Matt Moulson has every reason to smile while staring deeply into the eyes of rookie phenom and 2009 first overall pick John Tavares. Before meeting Tavares the 25-year-old Moulson struggled to crack a competitive and young Los Angeles Kings roster, playing only 29 games over two seasons. All the power forward needed was a chance and a gifted center with vision to push through 30 goals– making him one of the more surprising stories in hockey. His aforementioned 30 goals and 48 points put him fourth on the team in scoring and seem like exactly the numbers Moulson projected with his unique style of play in lesser leagues.
The two shuffled secondary wingers for most of the season, giving Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau and even Frans Nielson a chance. By giving all these players their time in each player heightened their points total while showing an excellent amount of roster flexibility. The top six remains very young with their points ranging from 54 (Tavares) to 35 (Bailey and Comeau ).
In the future the Isles may choose to bring in a few more veterans or possibly someone who can lend more scoring depth than Jonathan Sim or the likely retired Doug Weight. However, with Jesse Joensuu, Rob Schremp and possibly Matt Martin NHL ready, expect to see another year with a very young team growing together.
Mark Streit led this group of often injured and inconsistent bunch, posting his usual barrage of points. The 31-year-old defenseman has seen his production slip for the third straight season, although he still seems a lock for 10 goals and 50 points for the next few seasons. A seasoned blueliner like himself can quarterback a powerplay with the best of them as he has proved in every stop in his career.
Growing pains continued on the Isles backend as they saw rookies Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen, Dustin Kohn, Mark Flood, Dylan Reese, and Anton Klementyev all lace them up. Hillen and MacDonald established themselves as regulars after the Islanders traded Andy Sutton and demoted Brendan Witt and will open the season with a lineup spot.
Aside from Streit, the Islanders lack another offensive defenseman with the closest thing likely Hillen or Bruno Gervais.
Dwayne Roloson opened the season as the Islanders netminder when the season began with most pundits assuming Rick DiPietro would eventually take over. Although, he carried the Islanders to numerous overtimes and battled every night, he almost lost his job to his often injured counterpart. Luckily, DiPietro would prove himself injury prone once again handing the duties back to Roloson and impending free agent Martin Biron.
At forty, Roloson will go into his second year of a two-year deal as the assumed starter. There will be much better options out there with a much more experienced defense.
On the Bench:
Scott Gordon enters his third year with the Islanders after leading them to two straight last-place finishes. He brought his expertise to Team USA this past Olympics, helping them to an eventual silver medal finish. His players seem to buy into his system which helps considering this young coach is accustomed to instructing players at the minor league level. The players and coach should grow together as the team enters the third full year of growing their young core.
The Bottom Line:
The Islanders lost yet another year as they continue to rebuild but managed to improve their record in the process. A ten point margin of increase could be moderately expected for all of their young forwards while Streit remains a stalwart on any team’s blue line. Look for them to try and add a piece while selecting a promising prospect with their 5th overall pick.