Islanders 2009-10 Season Preview

Michael Gasparino@gaspoCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Team owner Charles Wang (L) with goaltender Rick DiPietro (R) after DiPietro signed a 15 year contract with the New York Islanders on September 12, 2006 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

A buddy of mine, a Rangers fan, texted me yesterday and asked for the 16 Islanders who were on all four Stanley Cup championship teams.

Sitting at my desk at work with the Internet available at my fingertips, I tamed my impulse to cheat and rattled off as many as I could off the top of my head. How would you do? I'll list the super 16 at the end of the post.

Anyway, after I texted him back I looked up the rosters to see how I did (I only had 14 right, shame on me) and was reminded of how strong and deep those teams were. Good Lord, were we spoiled.

And then I looked at the Islanders roster for this season. Not too many similarities.

That's the curse of Islanders teams from now until they finally win another Stanley Cup (or move to Kansas City, whichever comes first). They will always be compared to the glory days, just like Mark Sanchez and every other Jets quarterback before him is compared to Joe Namath, because Broadway Joe won it all.

Like last season, there aren't too many expectations for this Islanders team. Garth Snow imported two veteran netminders to cover for the still-recovering Rick DiPietro, but other than that, no veteran free agents were brought in to either shore up the defense or provide some kind of threat on offense.

So this season isn't a rebuilding season; it's a development season. John Tavares will quickly learn the difference between scoring goals in juniors and finding the twine in the NHL. Josh Bailey, who looked better as the season progressed last year, should continue to make strides.

Kyle Okposo, Sean Bergenheim, Blake Comeau, and Frans Nielsen will be expected to generate more offense and be more consistent. If they can—and if Doug Weight and Trent Hunter can feed off the youthful energy and get rejuvinated—then maybe home games will be somewhat entertaining, and fans can act like fans instead of scouts.

Joel Rechlicz is throwing his weight around and should remain as the youngsters' bodyguard. Richard Park is just a winning player. Jeff Tambellini has to show us something. Waiver pickup Robbie Schremp could be a steal, getting a chance to shine away from Edmonton.

Injuries last season eliminated whatever margin of error existed, so here's hoping defensemen Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek, Freddy Meyer, and Andy Sutton can at least stay on the ice. Mark Streit had a fantastic season last year and should be as productive again. This is a huge season for Bruno Gervais, who needs to validate the high hopes the team has for him. And I still like Jack Hillen, who has played well this preseason.

We were told all along that Rick DiPietro would be ready for camp. Well, now he's not playing until maybe November. Give Snow credit for acting decisively and getting Martin Biron and the ageless Dwayne Roloson to mind the nets until D.P. (hopefully) returns. When he does, figure Biron to be dealt for another piece of the puzzle.

A side note about DiPietro—it amazes me how many people either have faulty memories or just aren't paying attention. In the NHL preview in Canada's National Post, columnist Bruce Arthur predicted that DiPietro would get the comeback player of the year award, but not before prefacing it with: "This is going to sound crazy. Like, giving-a-fragile-goaltender-a-15-year-contract crazy."

DiPietro signed that deal a week before his 25th birthday in September 2006. He played 63 games the season before, went on to play 62 games that season, and played another 63 games the following season. Of course, he's been a wreck since the All-Star skills competition in January 2008, and only played five games last year. But no one was calling him fragile when he signed the deal.

I hope D.P. does come back at 100 percent and wins the comeback award. I'd also like to see the team overall stay healthy, so guys like Okposo (who is apparently OK after being run over by Dion Phaneuf), Bailey, and Tavares can play together consistently and help this group grow as a team.

That's not too much to ask for, is it?

And now, the answer to the question at the top of the post: Name the 16 Islanders on all four Stanley Cup-winning teams:

Bossy, Trottier, Gillies, Tonelli, Nystrom, Goring, Bourne, Merrick, Kallur, Duane Sutter, Potvin, Morrow, Langevin, Persson, Lane, Smith. I missed Lane and Kallur. Didn't think Lane was on all four teams. Not sure how I missed Kallur. I loved that guy.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.