2010-11 NHL season preview: New York Islanders

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for hahatavares.jpgLast season: (34-37-11, 79 points, 5th in Atlantic Division,13th in Eastern Conference) The team was scrappy enough, but really there wasn’t much to write home about beyond an acceptable season for John Tavares.

Head coach: Scott Gordon hasn’t had much to work with, but will three failed seasons go unpunished? I don’t know if he’s on the ‘hot seat’ but typically GMs – in this case Garth Snow – will fire a head coach to avoid being fired themselves. Another fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Division – the most-likely scenario for the Isles this season – might just be the end of Gordon’s run.

Key departures: G Martin Biron, F Richard Park. It’s pretty difficult to call anyone leaving this team a ‘key departure’ although Biron would be nice insurance to have.

Key arrivals: D James Wisniewski, D Mark Eaton, D Milan Jurcina. Snow loaded up on defenseman, which was a pretty smart move in retrospect considering the fact that Mark Streit got injured. Unfortunately, Wisniewski, Eaton and Jurcina might not be able to make up the difference, but they’ll help.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for rickydsmiling.jpgUnder pressure: Rick DiPietro’s knee.

At some point, his knee has to get better or that much-lampooned contract shall remain, well, much-lampooned.

Protecting the house: DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson are the team’s goalies … I think? Maybe? Kind of. Ricky D is broken and Rolo is old, so it’s kind of difficult to assess them. Let’s just say they’re bad, OK?

Defensively, the Islanders are greatly undermined by Streit’s injured shoulder. Perhaps Wisniewski will be their No. 1 D-man? Maybe they’ll trade for someone like Sheldon Souray? It’s hard to imagine the Islanders staying above water in goals allowed with that combo of questionable goalies and shaky defense, but Gordon will probably have them grinding games out so they’re only bad (not pathetic).

Top line we’d like to see: Blake Comeau-Tavares-Kyle Okposo. Blah, there really isn’t that much talent in Long Island, is there? How about this revision: The No. 1 pick from the 2011 draft-Tavares-Okposo. Yeah, that sounds better.

Oh captain, my captain: Doug Weight wins the rare ‘seniority’ and can grow a ‘well, we’re not going to make the playoffs, but still’ beard better than anyone else, so why not make him the captain? No, really, I imagine Weight is a good leader to a group of young players trying to learn to make it in the NHL.

konopkafight.jpgStreet fighting man: It must be Zenon Konopka, last year’s leader in penalty minutes, right? He’ll have his hands full with Jody Shelley, Eric Godard, Derek Boogaard and so on.

Best-case scenario: The Islanders will be this year’s Phoenix Coyotes. After all, they have similar problems off the ice, though Charles Wang is a stable owner. Either Roloson or DiPietro would play the role of Ilya Bryzgalov, though sadly neither will provide such stimulating interviews. Unfortunately, whether they’re the Coyotes or the Colorado Avalanche, even their best-case scenario involves an early playoff departure.

Worst-case scenario: DiPietro’s knee explodes and the shrapnel permanently injures Tavares and Kyle Okposo … then travels into the future and maims No. 1 overall pick in the ’11 draft. Garth Snow panics and trades for three more goalies.

Keeping it real: The reason that worst-case scenario was so ridiculous is because I think the ‘real’ scenario is bad, too. The Islanders are in a tough division and lost their best defenseman for six months. I wish them the best (their fans have been through a lot since the 1980s, just read the name “Alexei Yashin”), but it just doesn’t look promising this season.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale of 1-5, with one being the worst and five being the best, hopefully they’ll make me eat my words, but I’m going with a 1. Maybe they’ll tank for another top pick to build up their growing core of prospects.

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    WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

    Ryan White, Matt Martin
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    You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

    Here are the handy links for the two contests.

    First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


    After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


    Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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    The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

    Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

    “Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

    Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

    Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

    Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

    Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

    Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

    Ryan Johansen
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    One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

    You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

    — Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

    — GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

    — Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

    So there’s that. What’s next?

    At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

    Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

    So, consider the similarities now:

    — Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

    — Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

    — Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

    — Both are Overhardt guys.

    — The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

    — Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

    For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

    And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

    And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

    Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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    The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

    On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

    Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

    This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

    Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.