UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Coming off their deepest playoff run in 23 years, the New York Islanders open training camp hoping to build on that success and go even further.
The Islanders overcame injuries down the stretch last season to earn a playoff berth for the second straight year, and third in the past four, while reaching the 100-point mark in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1982. New York then beat Florida to win a postseason series for the first time since 1993 before losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the second round.
“It was frustrating but you learn from it and you move on,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said at the team’s media day Thursday. “It was good for our team, for our fan base to see that and have an opportunity to win the first one in a long time. It sets our bar and our expectations even higher.”
The Islanders open camp Friday as a different group from the one that dispersed in May after their loss to the Lightning. Free agent signees Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and P.A. Parenteau are here, replacing departed longtime stars Kyle Okposo (Buffalo), Frans Nielsen (Detroit) and Matt Martin (Toronto).
Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, totaled 25 goals and 21 assists last season in 78 games for Winnipeg and Chicago. The 31-year-old left wing has 210 goals and 256 assists in 12 seasons. Chimera, 37, had 20 goals and 20 assists for Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington and has 163 goals and 206 assists over 15 seasons. Parenteau, back for his second stint with the Islanders, had a career high-tying 20 goals and 21 assists for Toronto last season. For his career, the 33-year-old Parenteau has 101 goals and 167 assists in 424 games spanning eight seasons in the NHL.
“I think everybody’s excited to get on the ice together and start practicing and start the season,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We’ve made the playoffs two years in a row and obviously want to get the third year and do better.”
The Islanders will be missing some key faces at the start of camp with coach Jack Capuano, captain John Tavares (Canada), goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss (Europe), and veteran forward Nikolay Kulemin (Russia) playing in the World Cup in Toronto. Capuano will likely be back soon with Team USA having played its final game Thursday night after failing to advance to the semifinals.
“We’ve known for a while that they’d be gone,” Hamonic said. “I’m sure it’s going to have a different feel to it but this time of year everyone’s pretty excited to get out there. There’s a lot of coaches, a lot of people and things are going a hundred miles an hour. Just kind of roll with the punches.”
The Islanders just finished a weeklong rookie camp for their top prospects, and some of the veterans and newcomers also held informal workouts on their own.
“At this point just skating on your own and informally is starting to get old,” Ladd said. “So, it’s exciting to get going, get the group together and start working toward that goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”
REPLACING MARTIN: With Martin’s departure, there’s a void on the Islanders’ vaunted fourth-line, and Cal Clutterbuck knows his former teammate will be hard to replace.
“It’s tough to have Matty gone,” Clutterbuck said. “I don’t think there’s a physical presence like that, as big a presence in the league as Matty is. That’s a loss but I think there’s some guys Casey (Cizikas) and I will be able to play with that’ll be able to do some of the same things.”
YOUTH ON DEFENSE: After bringing in veterans like Lubomir Visnovsky and Marek Zidlicky to round out the defensive pairings the last few years, the Islanders will likely be going with a younger player this year. Hamonic, Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are the established stalwarts on the blue line. The leading candidates for the sixth spot include Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech – all of whom have made contributions when given a chance.