New York Islanders
2008/09: 26-47-9 – 61 pts (5th in Atlantic, 15th in East)
Arrived: Martin Biron (PHI), Dwayne Roloson (EDM)
Departed: Mike Sillinger (Retired), Yann Danis (NJ), Joey MacDonald (TOR), Andy Hilbert (UFA), Dean McAmmond (UFA)
The 2008-09 season was one to forget for Islanders fans as they finished in last place in not only the standings, but also attendance. Owner Charles Wang has threatened to move the team, and things are looking bleak on Long Island. However, there are two beacons of hope on the horizon. The first is young John Tavares. The sniper set the record for goals in an Ontario Hockey League career, and was the number one pick in this year’s draft. He should follow in the steps of Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, and make the NHL in his first professional season. With little supporting cast it will be a tough year, but a welcome challenge for Tavares I am sure. The second is Garth Snow’s genius at work. This off-season he added Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron to his stable of goalies. It is my theory that he has some sort of Dr. Frankenstein experiment going on in the bowels of Nassau Coliseum, and is creating a mutant three-headed Dipietro-Roloson-Biron monster. It is the least these guys could do for the $7.9 million they are being paid this year. All jokes aside, the playoffs are out of question, but this season should be a step in the right direction.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Kyle Okposo (RW) – Okposo has a strong if unspectacular rookie campaign, playing in 65 games and recording 39 points. While these numbers are more than you would hope for a player of his pedigree, you have to keep in mind that some guy from Denmark named Frans Nielsen was their third highest scoring forward. He did not exactly have a lot to work with. Now that he has Tavares playing with him, I think 65-70 points is a reasonable projection.
John Tavares (C) – For Tavares’ rookie campaign, I would expect something half way between Crosby’s and Stamkos’. He does not have the same playmaking skill as Crosby, and is more comparable in ability to Stamkos. However, he will be given all of the ice-time he wants, unlike Stamkos who was held back during the first half of the season. When given ice-time and linemates, Stamkos recorded 27 points in his final 30 games. These are the numbers I expect from Tavares, who will combine with Kyle Okposo to give the Isles a respectable two thirds of a first line. Pencil him down for 70-75 points.
Keep an eye on: Josh Bailey
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Mark Streit – Streit was the only Islander worthy of a fantasy roster spot last year, and put together a fantastic season. He scored 56 points in 74 games and was a surprising +5. His 62 penalty minutes were also a decent contribution. With an improved attack thanks to the addition of Tavares, 60 points is not out of the question, and Streit should be considered a top fantasy defenceman.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
??? – I do not think Frankenstein has been added to the Yahoo! server yet so the Isles goaltending situation is a mess in terms of fantasy. DiPietro will not be ready to go to start the season and there is no front-runner for the position at this point in time. None of these goalies are draft-worthy but if one of them wins the starting job they should be picked up off the waiver wire.
Bonus: The Islanders had six of the twenty-three worst +/- totals in the NHL last year, including Brendan Witt and his -34 in 65 games. The next worst was Rod Brind’Amour who was -23 in 80 games.