We had a big, juicy slideshow of our Halfways, the midseason awards, but here are some halfway thoughts on the Islanders:
-- MVP: Frans Nielsen. As mentioned yesterday, he’s not always noticeable. There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s not the Isles’ best faceoff guy, not the best power-play player, not the best penalty killer, but he’s good enough to do all three when needed. He’s a shootout ace too. At 26 and signed for another year at the bargain price of $525,000 per year, he’s as much a part of the rebuild as the first-round picks.
-- Top defenseman: Andrew MacDonald. Even missing 15 games, he’s built on an impressive 2009-10 to become a top-pair defenseman at 24 and, right now, the leader of the defense going forward. He’s helped 20-year-old Travis Hamonic make the transition to the NHL and that pair could become a shutdown tandem with four veterans around them next season. Like Nielsen, MacDonald is locked up at a ridiculously low price ($550,000 per year through 2013-14). And here’s the biggest reason he’s so valuable: The Isles are 12-10-3 with him in the lineup this season, 1-11-3 without him.
-- Top goaltender: Dwayne Roloson. No, he’s not around anymore, but the 41-year-old’s two-week stretch of play before he was dealt to Tampa was one of the best runs for any goaltender, anywhere, this season. He never loved the situation with Rick DiPietro and, according to two people who regularly talked to him, he was desperate to leave at last season’s trade deadline; now he’s gone, which is a shame for Isles fans, but he gave all he had and then some, despite his unhappiness.
-- Biggest disappointment: Scott Gordon’s firing. It’s tough to say it was unnecessary, given how well some of the Isles who struggled under Gordon -- Blake Comeau, Rob Schremp, Josh Bailey, John Tavares -- are playing now. But Gordon laid a solid foundation, even if people don’t quite realize it yet.
-- Predictions for the second half: Kevin Poulin will play the majority of the games over the final 41, setting the stage for the 20-year-old to vie for the No. 1 spot in 2011-12... Matt Moulson will sign an extension and not be dealt before the Mar. 3 deadline, meaning the big Isles moves have already been made... Nielsen gets a few Selke Trophy votes... The Isles finish with 72 points, good for 13th in the East, and will pick fourth in the June draft.