Before we all start doing our predictions of this short yet long awaited NHL season and before we start calling up the kids up from Bridgeport, there are five players that need to show they belong with the Islanders, or for some, they belong in the NHL. If I haven’t stated this before, I’m a big fan of letting prospects develop, sometimes longer than they should, before entering the NHL. I do not want any players from Bridgeport starting this season on the Island because the Islanders still have a few with something to prove. If by the end of this season a few Islanders cannot cut it, then by all means, bring the kids up. I’m an Islanders fan that has seen too many young players not get enough of a chance here, only to see them flourish somewhere else. But starting this year, fans now have seen enough of certain players to know if it’s time to move on. Having said all that. The five Islanders with something to prove:
Rick DiPietro: Face it fans, he’s here for this season. Despite the buy out rumors DiPietro must stay healthy and he must prove to a lot of fans and himself he can still play, if he even plays at all (Please click here for explanation). Not just play, but at a high level: like an above .900 save percentage, I still belong in the NHL despite my long contract level, maybe steal a game or three by standing on my head without pulling a groin level. If Rick wants to prolong his NHL career he must have a “time to look in the mirror” year and he must do it now.
Michael Grabner: Grabner as of this news here is ready to go for this season. Why is he on this list? Because Grabner went from 35 goals two seasons ago down to 20 last year and fans are wondering if he was just a one-hit-wonder, that 35 goals in one season was a fluke, that he should belong on a third line two-way role instead of a second line sniper. To be honest, I think a new contract with lots of money and a lot of expectations created too much pressure, hence a sophomore slump. For this season, 15 goals should be the mark with a couple of those nice breakaway goals included to appease the fan base.
Andrew MacDonald: MacDonald must have a breakout year because players like Matt Donovan are knocking on the door for a trial run. AMac is a smart puck moving defenseman, but needs to put the puck in the back of the net more than four or five times a year if he wants to remain a top four defenceman. Like Grabner, I think last year was a sophomore slump for MacDonald and if he remains injury free this year, should have a very nice bounce back 48 game season.
Jessie Joensuu: If there was ever a time to shine, it’s now for Joensuu. Since 2007, nobody knows how to play for Jack Capuano better than he does (For full article read here). What needs to happen is for him to find his role in the NHL and capitalize on it. After a great IIHF World Championship where Joensuu eliminated the U.S., he’s been given another chance on the Island. It’s up to him to make the most of it.
Josh Bailey: Many fans may agree that the 2008 first round pick was rushed into the NHL. That may be so, however after Jack Capuano moved Bailey from the center position to left wing last year, not only did the Isles see production, they and the fans saw something else: confidence. When Bailey’s confidence goes up, fans get that “WOW!!” factor from him scoring goals and points only to ask themselves “Nikita who?!” Now that Bailey has possibly found his niche, what will he do with it?
Who do you think belongs on this list? Comments are always appreciated.
Editors Note: A special thank you goes out to @BDGallof and @Schultz88 for the news and insight. If you’re not following them about the Islanders, please do so. Also to Travis Betts at @NYIslanders for the Jessie Joensuu article.