We've all heard the old sayings a hundred times; everyone is in first place on the first day of the season, each team starts with an equal record, blah blah blah...
In my heart of hearts, I disagree. Tell me that on the first day of the regular season, before a game is played, the Islanders, Thrashers, Panthers, Stars, Oilers or Wild are playing with the same chances of winning the Stanley Cup as the Red Wings, Sharks, Canucks, Capitals, Penguins or Devils. I didn't think you would take that bet.
Sure, every team goes into the start of a season with some question marks. The Islanders, on the other hand, are one of several teams heading into the season with nothing but question marks. Position by position, the Islanders have question marks if not full fledged concerns.
In goal, can Rick Dipietro return to his top-ten caliber? Or will knee/hip injuries that limited the man of the fifteen year contract to thirteen games over the last two season come back to haunt him? Sure, Dwayne Roloson played far better than anyone expected him to in 2009-2010, but to expect him to play 50 games at age 40 just wouldn't be fair.
One defense, Garth Snow and Scott Gordon are hoping youngsters like Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald can continue their growth at the NHL level, with veterans Radek Martinek, Milan Jurcina and Mark Eaton shouldering some of the load. Already a below average d-corps, the Islanders lose their best defender and possibly their best overall player in Mark Streit for six months to a shoulder injury suffered at the hands of Matt Moulson in the orange and blue scrimmage.
Mike Mottau comes in for some defensive stability, but don't expect much on the stat sheet from the former Devil and Ranger. Without Streit, the Islanders are without a powerplay quarterback, so Islander fans shouldn't expect improvement out of the man advantage unit.
Up front, the enigmatic offense should continue to be just that; enigmatic. A sub-par offense without any bona fide, established stars will again struggle to score big goals. Kyle Okposo will also start the season injured and shouldn't be expected back before 2011. Doug Weight was resigned, but what to expect from the aging captain? To say he'll score ten might be pushing it, and 30 points would be a lot in my opinion.
Don't expect a Steven Stamkos-like sophomore season from John Tavares, though it would be safe to pencil him in for around 25 goals and 50-60 points. Josh Bailey will need to continue his development, and Matt Moulson can't have any drop off if the Isles want to stay competitive. Rob Schremp is as enigmatic as they come, but has shown he can succeed when given the ice time. First round pick Nino Neiderreiter should make the team, but you never know what to expect from a rookie.
Clearly, going into the 2010-2011 season, the Islanders are behind the eight ball, especially with injuries to their best defenseman and best forward. Both are alternate captains on a young Islanders team, and I expect it won't be easy for Garth Snow to replace their contributions. To say that the Islanders are going into this season on even ground with the other 29 NHL teams wouldn't be fair; not to the Islanders, the other 29 teams, or the Islanders fans, who deserve better.
What are your thoughts?
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