Although many are holding on to that thin thread of UFA hope where the Islanders will sign an enforcer as well as some type of play-maker/scorer, it seems that the Islanders roster is all but set.
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Here are my line predictions. They may look somewhat similar to other bloggers, but I have a few scenarios in mind that may come into play over the year.
The players in parentheses are ones that I feel may be on that line in replace of the player they are written next too. I know, many will think that I am crazy, but I can see the Islanders giving Tambellini a shot on the first line with Tavares. Let's not beat around the bush; they traded for Jeff because they saw the potential of him becoming an all-star forward. There's no need for me to go into depth in how far he's come from those expectations, but Tavares may be the player that ignites a fire under Tamby's butt and gets him going. Just imagine Tamby's speed and shot to go with Weight's passing ability and Tavares' scoring touch.
...But, if that all doesn't work out, I'd expect to see Bergenheim or Okposo to get a shot to play with Tavares. I think Bergenheim would easily be a great fit because of his speed and ability to throw his weight around.
I also know that Tavares is a natural center, but at least for the first half of this season I expect him to play on the wing (which he is fully capable of doing) to lighten his defensive work load in the NHL. I don't expect Weight to play a full-season (sorry Doug, but with this team, injuries are a given) and would expect Tavares to take the center position in his absence either way, but by year's end I wouldn't be surprised if he has it all to himself.
The second and third lines are pretty much similar to last season's. Comeau was in Bergie's spot on the second unit, but it would be a crime to put Bergenheim below a top-six position with the way he was starting to come into his own at the end of the year.
The fourth line is what concerns me the most. Park is a great center for the fourth line because he adds a good 20-30 points for the year while killing penalties game in and game out. Jackman is one of those gritty character guys that you need on your team to shift momentum with a hit or fight. Plus he works his ass off and creates chances for his linemates. The Sim/Thompson position is what I don't like. I do not want to see either one of those guys as a regular on the Isles roster.
Neither Sim nor Thompson accomplished much of anything during the year. In fairness to Nate, he was injured for a while, but at best he is an AHL call-up in time of need. Unfortunately, being that he is one of Gordon's Boston boys, I expect him to get that empty spot unless somehow the Isles trade for or sign an enforcer that can play and protect John Tavares. Being that there aren't many viable options left, the Isles will need to most likely make a trade.
Joel "The Wrecker" Rechlicz is a big boy who one day will be able to throw his fists for a full-time job possibly with the Islanders, but he will need some time to develop his enforcing game. Believe it or not, it's just like a goal scorer or a play-maker: fighters need to learn how to handle themselves at the NHL level. He managed to fight pretty well but at times it was visible that he needs to work on his game. Plus let's not forget, he really cannot contribute very well offensively.
Joel should be kept as a call-up for all Atlantic Division games, but the roster needs someone to look after Tavares and that can contribute to the score sheet on a basis somewhat comparable to Park's production.
So with all that being said, where do I see this team finishing?
Not dead last. But not in the playoffs either. With Biron and Roloson as our goaltending tandem and Okposo, Bergenheim, Comeau, and Gervais emerging with the newly acquired John Tavares thrown into the mix, I expect this team to compete and avoid a lot of the lopsided losses we experienced last year. I even see us as high as 10th or 11th at some point in the season. But down the stretch I'll predict the Isles to finish 13th in the Eastern Conference.
But hey, if all goes well, maybe the following year we can possibly talk about playoffs.
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