Another season in the National Hockey League is quickly approaching. With the regular season beginning on Friday, Oct. 6, the New York Islanders have a lot on their plate, primarily keeping team captain John Tavares for the long term and making the playoffs.
The Islanders, who missed the playoffs last season by one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, will look to build on last season’s second half success in order to make it back into the postseason.
Head coach Doug Weight led the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record after taking over head coaching duties from Jack Capuano on Jan. 17, including finishing the regular season off on a six-game win streak.
Weight now enters his first full season with a lot of expectations. The team also has significant new additions such as assistant coaches Luke Richardson and Scott Gomez, as well as the acquisition of Jordan Eberle. The Islanders acquired the forward in an offseason trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Strome.
Eberle and Tavares are reunited and are projected to play on the same line. The two were unstoppable in the 2009 World Junior Championships, combining for 14 goals and 28 points in six games, and they have joined forces a handful of times in World Championships since.
Tavares is playing for a contract and the question is: how developed will this team be to persuade him to sign long-term? It has been an issue for other teams where contract negotiations for a star player can be a distraction especially during the season. However, Weight was in the same situation and he could help Tavares in that regard.
When it comes to a well-rounded team to play with, the Islanders have a potential Calder Memorial Trophy contender in Joshua Ho-Sang as long as he stays healthy and produces. He produced 10 points in 21 games last season, but can have the ceiling to produce more now that he’s been in offseason practice with the team.
Anders Lee is another player to watch out for. He led the team in goals last season with 34. Leading the team in goals was a huge step up for Lee, considering he scored 15 the season before. If he gets put on the first line with Tavares and potentially Eberle, they will have one of the most dominant first lines in the East.
Andrew Ladd had a rough start to last season. He came into the season freshly signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract and scored two goals in his first 24 games.
However, he took a week off to nurse a back injury and came back a brand new player. He ended up finishing with 23 goals on the season, with 15 of them coming in the final 37 games.
He may have potential to be a 30 goal scorer this season with his confidence and physicality on the ice. With a potential line of Lee, Tavares and Eberle, the outside scoring may start up with Ladd.
The Islanders are also slightly down on defense compared to last season. Travis Hamonic was traded to the Calgary Flames after last year for a first-round pick and a pair of second rounders.
With a defense that needs work, the more responsibility there is on the goaltending situation this year. Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak will compete for the starting job. Thomas Greiss is already impressing with a shutout in his first start of the preseason earlier in the week.
Halak can prove to be a contender for the top spot as well, after going 7-1 to close out the season with a 1.58 goals-allowed-average and a dominant .950 save percentage. This was a huge step up from the beginning half of the season before he was called down to the minors after winning six of his 21 starts.
The Islanders are ready to play a much more energetic, high-paced game this season. Based on their second half record last season when Weight was promoted, the Islanders will show they are a Cup contender if they can at least play the same, if not better with their new team.