PETE PAGUAGA — Sports Editor
Whoa, one more month I cannot wait.
After such a great, under-the-radar offseason, Islanders hockey is finally back. Now I know most of you aren’t hockey fans, let alone fans of a hockey team from Long Island, but I don’t care; I am so excited for the Islanders this season.
I know they have been in the cellar of the NHL for the last eight seasons, but if you actually look closely they finished very strong last season. No, they didn’t make any big splashes in the free agent market, like the Rangers signing Brad Richards (Hope he doesn’t turn out like Chris Drury). But the Islanders are so young and their players are maturing and getting better.
Last year, Garth Snow added Michael Grabner and P.A. Parenteau, and both of them responded with over 20 goals; Grabner finished with 35. The two of them—along with John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson and others—fill out such a promising young corps of forwards. That’s not including the probability of adding Nino Niederreiter, the fifth-overall pick last season, Krill Kabonov, former third-round pick and the long shot of Ryan Strome, who was drafted fifth overall in the latest NHL Draft. Is anyone else getting excited?
Their defensive corps is just as impressive. They will be returning veteran Mark Streit, with the maturing of Andrew Macdonald, Travis Hamonic and Ty Wishart, and the continued veteran leadership of Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina. Still not excited or nervous to play them yet?
Now their goalies—the Achilles Heel the past few seasons. Last season the Islanders used five different starting goalies. Two were lost for the season with injuries, one was traded and there was another one who didn’t want to join the team. Well, this year Rick DiPietro is healthy (as of now), Al Montoya played great down the stretch, Evgeni Nabokov has decided to play for the Islanders and Kevin Poulin will be able to grow and mature more down in Bridgeport. The three-headed attack they will possibly have this season will be a force to be reckoned with. They have three goalies who can all play at a high level in the NHL.
This is the season the Islanders take the next step. This is the season Tavares becomes one of the best players in the world. This is the season where not only do the Islanders make the playoffs, but they might win a series or two. This is the season where the Islanders stop being the laughingstock of the NHL.