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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    Report: Maple Leafs closing in on deal with Jhonas Enroth

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to Garret Sparks, signing him earlier this month to a two-way contract.

    But they may not be done there, as they look to find someone to fill the role of back-up to Frederik Andersen.

    On Sunday, a report from Expressen in Sweden — and put through Google Translate — began circulating that the Leafs are closing in on a deal with free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth, who turned 28 years old last month.

    It’s one report and the team has not confirmed or announced anything. But it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few days.

    Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last season with the L.A. Kings, appearing in only 16 games behind starter Jonathan Quick.

    Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings, his playing time was a source of contention, however, because Enroth seemed to be under the impression he would play more than he did in L.A.

    The back-up position in Toronto became available when the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks.

    Related: UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth

    Providence College product Schaller saw opportunity to play with Bruins, but challenges lie ahead

    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 15:  Tim Schaller #59 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on January 15, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)
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    After spending the last three seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, Tim Schaller wasn’t going to resist the opportunity to sign with the Boston Bruins.

    A product of Providence College, the now 25-year-old Schaller, a center who provides size up the middle at six-foot-two-inches and 219 pounds, signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level with the Bruins as a free agent at the beginning of July.

    “We had probably about 10-12 teams calling on one day,” Schaller told the Boston Globe.

    “About halfway through the phone calls, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins called. At that moment, I almost told my agent, ‘Why take another phone call? Why not just say yes to the Bruins right away?’ It’s a good opportunity to have to play in Boston. All the numbers worked out perfectly to where it was impossible to say no to them.”

    The move helped to provide depth up the middle for the Bruins.

    Schaller has put up decent numbers in the minors, with 43 points in 65 games with the Rochester Americans in the 2014-15 season. In 35 NHL games with Buffalo, he had two goals and five points.

    However, earning a spot on the Bruins roster could be difficult.

    They have centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who had off-season surgery, Ryan Spooner and the additions of Riley Nash and David Backes as free agents.

    Backes can play wing in addition to center.

    “Boston was a good fit,” said Schaller. “We think I’m better than the prospects, so we thought it was a good fit. Hopefully I can beat out a bunch of guys for a job.”

    Being named Oilers captain would be ‘one of the greatest honors,’ says McDavid

    Connor McDavid
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    It began gaining momentum well before Connor McDavid even finished his rookie season, the prospect that the young phenom had what it takes to become captain of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Wayne Gretzky had his say, in an interview with the National Post last season.

    “I have a great deal of respect for him. In my point of view, I think he’s mature enough that he can handle it at any age,” said The Great One, the Oilers captain when that franchise was a dynasty in the 1980s.

    McDavid’s highly anticipated rookie season was interrupted with a shoulder injury, but he returned to play in 45 games, with 48 points. He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and there was plenty of healthy debate for his case to be the top freshman in the league.

    As his season continued and then ended, the talk of McDavid’s possible captaincy in Edmonton has persisted. The Oilers, who traded Taylor Hall last month, didn’t have a captain this past season.

    From Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, in April:

    Connor McDavid will be named as the Oilers’ captain at the age of 19 next fall, one of the items that was deduced at general manager Peter Chiarelli’s season-ending press briefing Sunday. Asked if his team would have a captain next season where this year it did not, the GM responded quickly: “I would think so, that we would have a captain next year.”

    At 19 years and 286 days, Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest player in NHL history to be named a captain.

    McDavid, the first overall pick in 2015, doesn’t turn 20 years old until Jan. 13 of next year.

    He’s already the face of the Oilers and perhaps soon, the NHL, too. He certainly doesn’t seem to shy away from the potential of one day being named the Oilers captain.

    “Obviously. If I was ever the captain at any point I think it would be one of the greatest honors and one of the accomplishments that I would definitely take the most seriously,” McDavid told the Toronto Sun.

    “I don’t want to comment on it too much, but obviously it would be an unbelievable feeling.”

    Trevor Daley surprises young hockey players, firefighters with Stanley Cup visit

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    Trevor Daley had his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday, taking it through Toronto, surprising young hockey players at a local rink and firefighters at a local station.

    He also held a private viewing party for family and friends inside a local bar, as per the Toronto Sun.

    Daley’s post-season came to an end in the Eastern Conference Final when he suffered a broken ankle. His absence tested the depth of the Penguins blue line as the playoffs pressed on, but Pittsburgh was ultimately able to power its way to a championship.

    When Sidney Crosby handed off the Stanley Cup, the first player it went to was Daley, whose mother was battling cancer.

    “He had been through some different playoffs, but getting hurt at the time he did, knowing how important it was, he had told me that he went [to see] his mom in between series and stuff, she wasn’t doing well, she wanted to see him with the Cup,” said Crosby, as per Sportsnet.

    “That was important to her. I think that kind of stuck with me after he told me that. We were motivated to get it for him, even though he had to watch.”

    Daley’s mother passed away just over a week later.