Today New York Islander Fan Central begins it's early season preview where we look at a group of three players, what happened last season, where they left off entering the summer and look ahead as the countdown is on toward training camp and the regular season.
Every few days we will review three other players, move to the defense and finally the goaltenders.
No better place to begin than with last year's captain, Bill Guerin.
1. Bill Guerin:
When the Islanders lost six games in a row in late March former coach Ted Nolan blasted his veterans and threatened to skate them every day, Bill Guerin at the time did agree with his coach about the lack of support from the veteran players but Ted Nolan always praised Bill Guerin and did so at the end of last season for playing hurt.
Bill Guerin had a very mixed season a year ago, he came back to the Eastern Conference after years out west where he was put in a role where he had to be a first line right wing instead of a supporting member of an offensive group as he was in St Louis, Dallas and San Jose, in addition he was given the captaincy of a team for the first time in his career. In December the media reported he also dealt with personal loss to open last season.
Guerin had a few early goals (including a hat-trick against a struggling Olaf Kolzig)
and then went into a slump with the rest of the club where he did not set up many goals or score many goals until a December burst finally got him somewhat un-tracked but overall produced like a support player on a team that had too many of the same kind of player where they needed a first line player.
He did have his quality shots off the rush on the wing where it produced goals and had the quickness where the game played to his strengths but too often Guerin was stuck on the perimeter taking low percentage shots.
Moving ahead it's clear Doug Weight was brought in to help Bill Guerin and once again he will be a key part of the offense off right wing on the first line, with Hunter and Okposo who are not first line producers as the other two right wingers entering camp. Guerin comes in off an injury from last season, a year older and with a new coach but he also comes in with a year of experience with New York so his situation is more settled.
Needless to write the club is going to need Bill Guerin's twenty goals and a lot more for this to work out in terms of winning next season. It's fair to write at this point with Hunter signed for the next five seasons and Kyle Okposo likely to get a full opportunity Bill Guerin will have to produce to keep his spot with free agents and right wings like Robin Figren, Kirill Petrov entering the radar.
2. Mike Comrie:
Mike Comrie was not a man who had a lot to say at the end of last season who apparently was another veteran who played hurt far too long but Comrie has never been a durable player in terms of being an eighty two game player.
Comrie signed here to be a top line player, to be the go to player for a team and wanted that challenge. Outside of his first weekend against Buffalo he was sporadic at best in that department but so was the talent around him which is an excuse that many did not allow for Alexei Yashin and cannot be given for Comrie as he disappeared for long stretches of the season and took a lot of offensive zone penalties.
Still, when the season was over he did finish with fifty points and led the club in scoring.
Comrie also found himself in spots where he got into fights which he did before he signed here also.
Moving forward it seems both sides want another year with neither committing long-term to the other.
Comrie's a solid second line center with the right supporting cast but again will not have that (on paper going into camp) with a mix of young and old on his wings depending on who he is paired with. Regardless he does have to be far more visible nightly on a team where the opposition will key on him.
Was Comrie's inconsistent offensive about the club's system, the talent around him or simply a player with a limited ceiling? I think this year we will get our answers to those questions as he could drop to a quasi-second line if Doug Weight is Bill Guerin's right wing.
3. Doug Weight:
I know a lot of folks only look at the numbers/age and see Weight as a slow player in decline. That could be correct but as he said fifteen months ago he was a very productive player and a year ago would be coming in expected to score like a top six player, his numbers in 2006-07 do not lie that he can still produce.
Last year was not a good year for Weight where he was traded in season from the Blues and outright said at the time he would love to come to New York and play with Bill Guerin, he recently also said he was told to play defense for Anaheim or would see his minutes cut and his role reduced.
Moving forward we know Doug Weight is a playmaker and a veteran this roster needs but for this to work he will have to produce as a top six forward, take some of the burden of leadership off of other players and he will have to keep up in the speed department or this signing will not work.
Like Guerin he is also playing for a future contract here or somewhere else and with Nielsen, Sillinger, Colliton, Walter, Josh Bailey and other centers down the middle there is a lot competition for jobs.
Next up: Mike Sillinger, Trent Hunter, Jon Sim.