New York Islanders' 2009-10 Season Preview

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New York Islanders' 2009-10 Season Preview
(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 campaign. 

Let's get a move on with the New York Islanders, which play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.

Four times since 1972, the New York Islanders have held the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  Billy Harris, (1972) Denis Potvin (1973) and Rick DiPietro (2000) were the previous three draft day selection.  In June, the Islanders had a choice, do they want take a projected franchise forward or a franchise defenseman. 

General Manager Garth Snow selected the franchise center, making John Tavares the first overall pick of the 2009 Entry Draft.  Only time will tell if this was the right selection for the Islanders but with the team on the brink of extinction, they needed to make a big splash on Long Island.

On draft day, the Islanders held a huge draft day party at the Nassau Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum.  When the announcement was made, the fans erupted into the loudest celebration the Coliseum had seen since the dynasty days during the early ‘80s.

Tavares maybe asked to help save the franchise on the ice but the Islanders Owner and Governor, Charles Wang is trying to do what he can off the ice.  Wang’s Lighthouse Project has been finally gaining momentum of the past few months. 

The Lighthouse Project is the currently proposed transformation of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the area surrounding it into a modern suburban area. The project was first introduced by New York Islanders' owner, Charles Wang and he base of the project is a newly renovated Coliseum for the New York Islanders to play in. Surrounding the Coliseum would be houses, hotels (Long Island's first 5-star hotel), offices, restaurants, and various stores. There would also be an athletic complex, conference and exhibition facilities, and a minor league baseball ballpark.

The Lighthouse Project is expected to take 8 to 10 years to be completed, if approved, and cost about $3.74 billion. The project is expected to generate $71 million of annual tax revenues, and create about 75,000 construction related jobs. After the project is finished, 19,000 new permanent jobs are expected to come from it. Many believe the projected being approved is the only way that Wang will keep the Islanders on Long Island, rather than selling the team.

No one knows the certainty of the Islanders future but one of the most successful franchises in the 80’s would love nothing more than to build another dynasty on Long Island.  Let’s take a look at some of the changes for the Islanders.

Significant Additions

The unrestricted free agents that have been signed by the Islanders are as follows: Martin Biron (Philadelphia), Mark Flood (Carolina), Greg Mauldin (Ottawa), Greg Moore (N.Y. Rangers), Matt Moulson (Los Angeles), Scott Munroe (Philadelphia), Dwayne Roloson (Edmonton) and Tony Romano (New Jersey).

Significant Deletions

The unrestricted free agents that have moved on from Long Island are: Joe Callahan (San Jose), Yann Denis (New Jersey), Joey MacDonald (Toronto), Kurtis McLean (Finland), Thomas Pock (Switzerland), Ben Walter (New Jersey) and Mike Sillinger (Retirement).

There are three former Islanders players that have yet to sign deals with another franchise.  They are: Mitch Fritz, Andy Hilbert and Dean McAmmond.

 

The Projected 2009–10 New York Islanders roster

The Islanders currently have 19 players under one-way contracts; nine forwards, seven defensemen, and three goaltenders. The four players that are most likely to fill out the roster, that are on two-way contracts are;

John Tavares should most likely make the club coming out of training cap.  Considering the highest paid forwards on the team are 38-year old Doug Weight and 29-year old Trent Hunter (Both making a salary of $2 million).  With the fan base in an absolute frenzy about Tavares’ selection, it wouldn’t be good marketing to send him back to juniors.

Josh Bailey spent last season with the Islanders, playing in 68 games during his rookie season.  He scored seven goals and added 18 assists.  The Islanders’ first round pick in ’08 will turn 20-years old on October 2.

Kyle Okposo has spent the last two seasons in professional hockey after leaving the University of Minnesota part way through the 2007-08 season.  Last season with the Islanders, Okposo played in 65 games, tallying 18 goals and adding 21 assists.  The Islanders’ first round pick in ’07 turned 21-years old on April 16.

Nate Thompson was claimed off of waivers from the Boston Bruins, where he played in a total of four games during the 2006-07 season.  He spent four seasons with Providence in the AHL where he was coached by current Islanders’ head coach Scott Gordon.  Last season with the Islanders he dressed for 43 games, scoring two goals and adding two assists. 

With these 23 players the Islanders’ Salary Cap would sit at $42.3 million.  The Islanders have three goaltenders signed to one-way contract because of the injuries to Rick DiPietro.  At this point, it is likely DiPietro will start the season on the injured reserve list so that would drop their salary cap by $4.5 million (Down to $37.8 million).  The Islanders would then have to sign one or two other players to get the franchise over the minimum salary cap.

Now let’s take a look at some of the Islanders’ top prospects that will be looking to impress G.M. Snow and Head Coach Gordon. 

John Tavares

This native of Mississauga, Ontario was the Islanders’ first round pick (first overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft.  The 19-year old (September 20) had spent the last four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals and last year was traded to the London Knights before the OHL trading deadline.

According to Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, "He is probably better than any other player in the Draft from the top of the circle down at being a threat to score. He’s an offensive player who is reliable in his defensive zone and getting better at that, but yet not asked to do that very frequently. He is pure offense and for his first years in the NHL will probably be asked to do just that."

Calvin de Haan

This native of Ottawa, Ontario was also am Islanders’ first round pick (12th Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  The 18-year old defenseman had spent last season with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.  He tallied 63 points in 68 games in his first season of junior hockey.  He has not signed his entry level contract as of yet.

According to NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards, "Calvin shows a lot of patience and poise for a young defenseman. He has high-end puck skill and passing ability. He has a very good shot, hard and accurate, and a very good ability to get the puck through traffic to the net. He sees the ice very well and moves the puck through traffic. His skating is excellent, mobility, agility and speed. His biggest asset is his hockey sense. He makes very few mistakes."

Kirill Petrov

This 19-year old native of Kazan, Russia was the Islanders’ third round pick (73rd Overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.  The Right Winger has spent the last three seasons playing professional hockey in Russia with hometown Kazan Ak-Bars in the KHL.  He has not signed his entry level contract as of yet.

According to Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, “I’m impressed with Kirill’s excellent skating and mobility as well as his work ethic playing on Russia’s (Under-18) top line. He displays toughness in one-on-one situations and delivers smart passes creating a lot of scoring chances. He is also very physically strong; he was successful in one-on-one situations along the boards and in the corners.”

Mikko Koskinen

This 21-year old native of Vantaa, Finland was the Islanders’ second round pick (31st Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  The Goaltender has spent the last two seasons playing for Espoo Blues in Finland.  He has signed his entry level contract but with three goaltenders having signed one-way contracts, it is likely that he spend the season in Bridgeport of the AHL. 

According to NHL.com, at 6’5”, Koskinen has grown into his body becoming a big presence in the net for the Espoo Blues. Now 21, he backstopped the Blues in 33 games, posting a 1.91 goals-against average and .931 save-percentage.

Jesse Joensuu

The 22 year-old (October 5) native of Pori, Finland was the Islanders’ second round pick (60th Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  The Left Winger spent last season spilt between the Islanders and the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, appearing in seven games in the NHL.  He scored one goal and added two assists in his limited appearance last season.

According to hockeysfuture.com, Joensuu first emerged as a big forward capable of playing strong in the corners and eager to lead the offense in all of its aspects - an aspiring franchise player, so to speak. He is still looking able to do all that but the overall level isn't looking quite that good. Joensuu has sharpness in his turns and skating but lacks quick acceleration. He still hasn't accustomed to his tall body, which also hurts him in battles for the puck. He tries difficult dekes with a good success rate and can make plays in short spaces, but his wrist shot is very slow and awkward. The trouble with finishing has hurt his offense overall. Joensuu has an athlete’s mindset and is likely capable to develop NHL scoring line talent over time.

Recap of 2008-09

The Islanders finished fifth in the Atlantic Division and finished 15th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 26-47-9, good for 61 points. 

The Islanders had no players that broke the 20-goal plateau but had eight players finished with double digit goals. They were lead by Kyle Okposo (18 goals) and Mark Streit (56 points).

The Islanders offense was 29th in the NHL with 198 goals for and defensively, the Islanders were 28th in the NHL giving up 274 goals.

The Islanders powerplay was 23rd in the NHL last season, clicking at only 16.9 percent but they were 22nd in killing penalties (79.8 percent).

 

Outlook for 2009-10

October 3rd will the most important date on the Islanders calendar for the 2009-10 season.  Not only is it the season opener against the defending Stanley Cup champions but Charles Wang has asked that a decision be made on his proposed Lighthouse Project.  Wang has stated openly that if his project is not approved, he would either consider moving the franchise to another arena in the New York City area or ask for permission to relocate the franchise to another city, namely Kansas City.

It is the beginning of a new era on Long Island but it may also be the end for this historic franchise.  With so much buzz around John Tavares the fan base maybe re-energized but it won’t take the Islanders long to remind them just how bad they are.  Besides a veteran defense core and a new goaltending tandem, there is very little change for the Islanders.

The forwards, for the most part are very young and inexperienced.  The skilled forwards are looking to the veteran leadership of Doug Weight but in what might be the toughest division in the NHL, with so many stars in the division, the Islanders are going to be re-building for the next couple of years.  The only question is, are they rebuilding for Long Island or some other location in North America.  Just like the Quebec Nordiques did for the city of Denver.

I foresee a last place finish in the highly competitive Atlantic Division and I think they will also finish last in the Conference.  Unlike the past few seasons where there has been a consensus number one pick for the up-coming Entry Draft, at this point there is no Sidney Crosby or John Tavares in this year’s draft.

 

On Sept 6th, I will be reviewing New York Rangers as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.

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