Hockey is back.
The New York Islanders opened their preseason schedule on Monday with a 3-0 shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
If you are still grieving their second round elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you are not alone. But a new season means a new start, and a new path for the Isles to hoist their first Cup since 1982-83.
Here is preview of the departures and arrivals for the 2016-17 season:
For years, this Isles team grew up together, into the team that made it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1993. After many painstaking miserable years in the 90s and early 2000s, it looked like everything was finally coming together as a collective group for the core who has played together for the last seven years.
Many times, this scenario leads to a deep Stanley Cup run. For last year’s Islanders, it meant history. However, the Isles fan base always expects more than only a second round appearance. If the Isles roster from last season only saw minimal changes, who knows what heights they could have hit this season and on? With back-to-back playoff appearances the last two years and if you count the 2012-13 playoff appearance, three trips to the postseason in the last five seasons is impressive.
After an offseason of several drastic changes, it will be interesting to see how the new-look Islanders will assimilate as a group. Yes, the Islanders still have their captain and leader John Tavares, but the departure of guys who were also the backbone of the team in their own ways is a big blow. It will take a significant amount of time to adjust to not having those crucial pieces in place anymore.
These key subtractions are Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin. All three were grown and raised in the Isles organization and made their NHL debut for the blue and orange. Each brought attributes that developed and reached their peak in recent years.
Okposo was just starting to shine as an offensive powerhouse, tallying at least 50 points the last three seasons.
Nielsen had been mentioned as a contender for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward and for the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the player who exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability. He also carried a lethal backhand in his toolbox on breakaways and shootouts, earning the Isles many much-needed extra points. Since 2006-07, he converted 42 for 82 shootout attempts, a 51.2 percent clip. Of those 42 goals, 17 have been the game-deciding goal. “Fransy” will be missed on all units, including the penalty kill.
Martin was a powerhouse, leading the league in hits the last two seasons. The Isles line consisting of Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck was considered to be the best fourth line in the NHL by many analysts around the league. They brought an electric energy whenever their numbers were called. That is something that cannot be replaced because all three are no longer together.
However, the past is the past and the Isles are focused on the upcoming season. Here are the newcomers that were signed this offseason.
The Isles signed Andrew Ladd, 30, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with 64 postseason games under his belt. Ladd will bring a scoring presence to the lineup if he can stay consistent.
P.A. Parenteau, 33, has returned to the Isles, after previously being a member from 2010-12. Parenteau tied his career-high of 20 goals last season as a Toronto Maple Leaf, a feat he first accomplished during the 2010-11 season with the blue and orange. It is nice to see a former Islander return to the team. Parenteau has an exuberant personality and will fit right in with the rest of the guys. He is a proven playmaker who can only contribute.
The other newcomer, Jason Chimera, who has spent the last seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, has the potential to put up 20 goals. The 37-year-old versatile winger netted 20 goals last season in Washington—tying a career high. Chimera has made appearances in 69 playoff games during his 16-year NHL career. Projections are he will be playing on the third line. He will be giving the Isles speed, a strong forechecking game and come up strong during penalty kill situations.
Defensively, the Isles added former Boston Bruin Dennis Seidenberg, 35, to bring blue-line depth on Wednesday.
With Tavares playing alongside new linemates in Ladd and Parenteau, it will be a challenge, but a player like Tavares can play with anyone and still succeed. Ladd has a solid two-way game and is a winger the team needs. He will compliment Tavares well on the wing.
Through all of the rough seasons and struggles, this group of guys stuck with the Isles the entire way, until this year. There will always be speculation to where the team would go if they remained, but the NHL is a business, and Tavares and this Isles crew will be all business as well, with or without them. The Isles fans will be welcoming Ladd, Parenteau, Chimera and Seidenberg with open arms to bring their talents toward the ultimate goal.