In my last post, I spoke about the importance of finding a right wing to play with John Tavares and Matt Moulson and how that choice might impact the New York Islanders this season. As I said in that post, I was going to spend a few posts addressing some points to consider that will have either a direct or indirect effect on what kind of success the Isles have. A lot of what I will continue to say has been mentioned here and in other places, but as opening night draws ever closer, they are things to keep in mind.
Beyond the top line of any team, there must be secondary scoring present for that team to be successful. If the first line is shut down by an opponent’s best defensive line, you need to have other guys able to step up and put the puck in the net. A solid second line and even a good third line will go a long way for a team to make the playoffs and do well in them. That is just a basic reality in the NHL, and, thus, I will spend some time talking about this topic in this post.
Last season, there were times in which the secondary scoring all but disappeared. In other instances, such as during the great playoff run and in the playoffs, guys stepped up and the JT line didn’t have to be completely relied upon to get all of the goals.
For the Islanders to be successful this season, they will need more than JT and Moulson to find the twine every night to make the top eight by April and to get farther than the first round of the playoffs. There is going to be a need for consistency, and there is going to be a need for various members of the supporting cast to contribute. I am going to touch on some of the guys I feel have to bring their A-games just about every night for the Isles to progress and evolve into a potential Stanley Cup winner in the near future.• Kyle Okposo, the beast must return.
I do not hide the fact that I am a big fan of Kyle Okposo. I still believe in him and feel that he is a guy who can do a lot for the Islanders and be a big source for secondary scoring. I even believe that his previous success playing with Tavares and Moulson still makes him a viable candidate for the right wing on that top line.
Of course, we all know Kyle has had his slow starts. Once he turns it on, though, he is a Far different player and a guy who can dominate out on the ice. I feel that Kyle can score 20 plus goals and can get 50 plus points if he starts out of the shoot like he left off in the playoffs last season. The Isles will need a “second half” form Okposo throughout the full 82 game season, and I expect him to do exactly that in 2013-2014.
• Josh Bailey, it’s time to shine.
Another guy who has shown flashes of scoring and talent, Bailey is another forward who can be a big part of the secondary scoring. He had a very good season last season, and he needs a “breakout” year to really establish himself. There was a reason why the Islanders traded down to draft him, and I feel his value still has yet to be seen.
Whether he ends up playing on the first line or not, a 20 goals season and 40 plus point effort would be something the team could benefit from and the fan base would be happy with. Josh Bailey has the skill, and I believe that the long term deal he got in the off season indicates that management feels that he is going to only get better. The Isles will need exactly that from Mr. Bailey during the upcoming season.
• Michael Grabner, the Gremlin must reek havoc on opposing teams.
There is no doubt his speed is among the best in the NHL. Additionally, like Matt Moulson, Grabner has been one of the biggest “steals” Garth Snow has landed. His 35 goal effort a few seasons ago was an amazing campaign, especially when you consider that he started off slow that season.
The Islanders will need that kind of effort from Michael Grabner this season. I have no doubts he can put up 30 goals plus, and if he can only learn to finish even a fraction more of his break away chances, he could even reach the 40 goal mark. To me, “Grabs” is a weapon on the offense that could make a second line a serious threat and take some of the defensive attention off of the top line. Additionally, he could very well be a major key to any significant success the Isles may have this season if he can come out of the gates strong and put the puck in the net on a regular basis.
• Frans Nielsen, one of the most under rated center ice men in the NHL.
Frans Nielsen isn’t going to score 30 goals and he’s not going to dazzle you on offense too much. However, as far as I am concerned, he is one of the biggest “secret threats” the Islanders have. Shorthanded, he is deadly, but I feel his 5 on 5 value beyond his defensive game still makes him a good source of secondary scoring.
Frans is great at setting up the trigger men, and I think he has 50 point plus potential. He may have trouble reaching even the 15 or 20 goal mark, but I also don’t think such a thing is unrealistic for him, as he has had an 18 goal season. Regardless, do not under estimate his importance in the secondary scoring area. He is a contributor, and he will have to continue to do all of the little things we have come to expect and appreciate that he does on the ice every night for the Isles in order for the team to do well.
• Ryan Strome, the unknown variable.
How well a guy who scores a lot in junior will be able to carry over that ability to the NHL is always an uncertainty. Some of the biggest scorers in junior turned out to be mediocre point getters in the NHL in their careers. This is just the nature of the beast. The jump from junior to the pros is a much larger one than many of us simply understand.
Thus, what we get from Mr. Strome his first full season with the “big club” is more expectation at this point, especially as it is uncertain if he will even be on the opening night roster. Can he make the adjustment as John ‘Tavares did? How much so can be a big factor for the Islanders and be a potentially Big source for secondary scoring. Ryan can be yet another scoring weapon in the arsenal of the Islanders that could take the pressure off of JT and Moulson every night. In my very humble opinion, Ryan Strome might be the biggest variable for impacting the level of success the Islanders will have this season before it’s all over.
Of course, what the team will get out of Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin and Cal Clutterbuck are also factors to consider, as they could very well be additional scoring to spread out the offense. Then, what the back line will contribute is yet another aspect of the offense to keep in mind. The Islanders did score a lot of goals last season, and they will need to do it again this season on a consistent level to achieve long term success. I really don’t expect firepower to be a problem for this team, yet the secondary scoring is an ingredient that will make or break the New York Islanders by season’s end.
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