New York Islanders Season Preview
Team Name: New York Islanders
General Manager: Garth Snow, was named GM on July 18, 2006 after Neil Smith was fired by Charles Wang.
Head Coach: Ted Nolan, was hired on June 8, 2006.
Payroll: $41.103 million
The New York Islanders this year are again rebuilding. After losing trade deadline acquisition Ryan Smyth, fan favorite, Jason Blake, 25 goal scorer Viktor Kozlov, tough guy Arron Asham and clutch goal scorer Richard Zednik to free agency, and captain Alexei Yashin via buyout, the team inked Ruslan Fedotenko, Josef Vasicek, Trent Hunter, Chris Simon, and Wade Dubielewicz to one year deals, allowing for a large turnover next summer as well.
To Take Charge
Bill Guerin, the 17 year veteran brought in to provide leadership and stability was signed to a two year deal, and surprised with the captain’s ‘C’ at the press conference introducing him to the media. Guerin, is expected to be the leader both on the ice and in the locker room. Goaltender Rick DiPietro is the cornerstone of this team. Management has built this team around him, as evidenced by the 15 year, $67.5 million contract he signed. This is his team, and he is going to be the focus of the media and the fans for the remainder of his time on the Island.
On the Rush
Miroslav Satan will find himself again the leader of the offensive charge. Despite his production and shooting percentage decreasing, he had a respectable 27 goals, and 59 points last season. He is expected to start on the second line wing. Aside from being a leader in the locker room, Mike Sillinger will be taking up the charge. Last season, he also had 59 points, and for the past six seasons, he has averaged 0.59 points per game and has been converting on 14.1% of his shots. Captain Bill Guerin, last season tied for 16th in goals (36), is hoped to contribute in a similar fashion to his 56 points from last year. An interesting variable is forward Ruslan Fedotenko, brought on to the Island for an exorbitant $2.9 million. Fedotenko, last season with the Bolts had the second worst season of his career (12-20-32). He is consistently inconsistent, but might prove to be quite a find on the Islanders’ part.
Covering the D-Zone
The Islanders’ defense is best described as unimpressive. Their number one defenseman, Brendan Witt had 131 penalty minutes last year, and was too busy serving time in the box, when he should have been helping defend his goal. Their second blueliner, Radek Martinek, has missed significant time out with injury in the past few years. He would be far better respected if he weren’t so injury prone. The Isles’ offensive defenseman, Marc-Andre Bergeron, appears to be the bright spot in their defensive black hole. The future doesn’t look that bright either – their young defensemen, Campoli and Gervais are a -19, and a -11 respectively. The Islanders lack a shut down defenseman, and their defense is far too weak or inexperienced to get the job done.
Guarding the Net
The Islanders made headlines last year by signing starter Rick DiPietro to a 15 year, $67.5 million dollar contract. DiPi has improved in each of his full seasons in the NHL. Last season, he was 32-19-9, with a 2.58 GAA and a .919 SV%, all three are improvements on his stats from 2005-06 (30-24-5, 3.02, .900). When he’s on his game, he can be very good, but when he’s off, he’s far from impressive. He’s being paid $4.5 million a year, as if he was consistently on the ball. Unfortunately for him, he will be receiving no help from his defense this year. The backup, Wade Dubielewicz, an overage rookie had four victories last year, with a 2.06 GAA and an impressive .934 SV%. Last year in Bridgeport he was 20-21-0, with a .910 SV% and a 3.12 GAA. Islander fans will remember him as the one who maneuvered the team into the playoffs last year. Finally a second string goalie, look for him to have a respectable GAA and save percentage.
Ruslan Fedotenko – Mike Comrie – Bill Guerin
Jeff Tambellini – Josef Vasicek – Miroslav Satan
Jon Sim – Mike Sillinger – Trent Hunter
Sean Bergenheim – Shawn Bates – Andy Hilbert
Brendan Witt – Radek Martinek
Andy Sutton – Marc–Andre Bergeron
Chris Campoli – Bruno Gervais
Most of the hockey world believes the Islanders will again be pushovers. They are by far, not the best team in the Atlantic Division – and it wouldn’t be too far of a jump to say they are the worst team in the Atlantic. Last season, they allowed 248 goals, and scored 240 – an improvement on a year ago (278 GA and 230 GF). This team is still rebuilding – they were lucky to make the playoffs last year, but wont get that lucky again this year.
The New York Islanders will find themselves out of the playoff race, looking in, long before the playoffs are set to begin. Last year, the team sneaked into the postseason, but this year they wont be so lucky, as they lost the offense of Jason Blake, Ryan Smyth, and Alexei Yashin, and they still have the $67.5 million man, who is still in the process of maturing and living up to the expectations of being the first overall draft choice. This team is in a rebuilding mode, and they are going to be dealing at the deadline to augment the future as much as possible.