Welcome back to another season of New York Islanders hockey here at Isles Talk everyone. To say it was a summer to remember is a complete understatement, but I’m here to write about what’s in front of us and that’s the preseason, which begins on Sunday. Entering the preseason, many have the Islanders finishing out of the playoffs but not as bad as they were last year. To be more specific, most have the Isles finishing anywhere between 80-85 points which would, for now, put them into my “Sophomore class” in a regular season preview. After what has transpired, I can’t really blame them and I can understand where they’re coming from but I just can’t put the Islanders that low. Why? There are a few factors for this that will be a part of the preseason edition here today so let’s get started.
I completely get why people would have the Isles in a position that they’re in. I believe the mistake they’re making is comparing this squad to last years. In my eyes, its almost apples and oranges. Why? First off it’s coaching. The Isles went 100 points (would’ve been 104 if not for taking a break in the last two games) in the 2015-16 season with a veteran team and then head coach Jack Capuano, a coach who probably would’ve been more suited as an assistant on many other playoff clubs or a head coach that had a team beginning a rebuild. To his credit, Capuano took the Isles to two 100 point seasons and got beyond the first round. Capuano’s coaching preference was more of a two-way, defensive style which worked well, but the results were not up to expectations come playoff time. Last year, now former Islanders head coach Doug Weight had a system in place that opened up for more of a offense-first, but as we all saw, left the team without the defense showing up and the goalies left exposed to a barrage of incoming pucks on may nights. The result was an 80 point performance. Enter Barry Trotz. Trotz has won a Stanley Cup, the Presidents Trophy, and hasn’t seen a losing record in many years. His coaching style is an upgrade to what Capuano was doing and having come from the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, Trotz is very familiar working with star players. If hockey fans, media and fantasy players want to make a comparison of what this years squad could do, I’d rather take a look at 2016.
Now does this mean that the Islanders, having lost John Tavares, will reach the 100 point mark this year? I’m not counting on that either. But the Islanders do have Lou Lamoriello. As of this blog, this looks to be the starting lineups for the Islanders entering in October:
Don’t worry about the specific lineups, just take a look at the bigger picture here: It’s a little crowded don’t you think? After 2018 first round picks Noah Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom literally fall into the Islanders laps and then picking up first round talent Bodie Wilde in the second round, not to mention Kieffer Bellows, Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier, and Devon Toews (whose name continues to come in any trade) Lou has set himself up a beautiful chess board of hockey players to work with, so I’ll leave this tweet I wrote a day ago right here:
Sbisa coming in, if healthy, could replace de Haan and possibly for less money. That being said, I'll bet Lou is up to something bigger than just signing depth. #Isles
— Paul Kreischer (@P_Kreischer) September 11, 2018
Make no mistake, I think Lou will have one or two moves to improve the club before the season begins and at least one of them will be a big one. So where do I see the Islanders now without any moves?
I have them as a bubble team, 92-97 points. Even with the loss of John Tavares, the system is different, the coaching has improved and players were brought in to fill out the roster so that the organization does not have to rely on just one or two guys. What will it take to make the playoffs from an offensive stand point? I’d say close to 250 goals, which the Islanders could do with the team they currently have, but even that may be asking a lot. As for the defense/goalies, I will take Ryan Pulock over Travis Hamonic of 2016 and depending on his health, Luca Sbisa or Devon Toews over Calvin de Haan of 2016. Everyone else is back from that squad. Can Robin Lehner get back to form under a better defensive system than what he had to deal with in Buffalo? Can Thomas Greiss improve on his numbers and still win half his games? With the influx of veterans it also gives the Bridgeport Sound Tigers its deepest team in years. As long as the Isles are wining and there isn’t a plague, I’d be a season ticket holder if I were living in the Bridgeport area because this team may do something they haven’t done in a long time, which is win a round in the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in 15 years (I sense a theme here).
To be fair, I don’t have the Columbus Blue Jackets or the New Jersey Devils doing as well as they did last year. Columbus may be on the verge of losing their two best players to trades and I believe the Devils over achieved to make the playoffs, so this is simply a one-step-back year for them. So without the Islanders making any kind of roster improvements, they’ll need some help getting in. The first month of October is absolutely brutal for the Isles as they have 3 home games in the first 11. Huge test, but they’ll have more home games in the second half which will only benefit them if they can find their groove and be hard to beat at two home arenas.
So for now enjoy the preseason games, watch for Lou to make a move or two and I’ll have more on the Isles and the rest of the NHL as the preseason continues over the next few weeks. For those interested, I was on SportsTalk 1240 (30 minutes in) with Gary and John to talk about the Islanders and for those who follow Isles Talk on Facebook I’ll be going live, this Friday around 7pm to talk Islanders, NHL and take any questions from the chat room or from twitter, so make sure you “like” the Isles Talk page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @P_Kreischer for Isles questions. See everyone on Friday….