1. Lubomir Visnovsky. Will he be resigned or replaced?
I think Ryan Pulock will replace him eventually, but they should not gamble like they did when Donovan was the heir to Streit’s minutes. They need to find somebody that will be as good or better next October, and let Pulock earn his way into the NHL through the minutes gained from injuries. If Pulock is ready faster than they have a roster spot, that’s what trades are made of.
Resigning Vis is definitely an option, but probably not the best for the islanders or Lubo. His health is too much a question and he's given enough to the sport. Relax and enjoy your family. Jeff Petry?
2. What will happen to Matt Donovan?
I believe he’s a solid #7 D that should prove to be inexpensive. He might even be better than one, if not both of their secondary LH D. It’s still unclear as to whether or not he will become (or be eligible to become a Grade VI UFA). If he does stick around it is hopeful that he would be part of the top 8 defensemen.
If he doesn’t, they will probably regress back to the point of being unsure about injury replacements. Brian Strait played a lot of hockey last year… and most of it was less than stellar. Hopefully the playoffs showed that Donovan and/or Mayfield are ready to graduate to more responsible roles. One strategy might be to utilize a redundant asset (CDH, Hickey) and/or (Grabner) to get back into the first round of the draft, and use prospects to fill in for depth.
3. Will Michael Grabner be an Islander in October 2015?
There are so many questions here. Is he healthy enough to be traded or expect more than 30 games from him in 2015-16? Does he want to be an Islander? If he is healthy, how much is one year of THE GREMLIN worth on the open hockey market? Is MDC ready to replace his 34 games? Do the Islanders have any intention of re-signing one of the better 5v5 forwards they’ve had this half decade?
Grabner has basically been replaced by Anders Lee and Nikolay Kulemin with Michael Dal Colle in the wings. If they can get a first round pick from somebody to take on a year of salary and health issues they need to jump at the offer.
4. Who will be the backup goaltender?
It looks like they will be in the market for a backup goaltender. The kids seem to be progressing well (Best we’ve seen in a long long time), but the only "in house" option at the moment would be Kevin Poulin. He might be able to handle the NHL backup role, but they will have an opportunity to improve if they so chose.5. Is Michael Dal Colle ready for the NHL?
This is probably dependent on the 4 questions above, more than MDC’s ability. Actually, they are dependent on each other. MDC should be able to replace the role that Grabner filled last year. But is he worth the roster spot they’d have to dedicate to him?
It wouldn’t be a crime to have him with the club and playing only 30-40 games. It would be a crime to find out that he was as effective as Corey Conacher and have no choice but to return him to Oshawa with a year of his ELC burned.
Or is it? Is that really such a loss? If they can get value for Grabner there is no crime in letting MDC be the 13th forward. He’ll get plenty of playing time, and on the off chance he can’t cut it… we’re not the 2011-12 Islanders… just send him back.
6. What will the forward lineup look like?
LW1 and RW1 will probably have fewer candidates, but there won’t be any names etched in stone. I’m going to assume that Grabner will not be a factor either due to injury or trade. The flexibility will remain, but I think they will find the most productivity with this alignment…
(MDC in the press box, Collberg and Quine in BPT)
7. How can they make the PP more consistent?
I’m not sure they need to do much, but losing Visnovsky will hurt. One thing they can do is shift personnel around a little to create two efficient PP units. I’m not crazy about having a F on the point, but the way they move the puck to set up shots I think it’s almost a must.
Until Pulock is ready to take a full time NHL role, I think Okposo should be on the right point of PP2 instead of being RW of PP1. To that end my PP units would look like this:
PP1: Lee, Tavares, Strome, Nielsen, Boychuk
PP2: Nelson, Grabovski, Bailey, Leddy, Okposo.
8. Do they have an exit strategy?
2015-16 is not going to be easy. They should and will have heightened expectations thanks to a very good 2014-15. But the rest of the Eastern Conference has not been standing still. I think we can reasonably expect at least two teams in the Metro to move from outside the bubble to seriously contend for playoff spots through the end of the season.
What will happen if a NO-vember is starting? Will they pull the plug on Cappy? If so, is it all going to be done internally with Weight taking the reigns? Do they move to white flag mode where we see some vets jettisoned for prospects like MDC, Collberg, Reinhart and Pulock?
I doubt any of this happens… but they will need to progress in some manner to have their inaugural season in Brooklyn be a success.
9. Will there be a Charles Wang Night?
This may not be a popular position, but an argument can definitely be made for Charles Wang being the best owner in franchise history. He deserves some recognition as he steps into the shadows.
10. How will success be measured in 2015-16?
A. Playoffs. If they don’t make the playoffs they will have taken a step backwards.
B. Goal differential. They were +22 in 2014-15. They were 6th in the East last year. They can be top 3.
C. Goals allowed. They just let up too many goals (230) this year. That put them 12th in the conf.
D. Special Teams. The PK needs to be more like the one that ended the season, and the PP like the one that started it… and both need to be more consistent through 82 games.
E. Less time wasted "finding out." There should be no Cory Conachers, or Griffin Reinhart "experiments" this year. Pulock, Mayfield, MDC, Quine and Collberg should all get their shots. But only due to them outperforming current roster members, or NHL veterans (who ever replaces Visnovsky will be key). No question marks in this regard. You can’t stop injuries, but you can prepare for them.