Somehow it's fitting that the Islanders opening night roster will include a new captain who starts the season on IR. Nonetheless, congratulations to Doug Weight, who won via player vote the role he very much wanted. Cheers to Scott Gordon and Garth Snow, too, for letting the players choose.
Since his signing over a year ago, I've made no secret of my fondness for Weight, despite increasing injuries and decreasing speed. I've been witness to his upbeat demeanor, I remembered how a Blues locker room flamed out after dumping him for a long-term asset, and I saw him bring the Stanley Cup back to my nephew's mite team after he won the Cup with Carolina.
Strictly speaking, he's past his prime, his legs are those of an aging speedster, and no contender would give him the minutes the Islanders do. But he has a great attitude, is a great presence for the Islanders young talent, and most importantly: he's embraced this role. Of all the unhappy veterans last year, is it any wonder Weight came out of it with a level head? To me, that's exactly the role model we want for this young Islanders team. Maybe his untimely injury last year cost the Isles another 3rd or 4th rounder at the deadline. But for me it was a blessing in disguise.
Opening roster and line shuffling after the jump...
Aside from that, a stopgap captaincy works just fine. I'm even more fond of Mark Streit -- and I hope this doesn't deter Streit's drive to be this team's best player -- but it doesn't hurt to punt the decision on a long-term leader one season down the line. In the even-keel Josh Bailey (or business-like John Tavares? or fiery Kyle Okposo?), the Islanders may have a franchise heart-and-soul they'll want to wear the "C" for a Potvin-like tenure. While I wouldn't want any of those guys to take that burden on in 2010-11, by this time next year the club will have a better idea of who is progressing along as a long-term candidate.
Weight's symbolic award was more of a surprise than the look of the Islanders opening roster. The lone camp winner, Matt Moulson, had pretty much lined up that role in recent weeks, particularly considering the injuries that created an opening. I'm one of those looking forward to seeing if he can stick on Tavares's wing, even if just for a year.
Meanwhile, Trent Hunter is on IR but can come off in time for the home opener. That leaves Weight, Frans Nielsen, Jeremy Reich and Rick DiPietro on the opening IR list as well, with Weight set to be the earliest to come back.
So an opening night napkin sketch looks something like this, with some interesting decisions for Gordon:
Matt Moulson | John Tavares | Kyle Okposo
Jeff Tambellini | Josh Bailey | Blake Comeau
Sean Bergenheim | Richard Park | Trent Hunter
Jon Sim | Nate Thompson | Tim Jackman
Bruno Gervais | Mark Streit
Radek Martinek | Brendan Witt
Freddy Meyer | Andy Sutton
Spares: Rob Schremp, Joel Rechlicz, Jack Hillen
You look at those forwards and see a lot of guys who'd like to be top-six, don't you? Certainly Bergenheim (who may end up with Tavares), Sim and Schremp, anyway.
Then with Schremp, he's a natural center, but I can't imagine the Isles trusting him with that defensive-oriented position. Still, there's an opening at center while Weight and Nielsen are out -- but surely Gordon, whose system takes a while to learn, wouldn't insert a guy who's new to the system and missed all but two days of camp, right?
As for Rechlicz -- this is all speculation, of course -- I'm wondering if Gordon won't see the Pens as a team less likely to try to bludgeon their way to a win.
But those are your pieces to play with. How do you feel about the captaincy decision? And if you were facing the Pens the night after they raised their banner, how would you set the lines, and who would you scratch?