In just under a week the Islanders went from a team feeling optimistic about their chances of making a serious run at a playoff spot, to a non playoff team and then finally what fans are starting to call a "count the days to the april draft lottery team". Top defenseman Mark Striet will be out till march at the very least with a torn rotator cuff, and a torn labrum in his left shoulder after an falling awkwardly into the boards after being checked in last saturday's scrimmage by team mate Matt Moulson. And to make matters worse winger Kyle Okposo has a torn labrum as well but in his right shoulder. He will be out till december as of right now. Both Okposo and Striet are seeking second opinions, but it seems inevitable that both will have surgery.
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So instead of going out and making a move to bring in a defenseman who can QB a power play such as Sheldon Souray of the Oilers who has been exiled from the team and awaiting a trade. The Islanders have however denied any interest in acquiring Souray and the remaining 2 years and $5million per year on his contract since they feel the money doesn't make sense and also don't want to give up valuable prospects for a quick fix. The Isles have instead decided to bring in more players on tryout contracts and will look within their system. Even though the only defenseman in the Islanders system that can QB a power play is still another year or so away from being NHL ready, and that player being 2009 12th overall pick Calvin de Hann. de Hann has been a bit shaky from the looks of things in the 2 rookie games against the bruins earlier this month, but giving him the benefit of the doubt the kid missed a lot of time last year in an important development year in juniors due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. At the moment de Hann remains in training camp with the Isles and will be given an even closer look in these crucial up coming pre-season games. Travis Hamonic is also an option after he signed his entry level contract back in may, but is not as offensively minded as de Hann. Hamonic is more then likely to split time between the AHL and NHL this year. Two of the defensemen GM Garth Snow signed in july Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina will see more time on the power play with Striet out, but the bulk of the responsibility will fall on James Wisniewski who was acquired from the Anahiem Ducks for a 3rd round draft pick in the 2011 draft.
As for who will be taking Okposo's spot expect 2010 5th overall pick Nino Niederreiter to stay with the big club all year. Niederreiter was expected to play the 9 game minimum at be evaluated to see if he would be sent back to juniors before the 1st year of his entry level deal kicked in or would stay with the Islanders for the rest of the season. And as of right now the Islanders will have to keep Niederreiter with the team being thin on quality scoring threats at wing since 2010 3rd round pick Kirill Kabanov was sent back to juniors recently, and the Islanders continued struggle to get 2008 3rd round pick Kirill Petrov out of his contract with his KHL team Ak Bars Kazan. Petrov did attend training camp this summer and impressed coaches and management alike. Many felt if Petrov was able to get out of his contract with the KHL he would be on the Islanders opening night roster. And right now I'm sure the Islanders are really wishing Petrov was released from his KHL contract.
Rob Schremp who was picked up from waviers last year from Edmonton will be expect to step up big after showing Isles brass he belonged. Blake Comeau is another who will have to answer the call especially since this will be a make or break for him to prove he is part of the Islanders long term plans. Matt Moulson is another who will have to prove his worth, and show that last year's 30 goal performance was not a fluke. Josh Bailey who enters the final year of his entry level deal will have to make a big leap and either establish himself as a winger or center And once again the bulk of the load will have to fall on the shoulders of 2009 1st overall pick John Tavares. Nobody was expecting Tavares to have a sophomore break out year like Steven Stamkos did for Tampa Bay, but with the loss of Striet, and Okposo it seems Tavares will have to at least come relatively close to what Stamkos did last year, match him, or surpass him. He has the talent and skill to do it, but he didn't have guys like St. Louis or Lecavalier to set him up. It's gonna be a long season. Might as well start counting the days till April and it's not even October yet for another 3 days.
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