I would like to thank Anthony for doing this. His work can be found at thehockeyguys.net and thefourthperiod.com .
Q: What are your thoughts on the Islanders offseason moves so far?
A: Well, when you hear the same constant complaining about the ice at the NVMC (Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum), as well as the NVMC itself being too old and out of date, I personally feel the Islanders offseason has been on par. It is difficult to bring in the big name free agents to a team that is still in the development window.
Garth Snow, when brought on board as GM, called it the five-year plan and it seems that, to date, he is sticking to it. Acquiring players like Milan Jurcina, Zenon Konopka, P.A. Parenteau, and Mark Eaton shows the fans that Garth knows there are holes that need to be filled and he is filling them with the best possible options.
The attempts for the bigger named free agents were made, and more money was offered, but many elected to sign elsewhere for whatever reason. So, as a whole, they are doing a decent job, but when you look at it from a whole picture perspective, it is not an easy task to be the GM of the Isles when there is turmoil outside of the makeup of the team that needs to be answered and fixed first.
Q: What is the Islanders biggest remaining need heading into the regular season?
A: A pure top six winger, possibly even two. With the way they have drafted the past few seasons, and the depth of youth within the organization, there is a lot of promise for the future of this Islanders team. Trent Hunter is better slated to be a third line winger, and Kyle Okposo has plenty of ability to be a top six winger and has showed glimpses of that, but he really needs to start this season with the focus that he is a top six player. Matt Moulson surprised the masses with his year; needs to be repeated.
However, there really is a lack on the wings right now. If they plan on Kirill Petrov and Nino Niederreiter making the team, well then that is what we will see happen and hope that will fill the voids on the top six winger positions.
It's anyone's guess at this point. Are the Islanders attempting Stempniak? Possibly, which would be a huge addition, but there are some kids that can fill that role, I just personally would not want to rush them. But if every attempt fails in UFA, I would not expect the Islanders to make a move and look internally to fill the voids.
Q: What is Rick DiPietro's status heading into the season?
A: Garth Snow, in a recent interview with a personal friend of mine, Dee Karl from Hockeybuzz.com, stated that DiPietro is on course with his rehab and should be good to go to start the season. I think this is going to be do or die for Ricky. If he can finally get a clean bill of health, and find that groove again, the Isles have a very big positive in moving forward. DiPi is all about getting back to the No. 1 role, and as long as his health can hold up, he will get there.
Q: Do you think Nino Niederreiter will make the team this season?
A: If Nino can make the team, the answer is yes. If the Isles choose to let him, it would be the wrong choice. There is no need to rush a player like Niederreiter into the NHL when one year, again ONE year, of development could mean the world to making him a pure NHL regular. He has the size, the hockey IQ, the hands and the mental side a player needs to make the club; absolutely. However, he shouldn't. Not right away, not directly out of camp.
Q: What can we expect from the Islanders this season?
A: Further development. If they decide to let the kids fill the voids, it's another year of developing for the future. Regardless, skaters like Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Robbie Schremp, etc., they all have a lot to give and some still have a lot to prove. For the Islanders, it is ALL about the future and the growth of the organization from within.
Q: Last but not least, can the Islanders make the playoffs this season?
A: Well, that depends on how the kids play. It depends on if the Islanders will have a healthy DiPietro and a similar Dwayne Roloson from last season. I don't think it's impossible, but when teams like the Devils, Penguins, and Flyers have all improved from last season, it becomes a division that is very tough to play in, even tougher as compared to last season.
It's not an impossible scenario but it's a long shot. You have to view things here under a microscope. The division and the conference are better, all around, so if they get hot and Moulson, Okposo, Tavares, Roloson, and DiPietro can perform to the potential surrounding them, sure it's possible. I would not take it to Vegas though. I think one more year.
This concludes my interview with Anthony Curatolo, enjoy.
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