Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

The New York Islanders Mean Business

The New York Islanders have been the laughingstock and forgotten at the same time. But after years of patience, the Isles are ready to be taken seriously.

The NHL has seen several teams rebuild in the past 6 years. The Edmonton Oilers have stolen the headlines with their array of first overall picks including this year’s addition of Connor McDavid. The Buffalo Sabres have been terrible the past couple of seasons while the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers have had their share of highs and lows. But the one rebuilding team that has flown under the radar is the New York Islanders. The other teams may one day surpass the Islanders but New York’s “other team” has assembled an up and coming team with a very solid prospect pool to match.

The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn to start the 2015-16 season and it’s no coincidence that fans have started to come back with the team learning how to win again. They don’t have the luster of being an Original Six team in an excellent location like the Manhattan-based New York Rangers. The New York Islanders have suffered from bad management for the past 15 years that led to a poor on-ice product and it became a place many players refused to sign with or be traded to.

But things are different now. New York Islanders GM Garth Snow deserves credit for drafting and developing players while making shrewd moves. Snow has made his mistakes such as the Thomas Vanek trade but every GM has a skeleton or two in their closet when it comes to trades. With support from ownership, Snow has patiently rebuilt the Islanders into a team with a solid balance between youngsters and veterans.

New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano has also been a mainstay for the past five years, a rarity for a rebuilding team as most up and coming teams will go through two or more coaches on their trip to the top. Going into this season, only three other head coaches have been with their respective teams longer than Capuano has been with the Islanders.

Acquiring two top four defensemen in Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy were two moves that have paid off big time for the New York Islanders. They have brought playoff experience and solid play to a young team in need of both. Add in young defensemen Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey and the Isles have a solid defence corps. Prospect defenceman Ryan Pulock will push for a spot on the roster and his emergence as an offensive defenceman likely helped make the decision to trade former fourth overall pick Griffin Reinhart easier.

When it comes down to how far the New York Islanders will go as a team, it will be dictated by John Tavares. Tavares is the team’s best player, the captain and the face of the franchise. He was the centerpiece of the rebuild and is the focus in their push to become a contender. He is one of the league’s top scorers and the kind of number one center teams crave to have. He has dedicated himself to the Islanders and is on his way to being a legendary player in the franchise.

As for the rest of the New York Islanders forward corps, Kyle Okposo has become a very good player while Frans Nielsen is one the game’s underrated centers. Josh Bailey may not put the numbers expected of a top ten pick but he has become a solid contributor for the Isles. Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson are all youngsters with offensive upside. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin make up one of the most physical fourth lines in the NHL. Like many rebuilding teams, some of New York’s youngsters were rushed into the NHL but after seeing now former New York Islander Nino Niederreiter struggled, the team has been more patient with their prospects.

In goal, Jaroslav Halak has stabilized the position after years of injured Rick DiPietro and stop gaps in between. In terms of prospects, Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstorm are the most promising goalies in the system but they won’t be pushed with Halak having three years left on his deal and in the prime of his career. Halak has had his injury troubles throughout his career but his solid play has been a welcome addition to the Isles.

In terms of prospects, the New York Islanders are in very good shape going forward. Up front, the Isles boast several offensively gifted players such as Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. On defence, there is the aforementioned Pulock, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Scott Mayfield.

The New York Islanders may not play in the most glamourous market or have the most star studded lineup, but they deserved to be recognized more as a team on the rise. They have to be consistent and learn how to win as they came close this past season before falling in game seven during the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Capitals. There is nowhere to go but up for the Isles and teams shouldn’t bet against them.

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