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It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

Aug 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo, John Tavares Getty Images

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.

  1. blynasty - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I already miss Penguins day!

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:17 AM

      Well then how about a recap. They are still relevent and will make the playoffs. Some are under pressure and a few guys are trying to come up and stick. The big question mark is how deep?

  2. succulentnipples - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Big Johnathon Football.

    • bsaures - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      Who cares about a qb who isnt good enough to be a starter for the cleveland browns

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Hockey > Football so go away.

  3. govtminion - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    OK, then I’LL make an Islanders comment.

    This is my team to watch right now. I wouldn’t say they’re a ‘surprise’ team to watch, because there’s a lot of talent here- it just didn’t work last year. Goaltending was a bit of a problem, as it has been for so long on the island. As the post here points out, that shouldn’t be an issue anymore. We all know what Halak is capable of, and take it from this Bruins fan- Johnson is a pretty great backup option, I was very impressed with him last year.

    Add to that a great offense with a healthy Tavares, a great faceoff man to feed him pucks in Grabovski… defense is still a little ‘eh’, but playoff teams have done well with worse in the past.

    This is going to be a very interesting team- either because things come together as expected and the Isles finally become a relevant force in the East, or because things come apart spectacularly and big changes start happening. Either way, a team to keep a close eye on as things get going in a few weeks.

    • patthehockeyfan - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      Making an Islanders’ comment? On Islanders’ Day? On an Islanders’ article on PHT? Hah! What a concept! Thumbs up for that! :)

    • jkay1818 - Aug 22, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      isn’t JT a center? i dont think he will be paired with Grabovski.
      Halak is going to be a question mark even though it is a huge upgrade for the NYI. He hasn’t been named a clear cut starter on any team he has played. Of course it was tough for him in MTL, but he battled with Elliot and couldn’t outright win the job. He also had a ridiculous defense in STL. STL wasn’t fully comfortable with him or elliot that they had to run out and deal for Miller. Then halak was flipped in buffalo and sent to washington where that didn’t go too well either. Something about him gives me a bad vibe. Again, major upgrade for the isles, but, when people show his stats compared to elite goalies they are leaving out the fact he has much much less body of work. Again, to be an excellent goalie, aside from being an excellent goalie, you need a nasty D in front of you which the isles don’t have.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      Govt, agreed. I wish the Hawks could have signed Johnson to a 1 year so Raanta could have spent a year in the NHL playing regularly, but with their cap issues, it was not a consideration.

      It astounded me that seeing how attrocious Nabokov was against the Pens the prior that they did not upgrade, when they had plenty of cap room.

    • bcisleman - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      Reasonable comment. Isles’ D was’t really that bad. They were 10th in fewest SOGs allowed and they will be adding Reinhart and maybe a vet by trade by the time the season starts. Isles should at least be a bubble team. If Halak and Johnson shine, they should make the playoffs and may even make a serious cup run.

      • govtminion - Aug 22, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        You know what? You’re right. I guess I hadn’t paid close enough attention to them last season (understandable, right?), but those defensive numbers do look good now that you mention it. I hadn’t realized their SOG was that good. Interesting indeed.

        Not sure they’re ready for a Cup run- but that’s the trick with the Isles right now, it’s hard to make what they are at this point without having played some games. As it is, this could be an Eastern power pushing the Penguins, Rangers, and Flyers for the division title, or they could be lounging at the bottom again- I have no idea at this point. (And isn’t that half the fun at this time of year? Not having a clue what’s going to happen, but guessing anyway?)

        Something like six weeks to go… gentlemen, start your engines. ;)

    • kaptaanamerica - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      Greatest Islander by vote?? Mike Bossy? wheres that article…

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 22, 2014 at 10:10 PM

        Where indeed. Perhaps they are still counting some absentee votes for Trottier or Potvin.

  4. tjvalley - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    The islanders are going to make the playoffs.

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      The Islanders are NOT going to make the playoffs, and that’s all I care about.

  5. jetfan74 - Aug 22, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    The Islanders are way better than Sabres fans make them out to be!!! The D is middle of the road in shots allowed so the problem was always in net. Problem solved! I’m not sure any other team blew more 3rd period leads, again thanks to the 3 stooges in net last year. Look for the Isles in the playoffs, and they will cause some problems.

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      No, they’re not. Halak is unproven over a full 82 game schedule. Their defense is poor and they don’t have enough scoring. Okposo, Tarvares and Grabovski can’t do it all. They will be giving us a lottery pick.

      • bcisleman - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        You are totally without a clue. All Halak has to do is be average and this team is in the playoffs. Their scoring was better than a number of playoff teams even with Tavares gone and Nielsen and Okposo injured. They are headed to the playoffs.

    • bcisleman - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      They were 10th in SOG allowed. That’s better than middle of the road.

  6. mattyg89 - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    As a hawks fan, I’m excited to watch this team. Their offense looks pretty solid this year again but as mentioned in the article their D is suspect (at best). I’m interested to see if they bring up their advanced stats. Okposo killed it on my fantasy team last year. Hoping he can have another good year.

  7. buddysguys - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    TJ Brennan is not a steal he is a AHL Lifer. He couldnt crack the Sabres Lineup…the SABRES. If anything he is stealing from the Islanders and will be sent back down.

  8. blomfeld - Aug 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    HAPPY ISLANDERS DAY ?

    Well I suppose, as apparently they do ‘mean’ well from what I’m told ? Anyway, in other breaking news today, it’s now being reported that a bunch of fish of fish were last seen swimming up a stream !

  9. twinwildflyer - Aug 22, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Not a mention of Anders Lee?

  10. peter845 - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:41 PM

    Govtminion: Thank you!!!! ;)

  11. peter845 - Aug 22, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    Jkay1818: you are aware of the fact that Halak broke the shutout record in st.louis??? Right? Or maybe not… After what you just posted!

  12. thekindone4 - Aug 22, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    The excitement that Islanders fan have is strong! I will feel bad for them when they miss the playoffs and have to give a high 1st to Buffalo! Since they didn’t improve the Defense corp, Halak will struggle! Having to relay on young stud Reinhart, is not a ideal situation. How many Dmen are dominating and successful without at least one year of seasoning at the AHL level? TJ Brennan has never done anything at the NHL level, so he is not the answer. He has dominated the AHL for YEARS! From this Sabres fan, I’ll be following the progress of this team and rooting for lots of loses!

  13. paulerhythm - Aug 23, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    I like the Islanders chances of making the playoffs alot better than the Sabres chances, just saying.

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