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Burning Questions: 2011-12 Islanders Roundtable

Y'all gather 'round now.
Y'all gather 'round now.

Opening night last night was a bummer, a flat 2-0 loss to the Panthers. But hey don't let that destroy your spirit! (I know for some, the season is already over, the die already cast.)

It's still opening weekend of the hockey season, which means there is still plenty of reasons to be excited. And plenty of prognosticating scuttlebutt to mull. With that in mind, as one of many morsels to keep you from pacing around all weekend in a mix of excitement and angry disappointment, here's a preseason roundtable among the regular authors at this site.

These questions were all fielded before last night's opener. Feel free to play along with answers of your own:

1. The Islanders have turned to a couple of training camp tryout veterans in Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo to fill out their roster, and they clearly think they add real value. Is this a safe move, or a foolish one?

Keith Quinn: Both safe and foolish. I don't think these signings add a tremendous amount of value, but they also didn't cost much and aren't guys that will really block a good young player from cracking the lineup. It allows some other guys to get quality ice time in Bridgeport as well. The part of it I find foolish was not taking a chance on either Michal Repik, Brett McLean or Blair Betts who I felt may have more upside.

Dominik: It's foolish if these guys implode and the Islanders don't react accordingly. It's safe in that it's cheap depth and provides that veteran je ne sais quoi the Islanders desired without any commitment whatsoever. I think I get that they didn't want to put firm blocks in front of the kids: They can scratch, waive or Sim either Pandolfo or Staios at any time without feeling bad about it -- the Isles did, after all, give them another life in their NHL careers. (That said, now that Staios has an "A" in what appears to be some kind of Brendan Witt spiritual role, I suspect the bond is tighter. Of course, as I type that I recall Witt's final pro games were as a Sound Tiger, so...)

mikb: Staios and Pandolfo are low-risk moves, and smart uses of the Isles' current cap space.  If they provide value with their play and their example to the many young Islanders, they pay off.  If not, they can be cut free or traded with no regrets.  The short-term risk is, if they play badly you hurt the team's on-ice results, possibly missing the playoffs; the Isles may do that anyway, so now's the time to roll the dice like this.  And there's no real long-term downside.  They're not hindering anyone's progress up the depth charts.  They provide a good example for all the prospects in areas where they most need that kind of example - decision-making on the back end and defensive play at forward.

Mark D: Last year all we heard from naysayers is that the Islanders losing streak was due to a lack of veteran presence. In Jay Pandolfo you have someone that has a career track record of winning. In Steve Staios you have someone who has stuck around in the league and knows the ins and outs. It's a gamble, but it's like keeping around Jon Sim last season. You have nothing to lose in giving him minimal minutes while younger guys have bigger roles in BP.

2. What one Islanders-related move or occurrence pleasantly surprised you this summer, and what disappointed you?

Keith Quinn: I personally was disappointed with the Islanders immediately trying Nino out on the top line and keeping him there.  I assumed and felt that he should have started lower on the depth chart and with less responsibility. I was pleasantly surprised by Kabanov staying in camp as long as he did.

Dominik: Locking up Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and John Tavares to long-term, reasonable non-contentious contracts all in the space of a few months was an excellent and symbolic stroke. This team will never be a big spender, so managing assets like that is huge. I'm not surprised they signed, but I figured at least one of them might have had a drawn-out negotiation. On the flip-side, I'm greedy and think claiming Repik would've been a fun depth gorge, and I like the idea of Garth Snow's assistant GM in Florida helping us once again.

mikb: The pleasant surprise was Marty Reasoner. I think he'll become a fan favorite and a valuable contributor, without the twelvity-two hundred penalty minutes. The disappointment, of course, is the referendum results.  Once again, politics ruins everything.

Mark: I don't think there was anything more disappointing then the referendum. The sad thing that's not being talked about is how the turnout was rather high for a special election held in August with a month notice. Of course when you allow a bingo game to be held a room over from the election booths, your in for a pleasant surprise. The pleasant surprise was the locking up of most of the core, especially John Tavares after the failure of the referendum. Charles Wang might be the most underrated owner in the NHL today. There were plenty of naysers that said following the referendum that he wasn't going to spend and the team would eventually be broken up to save money. Instead he's now got the most important piece here for the next five years.

3. Explain which scenario you think is the most likely way the goaltending shakes out this season.

Keith Quinn: Good start by DP followed by rapid decline, followed by swelling, followed by mediocre play of backups because of limited playing time, followed by fan angst and calls for Nabokov trades, followed by Poulin.

mikb: I think that Nabokov starts until he proves he's good enough to be moved to a contender, then Montoya and DiPietro split until one asserts himself or gets injured. We will probably see another handful of games from Kevin Poulin this season.

Dominik: I'm not a doctor, but I did once rent a laser disc player: I fear Rick DiPietro's knee swells again, leading to uncertainty and more Al Montoya, while Evgeni Nabokov is flipped. Out of the ashes, Kevin Poulin gets 15 NHL games.

Mark: One of them sucks, one of them steals the starting job and one of them is just average enough to get the backup gig. I'm still sort of surprised Evgeni Nabokov wasn't traded.

4. Which player currently assigned to Bridgeport will log the most NHL games this season?

Keith Quinn: I have to think it will be Haley once Pandolfo demonstrates he's no longer capable of NHL play.

Dominik: Tempted to say Micheal Haley, but I feel like some younger guy is going to earn a longer promotion. So Matt Donovan then.

mikb: My guess is Ty Wishart. But if he doesn't make it through waivers again, my second choice would be Micheal "Go Ahead, Tell Me It's Mis-spelled" Haley.

Mark: Ty Wishart or Dylan Reese as I gamble that the defense is going to have injury troubles again. Or at least Milan Jurcina will.

5. Fill in the blank: At the end of 2011-12, Islanders fans will say _____ about Josh Bailey.

Keith Quinn: "He's still young and had flashes, but..."

Dominik: "He's progressed. Now the next step is needed heading into his contract year. I'm still angry about things because it feels good."

mikb: Everything they say now about Josh Bailey. The only way opinion unites about Bails is if he either finishes in the top-ten in the league in scoring, or goes on a drug-fueled three-state killing spree.

Mark: He's still fabulous in those chains.

6. Granted answering this question is a contradiction, but: Which Islander will be the biggest surprise (positive or negative) this season?

Keith Quinn: Frans Nielsen will show people he can be and offensive force...and strangely, because of that, he will gain more consideration for Selke.

Dominik: P.A. Parenteau. He's going to hang on to that top line spot all season long. On a related note, Nino Niederreiter: He's not going to be all that; not yet.

mikb: This is tough. Honestly, I think that it's RDP. I feel like the Rick is going to play well, and stay healthy.  Expectations are just so rock-bottom for him right now that his being a positive and not a sideshow or a (literal) punchline would be a most welcome development  Lord knows DiPietro's gotta be sick of it all himself.

Mark: Parenteau (yes again). I had actually forgotten that Parenteau had outpointed Matt Moulson last season, by one point. You don't just sign 27/28 year olds who have about 10 career points and have them post 50 point seasons in back to back years. Moulson proved that he wasn't a one hit wonder, and I have faith that PA will do the same as that first line gets rolling from day one.

7. If name recognition and royalties were no obstacle, what would you choose for the Islanders goal song?

Keith Quinn: Ocean Size by Janes Addiction

Dominik: "The Great Cull." Because thinning the herd of playoff-aspirant teams totally goes along with paranoia about a world government-big pharma conspiracy to thin the Earth's population. Plus, the chorus is a great singalong.

mikb: Are royalties an obstacle? I thought teams just paid a flat rate to ASCAP that covered anything they might use as a goal song, bumper music, etc. But in any case, I'd actually have personalized goal songs the way closers and hitters have their own intro music. There'd be a "goal song" you'd hear most of the time, but for big moments I'd break out a specialty song. So, if the Isles were down 3-0 and got two quick goals, I'd fire up the Jaws theme. If Tavares potted a hat trick I might fire up a Tavares song.  (Nobody says we can't have a little fun, right?)  Frans would get some Franz Ferdinand. That sort of thing. (It'd also be fun to have the players suggesting their own songs.)

Mark: My taste in music is so awful, this is the last thing you want from me. My go to sports song is always Crush 'Em by Megadeth. Of course I'm just happy if Vitamin C never appears on the Islanders Jumbotron again. It's bad enough watching the team get destroyed in 1999 without her being burnt into your skull.

8. Screw this up and we shoot this dog: Where will the Islanders finish in 2011-12?

Keith Quinn: 9th...But they'll be in it until the last week of the season.

Dominik: 10th in the East. (On Dec. 23 I always tell myself Santa isn't coming.)

mikb: Isles finish seventh in the East, get an epic throwdown with the Capitals.

Mark: Playoffs, baby.

9. Where should the next formal or informal LHH meetup be?

Keith Quinn: Are there options? Marriot or Parking Lot!

Dominik: Florida or California. We gotta grab those electoral college votes.

mikb: In my living room. Honestly - I can never get to these things. I'd have no objection to hosting a local gathering to watch the game.  I just can't have eighty people show up, that's all. Chez Nightfly isn't that big.

Mark: I vote for Mike's living room. If we had one in Jersey I could get to it. Long Island is just too far for me to make a daytrip out to. I also lost the place I stayed at last time I went to a game.

Ed. note: Oh, we'll be there.

And that's all. Thanks everyone for helping us get through the summer