I have my tickets ordered for October 8th against Phoenix at NVMC, and as psyched as I am to watch this team, The decisions of the front office and their ability to add the needed compliments to this roster still deeply concerns me.
Looking at the roster, I see a team filled with depth, speed and gamers. Few teams will be able to match the consistent onslaught of pressure the four lines the Islanders will put out there. However, our biggest strength also remains our biggest fault. While its clear now that Garth Snow underestimated the talent of P.A. Parentau and how well he clicked with front liners John Tavares and Matt Moulson, the parade of replacements being used is very frustrating.
Nino Niederreiter never got a real shot to play on a line that would have showcased his natural goal scoring ability, and would have been a perfect fit, but he's gone. Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner just haven't worked well when paired with the top two. So what now? The answer seems to be obvious to me, but not yet to the Islanders.
Having already given away a top-five pick, the hope of drafting Ryan Strome was that he would be what Evgeni Malkin is to Sidney Crosby, or what Patrick Kane is to Jonathan Toews. So let him be. The Islanders don't need Strome to anchor another solid line. With Okposo, Grabner, Bailey, Cizikas, Clutterbuck, Bouchard, Martin, Nelson and Regin/McDonald, they have three very strong lines ranging from very good to above average. What they don't have is the one DOMINANT line. Strome has already played with JT and had success, so enough waiting. Lets see the future now with Strome and JT.
The next concern I have in solidifying the Islanders playoff chances is giving consistent minutes to more talented, younger players like Brock Nelson, Matt Donovan, Griffin Reinhardt and Anders Lee. While Colin McDonald is an excellent 3rd/4th liner, his talent level has been reached. Other players such as Peter Regin are in the same boat. The Islanders are strong enough to see what giving consistent minutes early on to their younger players can add to their success in 2014. Vets such as McDonald and Regin will be there and contribute as well, but the Islanders improvement from 8th seed to consistent power house depends on their ability to let the talented youngsters make their mark on an already deep rotation.
The final and most obvious concern for the success of the 2014 New York Islanders is their goaltending. While it was obvious to anyone except the front office, Evgeni Nabokov was exhausted come playoff time. The Islanders inability to provide him with consistent aid behind him would have definitely cost them a playoff spot in an 82-game season. Since they chose to re-sign Nabokov and not chase younger, available goaltenders like Corey Schneider or Jonathan Bernier, they then needed another solid, younger (at least then Nabokov) vet to keep Nabokov from collapsing from exhaustion. Kevin Poulin won one game last year, while Nabokov won the remaining 23. Bringing in a Ray Emery type would have moved the Islanders from question mark to very solid.
The failures of making such obvious moves as brining in another solid veteran goaltender really makes me nervous in anticipating consistent success moving forward from this franchise. While no doubt the talent is there on front and back lines, the ability of the front office to anticipate and adjust to the needs of the current roster, really makes me question if they are truly committed to winning.