"The season was very positive for the team. It was short but dynamic," he said. "We fulfilled one of our tasks: We made it to the playoffs. The Islanders took a great step forward. However, now we are facing greater challenges, and it will be much more difficult to take the next step. We will have to make the playoffs again, but the tasks will be very different this time. I think that this season will be much more difficult for us than the previous one." -Evgeni Nabokov 8.28.2013
Anything can happen, however some harsh reality cannot be ignored. This was a sub-five hundred club in late March 2013 that finally learned out to play in the third period, that also started getting some balanced scoring. The result was 11-1-2/playoff spot they would not have qualified for with Detroit/Columbus in their conference as they are now.
No one's replacing Mark Streit's ability to carry the puck, or set up an offense, players like that are a dwindling talent in the NHL, one the New York Islanders will miss badly with the percentage of scoring he provided.
The trend most will not remember, but is really the biggest positive to build on would be the forty games in 2013 New York Islanders were tied or leading entering the third period. In some of the other eight games this team came back to earn points so the notion they did not compete better than most franchises stands out.
Also all this club had to do was be moderately successful at home last year to be in the top five, they were a terrible home team playing it's best games on the road, not a long term formula for success to build on at all or a good trend.
Trends however are fleeting, just as Matt Donovan's huge plus rating on a Bridgeport team, that could not keep the puck out of it's own net last year. Some times they make sense, others no.
I write virtually every year the New York Islanders can finish anywhere from 1st or 2nd to 14th or 15th depending on variables, that's true entering 2013-14. Some players are going to take a step up, others will take one back.
Sure a prospect can step in, and be a big success, it's overdue, and they have many of them from Nelson, Strome, Persson, Sundstrom, Kabanov for openers up front.
Matt Moulson Watch:
Moulson's agent, at some point will get his offer from the Islanders about resigning. If not taken, we know what the organization's trend is which means he's traded if club out of contention or retained if the club has a chance with no return, then gone come 7/1/14.
The organization also decided Matt Moulson was not fast enough to skate on Tavares line come playoffs for the first time, perhaps he was hurt, but that bears watching.
Andrew MacDonald Watch:
Same can be written about Andrew MacDonald, even more so given depth waiting for contracts/job.
If Club Competitive:
If Nabokov can be as steady as he was during forty eight games, someone replaces Streit/Boyes production, there is balanced scoring, and the defenders create enough offense, plus the team continues to close out games (getting them to overtime/not losing in regulation) they will likely qualify (or be at top of division) unless the injuries catch up with them.
If Club Not Competitive:
We have seen this act before. Expect Nabokov gone by December/Jan with Visnovsky going to a team on his list faster than you can write Roloson/Wisnieswki with a ton of defensive prospects to be signed by next summer. No one knows Capuano's contract status, but if resigned this summer, he likely here for the season.
Anything Can Happen, But Expect New York To Take Step Back Out Of Playoffs in 2013-14.
The loss of Streit, the more extra teams (one corporate) to compete for playoff spots in a far tougher format, and no real top line alternative next to Tavares likely means the late 11-1-2 stretch that took the club from another lottery to a playoff spot (one that should have been much higher) was more just a great run that is not sustainable.
Especially with a team that did most of it's winning on the road.
Garth Snow will face pressure like he's never faced before.
What's needed is a Mariusz Czerkawski that got his twenty five goals with little help, that buys Tavares room to work.
Teams are going to be all over Tavares with no Streit/no real secondary scorer or play-maker to watch like never before, with that " C " being just another reason to target him as Streit was with Matt Carkner or Steve Staios.
I expect the Hickey/Strait defense to be a little of the best/worst of both. The Joe Finley story is not over, but a lot of prospects on defense will challenge.
Matt Martin/third fourth liners have to produce/challenge for more time/higher lines. Waiting on Peter Regin (0 goals), or Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8 goals), Cal Clutterbuck/Kyle Okposo (4 goals) to produce could be fatal as someone sits for Mr Boulton to have his fight by appointment.