Do not look now, but it appears that the New York Islanders have earned a bit of respect in the NHL circles.
Predictions still have the Islanders for the most part finishing out of the playoffs but not at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Thats progress, but well short of what this team is capable of doing.
Now that that is out of the way let us look at what is apparent about the Islanders that has not been apparent in the past. The NHL season begins on October 6th and the Islander begin their campaign Saturday the eighth against the revamped Florida Panthers.
What can we expect from this group? Seriously?
The Islanders who failed in another bid for a new arena that has been an anchor around the teams neck for a while, seems to have been pushed to the side for the time being while the politicians and the powers that be fumble around looking for a new solution to the arena issue.
Belmont Park, A new complex on site with a parking garage, all that will be sorted out at some point.
Let's focus on the team itself on the ice.
The Islanders young core has a few additions this season to add to the mix. Notable adds are Marty Reasoner who will essentially take the place of Zenon Konopka in the Islanders lineup is also capable of killing penalties, winning face-offs and scoring the occasional goal.
Former long time Devil Jay Pandolfo has also been added to the mix and should provide some veteran leadership to the group and is a capable third or forth line penalty killer.
Veteran defenseman Steve Staios has the chance to make a nice impact to bring stability to the Islanders defense and will most likely be paired with the returning from injury Mark Striet.
Evgeni Nabokov has decided to continue his career with the Islanders and play out his contract and at the very least brings the Islanders a veteran net minder who has had a lot of NHL success under his belt.
Ryan Strome has signed a three year entry level deal and will at least get the obligatory nine game look to see if he can be the next 18 year old to crack an NHL line up. Odds are he goes back to juniors but there is always the chance he "wows" the Islanders brass to stay for the season.
Nino Niederreiter has made the team also and will likely get some top six forward minutes as he starts his full time NHL career. He has been hampered with a minor injury but saw time with John Tavares and Matt Moulson in the pre-season.
Brian Rolston is a serviceable forward who should be able to help the team across the board in all aspects of the game most notably penalty killing and giving the team three lines that are a scoring threat.
The new comers give the Islanders a couple of proven NHL veterans to lean on when the young Islanders either start to crack under the pressure of a long NHL season or need a guy who has "been there" to speak to about remaining consistent over an 82 game NHL season.
The Islanders biggest problem as of late seems to be the issue of remaining consistent and avoiding a season killing win-less or losing streak.
Every team has losing streaks, the key is to minimize the damage and get past it before it manages to kill your season.
From top to bottom the Islanders put what can be the most complete NHL team the franchise has seen since the 2002 season.
Dare I say this, the goaltending appears to be solid with the addition of Nabokov, the return of Al Montoya and the resurgence of Rick DiPietro who has had a solid pre season and managed to stay off injured reserve so far.
The defense is back and healthy from top to bottom.
The forwards are young, hungry, talented and have been spotted with a few veterans to steady the ship through the rough patches.
The team has stated that they think the rebuild is over and the time to win is now.
I whole heatedly agree that. The old barn in Uniondale will be a fun place to be this year and I am not talking about Rhianna concerts and monster truck rallies.