This is a discussion that has come up throughout the summer (it's August, after all), and many have thrust their line combos forward (did I mention it's August?).
But until something happens it will remain a topic of intrigue: Which six New York Islanders will be in the lineup opening night?
Answer the "last man in" poll below, but obviously this is a topic built for complexity, nuance and song lyrics which only the comment field can provide, which a radio button poll can only envy.
Let's look at the candidates:
In, No Questions Asked, Barring Catastrophe
First we'll give four automatics -- and I say "automatic" in the least hockey gods-tempting, pr*j*ct*n-free manner:
- Mark Streit, returning from a season on the shelf, shall be ready. Barring a mishap in training camp (and when has that been known to happen?), he'll be the most welcome site on Oct 8 vs. Dale Tallon's Well-Paid Felines.
- Andrew MacDonald, also returning from surgery late last season, should be ready to go and resume his role as the Frans Nielsen Bargain of the blueline.
- Travis Hamonic, a young pup all of 21, will be back and taking names, now wearing the "I'm here for the long haul" uni number of 3.
Probably Pretty In, But You Never Know
You'd expect these guys to be ready, barring injury:
- The Islanders like Milan Jurcina (and The Jurcina Anomaly) and re-signed him before the season was over, but he does have some NHL history as an extra defenseman, does have some injury history, and -- stop me if you've heard this before -- was shut down at the tail end of last season with a hip issue.
- Mark Eaton, also coming off season-ending hip surgery, is nonetheless a fixture in the Isles' D approach. If healthy, it's hard to see him being an opening night scratch.
If healthy, these two might compete for the last spot:
- Mike Mottau had the roughest of seasons last year, with some ineffective play (and partners) hampered by a lingering hip injury and a scary eye injury. He has said he will be ready, and he's been a community rep all summer long, but he will be overcoming a lot to be in the opening night lineup.
- Ty Wishart had up and down moments last season, but the up moments became more and more frequent and I believe he's an underrated candidate in this mix. Funny things can happen over summer, but if Wishart picks up where he left off, it won't matter that people see his size and think he should be Phaneufing more out there.
Wild and Enticing Cards
Although the following candidates have a good shot of seeing NHL time this season, for them to make the opening night roster would probably require an injury or two. They probably don't completely outplay two of the above right from the get-go.
- Mark Katic is the incumbent callup, and might be the "flex" guy who gets called up here and there for emergency situations.
- Likewise Dylan Reese, who should be a key piece for Bridgeport and might yet get some NHL time for good behavior.
- Still, Calvin de Haan is the one who gets the most attention, being a 12th overall pick.
- But Matt Donovan is the one with pro experience, having logged time in Bridgeport at the end of his final NCAA season.
- Aaron Ness also saw post-NCAA Bridgeport time last season, but his much smaller frame will have him learning the pro game for a while.
The Rumor-Feeding Cards
Garth Snow makes one comment about seeking a top 4 addition last spring and we end up spending the summer acting like it's an absolute. The truth is there aren't really any top 4's out there -- that's why the few UFA's drew such crazy Wisniewski money -- so at this point you're left with a surprise trade (and it takes two to tango) or a surprise training camp invite who surprisingly makes the team. (Remember that names like Manny Legace and Anders Eriksson were briefly in camp last season to handle the split-squad post-China Syndrome.)
Hey, maybe we'll get a surprise who pans out. But that's not where my money is.
So, considering talent, team trust in the above, and your own optimism or pessimism that we'll get through training camp with or without a major health report, who do you expect in the opening night six?