Metropolitan Division 2014-15 Preview: New York Islanders
COACH: Jack Capuano
2013-14 RECORD: 34-37-11, 79 points (eighth in Metropolitan, missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.6 goals per game (17th), 3.2 goals-against per game (28th); 17.8 power play pct. (17th); 78.1 penalty kill pct. (29th); shootout record: 9-6 (7th)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: G Jaroslav Halak, G Chad Johnson, C Mikhail Grabovski, RW Nikolai Kulemin, F Cory Conacher, D Johnny Boychuk, D Nick Leddy
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: G Evgeni Nabokov, D Radek Martinek
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Travis Hamonic — Johnny Boychuk
Nick Leddy — Calvin de Haan
Lubomir Visnovsky — Thomas Hickey
Brian Strait, Matt Carkner
OUTLOOK: The Islanders suffered a setback in 2013-14 after making the playoffs the previous season, the low point coming when main man John Tavares suffered a season-ending knee injury at the Sochi Olympics. Tavares is back and ready to cement his place among the NHL elite again, but his supporting cast will be hard-pressed to back him up. New York made a small splash by signing forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, but their best seasons are behind them. More important was the acquisition of Jaroslav Halak, a proven presence between the pipes who can help remedy the Isles’ recent struggles in net. The defense in front of Halak was bolstered significantly by the training camp acquisition of Johnny Boychuk from Boston and Nick Leddy from Chicago, adding experience (both players have won the Stanley Cup) and an element of menace (Boychuk). As a result, the Isles have a good shot to grab a playoff berth, provided that they can avoid their usual wave of injuries or prolonged losing streak that derails their postseason hopes.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Kyle Okposo
There was some grumbling in hockey circles when Okposo was left off the U.S. Olympic team last winter, and with good reason. He put up almost a point per game (69 in 71) for the Isles last year, and his wrecking-ball, don’t-back-down mentality is the perfect complement to Tavares’ skill on the Islanders’ top line. A step up this season could make him a top-15 scorer in the league.
PREDICTION: 80 points (seventh in Metropolitan)