Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Night Irene, Hello Nabokov?

Hurricane Irene is responsible for the death of 40 people, billions of dollars in damage and widespread flooding and power outages. Though we continue the cleanup process and our lives have, at least in most cases, begun re-running their normal courses, there's still a lot of work to be done and several questions to be answered.

Our thoughts and prayers should be with the people of Vermont right now. Reports indicate that their situation is a catastrophic one.

Depending on your perspective, we're either fortunate or unfortunate that Nassau Coliseum is still standing.

This storm washed many things away, but hockey was not one of them. Nothing has changed on that front, and the Islanders will begin training camp in just a few weeks, the regular season on October 8th.

I recently wrote up my season preview for all 30 teams (which you can check out here), and you might be a bit surprised to see where I placed the Isles. I think they can make the playoffs, but whether or not they do so will be dependent on the moves they make (or don't make).

Goaltending is, far and away, the biggest issue confronting the Islanders right now. Some people might think the team has lots of depth at the position, because after all, we have three quality 'tenders, right?

Not quite.

We have no clue what to expect from Rick DiPietro. His health is always in question, and even when he's at 100%, he's been inconsistent and has played anything but mistake-free hockey. Al Montoya was impressive in his short time with the Isles last season, but whether or not he can handle 40-50 starts remains to be seen. And of course, Evgeni Nabokov may not even be here past training camp, even though he may very well be the best goalie on the current roster.

Training camp should provide us with some answers, but for now, I'll remain skeptical.

Personally, I think Nabokov will shake of the rust and emerge as the starting goaltender. Out of the three goalies under contract, he has been around the NHL the longest, has the most playoff experience and the most impressive resume. If he can get his act together (and that's a relatively big "if"), he's the optimal choice for Snow and Co.

He might not be on the best of terms with his fellow teammates, but mistakes can be admitted and people can forgive and forget. If he's willing to act within the best interests of the team, I'm sure things can work out for Nabby and the Islanders.

The other major issue confronting this Islander team is on defense. There's just not a whole lot of depth here right now, and unless Garth Snow engineers a trade for a top-four D-man, that will continue to be the case.

If they're to contend for a playoff spot, the Isles have to make some moves before the season starts. Whether or not those end up being the right moves will be subject to later evaluation and/or criticism.

Speaking of transactions and salaries, Josh Bailey doesn't have one right now. The two sides are yet to agree on a new contract, and Bailey is the only Islander player still unsigned.

This tells me two things (and either or both could be the case):

(1) The Islanders want to give Bailey a two-way contract, in case they need to send him down to Bridgeport (AHL) again, while Josh and his agent haven't the slightest interest in such an offer.

(2) Garth Snow is actively trying to trade Bailey, and is perhaps waiting on a "sign and trade" type deal, or perhaps just the right one.

Either way, the relationship between said player and the team doesn't look so healthy right now. I could be wrong, but that's just the way I see things. With Ryan Strome coming aboard as early as next season, it's hard see where Bailey fits on this roster, as I've said before. He's literally the fourth-best center on the team once Strome gets here, and Josh Bailey is not meant to be a fourth-line center, nor does he have the grit and tenacity of a checking-line forward.

It's that time again, and, per usual, things are always getting more and more interesting in Islander Country.

Comments are welcome. 


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