check out my blog http://nyi247.blogspot.com/
Now that the Islanders are officially out of the playoff race it is time to start looking towards next season and see what improvements need to be made to become a contender next year.
First let me say, I think this season was a huge success. Sounds crazy, I'll explain. As last season concluded, myself and many other fans didn't really hold too much hope for this season. The only sounds that echoed were the hopes that John Tavares would continue to improve and we would have something to build around.
Well, after watching JT go down at the start of the season, plus the injuries to Streit and Okposo, we weren't left with much hope. Once the 20+ game losing streak ensued we once again started looking (and praying) for next year. From there the outlook went from bleak to promising.
We were all fortunate enough to watch the emergence of some of the organization's top prospects and a few surprising ones as well.
Michael Grabner : I don't have to tell you what he has done. What I will say is that this kid is just getting started. Imagine if he scored on 20% of his breakaway goals. He would have over 40 goals this season. If he works on his stick handling over the summer he has a legit shot at leading the league in goals. Yes, I said it and I am not exaggerating.
John Tavares : Showing us that he has every bit of talent that we had expected and then some. He literally gets better after each and every game. Strong on his skates, amazing vision on the ice and a real competitive player makes for a franchise tag and championships. Think Toews in Chicago only better.
Frans Nielsen : Probably the most underrated player in the game. This season he has emerged as a top PK guy in the league. Probably the smartest guy on the ice, he hustles on every shift and knows how to make things happen. Again, just the beginning.
Zenon Konopka : Many people would ask why I would include the enforcer on this list. Showing the entire NHL that he is just as good at face offs as he is with his fists. Currently ranking in the TOP 5 in the league at face offs, this bruiser has become the voice of the Islanders and has established himself as a leader. Thanks to Z, people wouldn't dare trying to bully these guys around because they know at some point they, are going to have to answer to him.
Travis Hamonic : This kid looks 15 but he plays like he is 30. Not one to back down from anyone, Hamonic is steadily improving and solidifying himself as a consistent shutdown D man. He is also willing to drop the gloves when necessary. He has taken some crucial penalties late in the game on a few occasions. The more he matures and learns how to handle his emotions the more dangerous he will be down the road.
Andrew Macdonald aka A-Mac: There used to be some mention of his name after being drafted but I don't think anyone would have expected him to develop into the player we see today. He is a solid, smart defense man who moves the puck with such grace. has a nice shot and makes crisp passes. Again, will only get better assuming this latest injury doesn't plague him.
Matt Martin : I will be the first to admit I thought this kid was going to be just another hard hitting goon. Realizing we had a need for that here I wasn't disappointed, but I was wrong. Martin can fight, hits very hard, but also has smooth hands and knows how to score. He currently goes back and forth between the 3rd and 4th lines but expect that to change as he matures offensively.
Matt Moulson : Proved to everyone he wasn't a one hit wonder. He is currently finishing his 2nd consecutive 30+ goal season. He began the season a bit shaky and inconsistent but once his contract extension was completed he has played solid, consistent, hard hockey. Glad to see him sticking around.
Honorable mentions, Jack Hillen, Blake Comeau, and P.A.
In addition to the guys who really emerged this season we also have a few names developing in our system. I starred the guys we saw a little of this year. Wishart*, Nino*, the Kirills, De Haan, Ness, Nelson, Kessel, Toews and Poulin*. These are my favorite guys, certainly not all of them.
If what we saw in the second half of this season is a glimpse of what these guys will continue to do in the seasons to come then we have the foundation to win. If the prospects continue to develop and if a key few can grow into the expectations placed on them, then we have even more talent on its way. I am especially excited to see Nino play here next season. For those who don't know, Nino was recently named player of the month in WHL. He was having a decent season in the WHL but recently has exploded into the dominant force we had all been expecting him to be. He comes with speed, size and a sniper shot. He could be tremendous for us.
We still have our fair share of issues to address. In my opinion the absolute biggest problem is in net. Anyone who reads my blogs knows that I am anti DP. The truth is, he was NEVER anything spectacular. When he was healthy he showed potential. He used to make some very flashy saves and on occasion he would come up big. Everyone would complain that this guy takes himself out of position way too often and needs to stay in his crease. The difference back then was that he was younger, much healthier and much faster. He was able to take the risk of playing the puck because he able to get back to make some great plays. Now, if he is even healthy enough to start, he continues to leave his crease, make bad plays, doesn't see the puck well and has a slow reaction time during play that allows simple, unnecessary goals i.e last night vs. the Flyers.
He is a wasted roster spot, a decent size cap hit and a long commitment. It is a horrible situation to be in as a team but I am hoping next season they accept the loss and move on from DP. He brings nothing to the table for us.
Josh Bailey has also been a disappointment for us. While he has shown glimpses of a 9th overall pick, his inconsistent play has been a hold back for the Islanders. There is no denying he is a talented kid, I just don't think this team is the right fit. I think he would be good trade bait in the off season for a more established player.
Defense. As I mentioned, a few young guys have stepped up on D. As they continue to mature they will get better but we need more size. I think if we could add one solid, prime aged,top 4 shutdown defense man to our blue line, it would go a very long way.
Top line RW. There is no denying the chemistry of our top line. In my honest opinion I think anyone playing with Moulson and Tavares will excel. Tavares likes to pass and Moulson picks up plenty of garbage goals but they still need a sniper to play alongside them. You get Tavares a sniper to pass to and that line goes over the top. Whatever the sniper misses Moulson will put in.
With just 7 games remaining this season will conclude, then on to a busy off season. We have plenty of contracts expiring. I will leave you with our list of restricted and unrestricted free agents. Thanks for reading and thank you for an amazing 2010-2011 season. I look forward to reporting to you over the summer as signings occur. Thanks again and all the best!
Restricted Free Agents (RFA)
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)
Courtesy of CapGeek.com , if the NY Islanders decided to buyout Rick DiPietro today (save $3mil/season), here is how the numbers would look:
Rick DiPietro buyout from CapGeek.com