go.”
That is exactly the attitude Trotz wants to see from his new team.
“I’m all in on that for sure,” Trotz said of Nelson’s chip-on-the-shoulder comment. “A lot of people are saying they don’t expect much from us. We don’t care what anybody else says. We just expect a lot from ourselves. To have success as a group, you have to have that belief within the group. You have to have that chip on your shoulder. How we do it is our business. We’re going to get it done, say what you want.”
The Islanders are facing an opponent in a similar situation. New coach Rod Brind’Amour steps in for the Hurricanes, who have not made the playoffs since 2009 and finished just three points better than the Islanders last season at 36-35-11.
The game starts a road-heavy, first-month schedule for the Islanders, who host the Predators on Saturday night at Barclays Center but play just three of their 11 games at home in October.
“You want to try and show teams that we are a good team and we’re going to be a good team throughout the whole year and we’re going to be hard working and tough to play against,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We have to do that from Day 1 and not let off.”
Notes & Quotes: Trotz would not name a starting goalie for the opener but indications were Thomas Greiss will play the first game…Andrew Ladd (undisclosed), still on injured reserve retroactive to Sept. 16, resumed practicing but Trotz said there was a “0.0 percent” chance the veteran left wing would dress against the Hurricanes.