With the start of training camp Saturday and a new season quickly approaching, third-year head coach Scott Gordon hopes his team is poised to make the next step—the playoffs.
Two seasons ago, the Islanders finished last in the league. Last year, they didn’t finish much higher in the overall standings—26th place—but were competitive for most of the season and showed glimpses of promise.
Third year’s a charm?
“That should always be your objective,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a rebuilding team or the former Stanley Cup winner, that’s got to be what all players want to-- make it to the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup.”
Supporting Gordon’s post-season goal is the belief that the team’s off-season moves—particularly the additions made to bolster the team’s defense—will help greatly.
“We’re all excited. Some players really took the next step last year and then with the acquisitions we made on [defense], we were thrilled about that,” Gordon said. “It might not have the ‘Wow” factor of the [Ilya] Kovalchuk signing, but Garth [Snow] did a good job of getting defensemen with experience.”
The team landed gritty blue-liner James Wisniewski via trade this summer and also added veteran Mark Eaton and the hulking Milan Jurcina to their back end.
Combine those players with former All-Star Mark Streit, the now-healthy Radek Martinek, and young guys like Jack Hillen, Andrew MacDonald, and Bruno Gervais and the team’s has depth at a position that was weak last season.
With that area addressed, Gordon is now committed to make sure their special teams get better. Last season the Islanders power play finished 27th in the league (16%) and the penalty kill came in 29th (76.3%).
If both groups make significant improvements, Gordon feels that could make all the difference between making the post-season and packing up in April.
“When you look at the potential for us to be better, it wouldn’t take a whole lot.”