For the Islanders' future and the fate of this season, there were probably no more important dates than April 14 (the day the lottery was won) and June 26 (the day The Future was drafted).
That said, between now and opening night, there are some key dates to keep an eye on, in addition to the type of news that comes out of left field like a Rick DiPietro contract:
July 27 - The Nate Thompson arbitration hearing. If this hearing really happens, it could be the most entertaining insignificant arbitration hearing in history. Yes, Thompson -- he of 43 games (for a career total of 47), 2 goals, 2 assists, and minus-11 last season, didn't find the Islanders' minimum qualifying offer to be properly reflective of his services. That, or he'd prefer some sort of one-way guarantee, since if not now, when? It's tough not to look at this as his agent wanting arbitration practice; but people and organizations tend to get ticked off when you take them to court. Hopefully this is resolved before then.
Aug. 1, Aug. 15 - The respective dates for Ice Girls no-pressure orientation and open tryouts. Intuitively, I wouldn't think this relevant, but the amount of times fans refer to the Ice Girls -- and the amount of times lead team blogger Chris Botta closes an otherwise unrelated post with a photo of an Ice Girl -- leads me to believe the assembly of this squad is quite significant to the club indeed.
Aug. 4 - For the Lighthouse project, this is the big one: Public hearings at Hofstra University. As Katrina of the Lighthouse Development Group says, "All the time that our supporters have invested, all the meetings you have come to, all the letters you have written are for this day." She also stresses that it's for more than just Town of Hempstead residents -- it's for everyone in the region, as the development affects (and symbolizes) the direction the region will take. Before and after then (through Aug. 17), citizens can register comment through letter, email or call.
Aug. 1-30: Every GM in the league goes fishing in some (separate) lake in Canada, where they try to step away from it all for a month but then there was that one call from that one GM/big free agent that they just had to take, and then two days of phone-tag, a homemade pie and a prop plane flight out of the bush later, Alex Tanguay is an Islander, fulfiling a boyhood dream.
Aug. 1-30: Desperate for topics, bloggers around the league rehash old YouTube videos, plow through fantasy roster scenarios, and remember team legends -- while missing the big call-to-the-GM-on-a-lake story because they were slamming margaritas on the beach. Newsday runs a feature on John Tavares' dog.
Aug. 1-30: Sometime during this month, Rick DiPietro resumes skating in a secret location. His father tells media he looks good. Garth Snow offers no comment.
Aug. 17-19: Team USA runs its Olympic orientation camp in Woodridge, Ill. (That's outside of Chicago; there aren't really cities in Illinois outside of Chicago (Sorry, Springfield).) Kyle Okposo is on the camp roster. John Tavares isn't, because he's Canadian, and not in a Brett Hull sort of way, either.
Aug. 24-27: Team Canada runs its Olympic orientation camp. No Islanders on the list, not even John Tavares. NHLPA tells players not to do any on-ice stuff because of insurance reasons, which of course defeats the purpose. Yay for lawyers and insurance companies. And the commercialized olympic games.
Sept. 12 - Islanders training camp opens in Saskatoon. Goodwill spread through Saskatchewan. Locals stalk John Tavares. The NHLPA says it's OK to participate in this one. Full training camp schedule here.
Sept. 15 - Islanders rookies play an exhibition game against the local U. of Saskatchewan Huskies. Some collegiate tries to take Tavares' head off to have a story to tell his granddogs.
Sept. 17 - Islanders first exhibition game, in Edmonton. Robert Nilsson tells teammates he's prettier than Tavares.
Sept. 19, 20 - Islanders play Calgary, Edmonton again. Hopefully Tavares gets a rest on one night, since the league will need him as a showpiece in Kansas City. Camp ends on the 20th.
Sept. 22 - Islanders play Los Angeles Kings in Kansas City. Local fans haven't heard of Tavares until the Kansas City Star feature run the day before. Charles Wang says, "We just wanted to show the potential of this city off for Jim Balsillie, because we sure as hell aren't moving here, and he sure as hell isn't getting a team in Hamilton."
Sept. 23 - Okay, did Tavares play last night for the K.C. fans, or tonight for the only home preseason game at Nassau Coliseum? One way or the other, we're gonna hear more about this topic -- and someone will feign outrage.
Sept. 29 - Islanders play their final preseason game -- and the only road game outside of Canada, in Newark -- which is kind of like Canada, except with a different accent and worse maple syrup.
Sept. 30 - Oct. 3: Islanders fans fret over the final make-up of the roster. Jeff Tambellini is discussed more often than a presidential impeachment. The identity of a second enforcer is obscured. "If we had bothered to sign Tanguay" is the most common refrain heard online. "He wasn't a Gordon playah" is second. In a final fit of compulsive buying, the last Islanders fan without a TAVARES 91 jersey runs to the team store to purchase two.
Oct. 3: The Islanders open the 2009-10 season at home against the Stanley Cup Pittsburgh Penguins. Some Canadian reporter asks John Tavares when he'll win his Stanley Cup. The Islanders, we hope, opens this big night in the national spotlight with a win and in their retro third jersey threads. Unless the league has some kind of problem with that.