People keep asking me - Where is all of this optimism surrounding the Islanders come from?
So I figured what better way than to give specific reasons why the Islanders will be playing meaningful games in April and maybe May of 2012.
This article will be the first in a five part series looking into the reasons the Islanders resurgence will continue into next season and beyond.
Part 1) Goal Scoring/Line Consistency. For the first time in what has to be 5 years the Islanders top 6 forward core knows who it is going to be, barring injury of course.
The top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau returns in tact which Tavares is coming off leading the team in points and scoring 29 goals and 67 points.
That total should improve next season as Tavares matures into the player Islanders fans cheered for the team to draft a couple of years ago.
Matt Moulson second on the team with 53 points with 31 goals showed the world he was no one hit wonder and PA Parenteau, a player who has enjoyed only a cup of coffee in the NHL until this season netted an impressive 20 goals and 33 assists.
As the season wore on and Islander fans got used to a perennial AHL player in Parenteau teaming with our prized player in Tavares we realized that this guy has skill and is an excellent play maker which is why he complemented Tavares and Moulson so well.
Hopefully this unit can continue to grow together and take the next step forward.
The Islanders were not a one line team this season either.
General Manager Garth Snow made his second excellent waiver wire pick up in two seasons when he picked up Michael Grabner from the Florida Panthers after he failed to impress their new top brass.
Florida's loss like the Kings with Moulson the year before, was most certainly the Islanders gain.
Grabner started the year in a not to eventful fashion chipping in the occasional goal and impressing the heck out of everyone with his blazing speed.
Once he was paired with Islanders center Frans Nielsen all hell broke loose. Grabner started to score goals at a frenzied pace winning NHL player of the month honors and earning himself a Calder Trophy nomination scoring 34 goals, with 6 of them short handed.
Frans Nielsen surprised a lot of people this season. Never in any Islander fans wildest dreams could we imagine the kind of season he put together especially when paired with Grabner not only at even strength but short handed. He scored 13 goals this season, which in of itself is no big deal but then you look closer and realize that seven of them were short handed. He got 31 assists also and was a plus 13.
Sooner or later Nielsen could find himself nominated for a Selke Trophy.
Kyle Okposo came came from his major shoulder surgery and struggled early on but then got his legs and was able to mesh well with his line mates. He only scored 5 goals in 38 games but he showed flashes of the two way power forward he is capable of once he got his stamina back.
I don't know about you, but I look forward to seeing what these six players can put together next season.
The remaining 6 forward spots appear to be filled as well, with returning veteran banger Trent Hunter looking to rebound from a lost season. Hunter's offensive skills are not the best part of his game as he will never score over 20 goals again. However he provides a physical presence that the Islanders need as he loves to throw the body around. Hopefully he can stay relatively healthy.
Matt Martin and Michael Haley are ready to assume the roles of enforcers who can skate and chip in goals here and there.
Josh Bailey's 2010-11 season was a disappointment as he will look to rebound and show he belongs in the NHL. Bailey reminds me a lot of a former Islander prospect Tim Connoly. He is a play maker who has a nice wrist shot and is coming to a point where he is going to take the next step up. As Tim Connoly proved not every player is an impact player right out of the gate.
The Islanders also have a pair of rookies that will look to crack the line up next season also, as Nino Niederrieter has been dominating the WHL ever since the Islanders sent him back there after his nine game cup of coffee with the team.
Kirill Kabanov will bring his immense ego and talent to training camp to try and convince Jack Capuano to keep him here. If he performs like he has in the QMJHL playoffs in camp I'm sure he will get the obligatory nine game look come October.
Blake Comeau is another Islander player that is coming into his own netting a career best 24 goals this season and will also look to improve on those numbers and if he can mesh well with Josh Bailey can give the Islanders three lines that can score goals.
I also hope the Islanders bring back Zenon Konopka who turned into the Voice of the Islanders and instilled some pride in wearing the Islander crest in that locker room.
Will Trevor Gillies be back? I hope so. Its comforting knowing you have a top heavyweight enforcer to stick up for your young stars.
Garth Snow and his team of scouts have put together a very nice group of young forwards that can pretty much do everything. They can skate, pass, hit, fight, score and kill penalties.
Please leave your thoughts below.
Coming in Part 2 - Goaltending is a positive?! Absolutely.