Aug
05

New York Islanders offseason recap

August 5, 2015, by
Secondary scoring options like Ryan Strome have alleviated the pressure on John Tavares

Secondary scoring options like Ryan Strome have alleviated the pressure on John Tavares

Last year: 47-28-7, third in the Metro Division. Lost to Washington in seven games in Round One.

Key additions: Thomas Greiss, Matt Barzal

Key subtractions: Griffin Reinhart, Tyler Kennedy, Lubomir Visnovsky, Michal Neuvirth, Colin McDonald, Matt Carkner, Eric Boulton

Offense: The Islanders’ fourth-ranked offense returns every key contributor and could see significant jumps in production from young forwards like Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. It’s a testament to the team’s depth up front that the extended absences of projected key contributors Kyle Okposo and Mikhail Grabovski didn’t cripple the attack last season. The Islanders are finally not completely reliant on superstar John Tavares to create offense and are equipped to roll multiple scoring lines. In some ways, their lineup construction is similar to the Lightning’s, with Tavares and Steven Stamkos drawing the attention of opposing shutdown pairs, allowing a secondary line of talented youngsters to rack up points by the bundle.

Defense: The slam-dunk acquisitions of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk last summer allowed the Islanders to trade Reinhart for Barzal and Anthony Beauvillie. That may turn out to be a tremendous deal, but it also stripped the Islanders of one of their promising blueline prospects. Even with Boychuk and Leddy, New York still ranked just 23rd in goals allowed and a woeful 26th on the penalty kill last year.  Leddy, Boychuk and Travis Hamonic are as solid as they come in a top-three, but there are questions behind them. Thomas Hickey had a breakout season and Calvin de Haan also made major strides, but the Islanders would really be in great shape if a prospect like Ryan Pulock or Scott Mayfield could secure a major role. If not, the Isles may have to move a promising forward at some point to find the final piece on defense.

Franchise direction: The Islanders made their big acquisitions last offseason, when they brought in veteran pillars Leddy, Boychuk, Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin and Jaroslav Halak. Those additions combined with the quick emergence of several of New York’s talented youngsters rapidly accelerated the Islanders’ path to contention. Lately the club has focused on signing key players to extensions, starting with Leddy and Boychuk in the spring and followed by Lee and Hickey this summer with Brock Nelson soon to follow. The Islanders were decimated by injuries during the postseason, or else they might well have outlasted Washington and set up a date with the Blueshirts in the Conference Semifinals. The front office still has some tinkering to do, but it makes sense for the Islanders to enter the season with a healthy roster intact and take a wait and see approach on where upgrades are needed. With the young core locked up, this is a team that’s poised to be in the race for the Metro Division crown for the foreseeable future.

More offseason recaps: Penguins, Devils

22 comments

  1. Chris72 says:

    August 5th……….. Rangers #5

    Dan Girardi was an undrafted free agent signed by the Rangers in July 2006. After a very short stint in the AHL, at just 22 years old, Dan Girardi got a chance to play with the Big Club. I don’t think any of us could have predicted the effect this undrafted free agent would have on the Rangers defense for the next 8 and counting seasons. His lunchpail, hard nosed gritty style was contagious and led to an “A” being stitched under the front left shoulder of his original six blueshirt. The Rangers defensive corp which is recognized as one of the NHL’s best has been anchored by Girardi’s ability to stay in the lineup with great consistence. Since the 07′-08′ season, he has played in 82, 82, 82, 80, 82, 46, 81 and 82 games the previous 8 seasons. That alone is amazing considering his willingness to hit the ice and block shots on a nightly basis. By no means is he an offensive defenseman, but his numbers are certainly worth mentioning. In 651 games he has 198 points. Not too shabby for a defensive defenseman. In 2011-12, the rest of the NHL got to see what we saw every time he stepped on the ice when he was selected to the All Star Game and finished 6th in the Norris trophy voting that year. His style of play represents what New York is all about.

    • 43 says:

      I agree. Giriardi gets a lot of flack on this site. He’s not a perfect player, but he has a lot of heart and you have to give him credit for playing with utmost urgency. The guys is hands down the top shot blocker in the league. To me, that says a lot about commitment and toughness. How can people rip on that?

      • Chris72 says:

        I ask myself the same thing 43. There are certainly some players worthy of harsh criticism, but Girardi??? I’ll never understand it.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          I agree completely. Girardi is a warrior. He can play on my team any day. I think the issue people have with him, more than anything else, is his contract, and I can understand that. But in my mind, when you talk about the Rangers as one of the best defensive teams in the league over the past few years, he is a key reason why that is…..even with his snow angels! 🙂

          Girardi is a controversial #5, and that seems to hold true for many who wore the number. Sort of a love/hate thing. Take a look at some of the more memorable ones…..

          Barry Beck–Good player, but boy did they give up a lot to get him. I hated the trade at the time. Broke up the core of the ’79 SCF team, all to get more size. He was a very good player but not great. Never thought he was a difference maker. And he wouldn’t shoot the puck on the PP, as the Big Whistle would remind us! 🙂

          Dale Rolfe–good solid defenseman. Important contributor on those strong Rangers teams of the early 70s. Unfortunately for him, his legacy is tarnished because of the beating Schultz put on him in Game 7 of the ’74 ECF.

          Larry Sacharuk–was on the trade shuttle a couple of times between NY and StL in the mid 70s. Had a sensational season with the Blues. Came back to the Rangers with high hopes, then promptly suffered a serious eye injury (detached retina, pretty serious back in the day before laser surgery) and he was done.

          Ulf Samuelsson–we hated him when he was a Pen, but loved him as a Ranger. Only problem, trading for him cost us Zubov. Again, opted for size over skill and I’d say we lost that trade. Still, Ulfie can play (and coach) on my team any day (just not in a trade for Zubov!)

          Carol Vadnais–we all hated him as a Bruin. We were stunned when he was traded to the Rangers in one of the most famous deals of all time. He was no Brad Park. But in fairness, he was one of the better defenseman in the league. A leader and stabilizing force on defense. Helped to lead the Rangers back to the SCF in ’79.

          So Girardi fits right in in the pantheon of star-crossed Ranger “Fives”!

          (And since we are talking about the Isles today, do I dare mention the most famous, or infamous “five” in NY hockey history? Potvin $&@%#!)

          • Mikeyyy says:

            Potvin sucks.

          • Chris72 says:

            Great stuff Eddie! Excellent point with Girardi. His contract insults Rangers fans because of the length I assume. Not this Ranger fan. I think he will hold his value over the length of the deal. No matter who the coach is, this guy plays the system.

  2. Walt says:

    The best to wear #5 was Barry Beck in my book !!!!!

    Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion, came out of retirement to play for us 2 seasons, and then coached us, but quit due to stomach ulcers.

    Ulf Samuelsson, another great to wear 5!!!!!

    • Chris72 says:

      The #5 is also the amount of minutes Ulf spent on the ice after Domi landed that wrecking ball

  3. 43 says:

    Man, I just don’t know about the Isles. They had a good year last year, but fell off from prominence pretty notably. I look at their roster, and aside from the obvious (Tavares, Halak, Okposo, Martin, Strome) I have not heard of any of these guys. I remember Don Cherry speaking highly of Cizikas’ physical play, but other than that, their roster feels like a team of scrubs and no bodies. Kind of has had that feel over the last fifteen or so years…

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      You probably haven’t heard of them because they’re all young, but don’t mistake that as thinking they’re scrubs. They roll 4 lines and can score.

      This team is loaded offensively and will be a thorn in the Rangers side for quite awhile.

      • Chris A says:

        Yeah, it all comes down to the back end with the Isles.

        Is Leddy really that great? They took a huge gamble on him. Boychuk is also kind of overpaid if you ask me.

        Let’s be honest though, that team was an unfortunate Travis Hamonic injury away, in the last game of the regular season, from waltzing past the Caps.

        As a Rangers fan it’s nice to be able to watch a team up close that rebuilt through the tank method. After all these years the Isles finally got it right. It will be interesting to see how they deal with some of the big roster decisions among their older forwards that are coming up next summer. I’m looking at you Okposo, Nielsen and Bailey. For their sake I hope they realize what Okposo is (Callahan-lite) and choose not to resign him for a huge contract.

        • 43 says:

          I don’t know about you guys, but I’m all for them drowning in mediocrity for as long as time continues.

          • Chris A says:

            Sadly, that’s not happening. They are a really good team with some holes, goalie and defensive depth, but the Isles are for real.

            Actually, I think it’s kind of nice that there is an actual rivalry again. Good thing too, as the Devils and Flyers have been a dumpster fire and the Pens are about to fade away into obscurity on the back of their non-existent defense. Pretty much the only formidable rivals the Rangers have now are the Isles and Caps.

            • Chris72 says:

              I agree Chris A. There’s absolutely nothing like a Rangers-Isles playoff series!!!

  4. SalMerc says:

    As for the Islanders, I think that while their defense is somewhat porous, the year they had last year will add to their confidence. They are a dangerous team that can score goals in bunches. Their depth killed them last year, but I suspect Snow will add to that during the year in 2015-2016. They will be better in my opinion, even though I still hate them.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      I agree, Sal. I think the injuries really took a toll on them. I still don’t trust their defense and goaltending, but they will be a formidable foe over the next few seasons.

      Will be interesting to see what the “mojo” is like in the Barclay Center as opposed to the Coliseum.

  5. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    If “5” featured a number of star-crossed players, then the theme for number 6 would be “we hardly knew ya, but thanks for your help!” Four players who weren’t on the team very long, but in their own small way, helped lead the Rangers to the SCF–

    1972-Glen Sather (yes, THAT Glen Sather) not a lot of talent, but a mucker, a grinder, max effort all the time. Solid 4th line guy. Could mix it up too.

    1979-This guy was my favorite–Bobby Sheehan! Former star player for the NY Raiders in the WHA. Never played a regular season game for the Rangers. Toiled in the minors that season. Rangers called him up for the playoffs, and he was terrific!

    1994-Doug Lidster–The Jerry Seinfeld look a like. Rangers got him from Vancouver as part of the deal that shipped out Beezer. Was essentially the Rangers 7th D, but with injuries played some important minutes in the SCF and played well.

    2014-Anton Stralman-clearly the best player of this group. Key guy on that team. Huge disappointment that we had to lose him due to cap concerns.

    We’re still waiting for a long term number 6!

    • Section 121 says:

      I always liked Lidster and thought he was generally underrated.

      You forgot about Wade “the fade” Redden.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Yes, I forgot about him purposely! Didn’t fit this narrative. 🙂

  6. Section 121 says:

    I think the Islanders are generally underrated at this point probably due to the horrendous state they have been in over the last 5-10 years.