With the Islanders off at the NHL prospect combines in Toronto doing player interviews & the local papers not covering anything beyond one blog on Lighthouse meeting the other day (Post had Devil/Ranger updates Thursday) the question of the day is can the NY Islanders content next season?
Absolutely and without any doubt would be my answer.
This club was one of the lowest scoring teams in the league with a terrible powerplay that was prone to allowing goals with the man advantage, had a fourteen game stretch with two goals or less when they were rested/healthy and lost over four hundred man games to injury. They lost seven games in a row in January. As bad as things were with a team that had only eleven first period goals into December and were terrible at even strength that could not get games to overtime they still were mathematically in the race until the final two weeks of the season.
The forty/fifty shot games they managed to lose also said something about how hard they did work in some games, even with a lot of players who could not score.
You look at Boston going into last season who were supposed to be terrible, a club that lost Bergeron and somehow they found enough scoring and defense to qualify for a playoff spot that took Montreal to seven games. Philadephia went from 30th to a playoff spot and made a run to the conference finals with a flawed team that had some brutal stretches last season.
Islander fans know terrible teams that cannot compete, the kind of seasons they are ten-fifteen points out of a playoff spot before Thanksgiving/Christmas and approaching double-digits below five hundred. Last years's club was in a playoff spot for a good part of the season until health and the lack of scoring finally caught up with them. Even with the seven game losing streak they won six in a row and were close enough not to be sellers at the trade deadline.
I know the schedule is about to change with less Atlantic division games which could hurt with more speed/skill teams from the West but Isles had a winning record against two of the four teams in the division and finished a game under against Pittsburgh who they played eight even games with aside from a deflection off Brendan Witt. Another game they lost they took over fifty shots against the Pens.
Isles improve their scoring and stay healthy (two big questions) there is no doubt they not only compete for a playoff spot but can make a run come playoff time. Isles for all their flaws had very few games they were blown out of and no more than most teams that did make the playoffs.
DiPietro's shots against was cut by almost two hundred last season from 06-07, something no one has written about.
I'm not expecting much in terms of roster changes aside from many of the UFA not returning. I do think Snow will stick to his word and the team will get younger but as we saw on many nights the young players were among the most visible. If any of these kids emerge as consistent scorers and they can some mileage out of some veterans who are injury prone, I have little doubt Isles will have a great chance to not only return to the playoffs but do some damage.
My guess is a young player could be moved in a trade, especially on defense.