“We feel good about the group we have,” Kyle Okposo said. “It’s on us now.”
And it starts tonight in Carolina, where the New York Islanders — after a busy offseason of roster retooling by GM Garth Snow — will open their regular season against the injury-ravaged Hurricanes.
It’s the only game on the NHL schedule, so the spotlight will be all theirs.
Key additions to an Isles team that finished well back of a playoff position in 2013-14 include starting goalie Jaroslav Halak, forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Cory Conacher, plus Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
Granted, it hasn’t been all good things happening — yesterday it was reported that speedy winger Michael Grabner would be out indefinitely after undergoing sports hernia surgery. But that couldn’t put a dent in the optimism among Isles fans. At last glance, the cheapest ticket for Saturday’s home opener, also versus Carolina, was $91 at StubHub. This for a team that finished with the fifth-lowest average attendance (14,740) in the league last season.
As for Snow, well, he’s got a lot riding on his roster’s performance in 2014-15. Don’t forget that the Isles don’t have a first-round pick in the 2015 draft; that belongs to the Sabres now, as a result of last season’s Thomas Vanek trade (the first one). So there’s a nightmare scenario at play here, and it involves New York missing the playoffs and Buffalo drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel with the selection the Isles sent them (for a player the Isles weren’t even able to convince to stay).
Is that nightmare scenario likely? Nope. But it will remain a possibility until a playoff spot is clinched.
“Garth was pretty aggressive this summer and the message is that last season wasn’t good enough for anyone,” captain John Tavares said.
“We’ve been building for a long time and it’s on us now to take that next step.”