We ran out of time to complete the official player reviews from the previous season, but I wanted to make some final comments on a couple of the guys and tie that into our upcoming season preview. It’s unfortunate that we ran out of time and that the summer was a lot more difficult for us to be able to dedicate the time to finishing the entire roster. However, it happens, and we now will be looking forward to the 2011-12 campaign.
It is interesting that as the summer has passed, it seems like last season is so distant as far as remembering some of the specifics that stood out for me back in April. There were certain aspects of specific guys that were surely worth mentioning, but I’m afraid that it’s hard to put them all in context now. I will not “grade” any other guy at this point, but, instead, try to make a few observations in regard to their play and what possibly needs to be improved.John Tavares, of course, stands out quite profoundly. It is great to hear that #91 is going to stay in the fold for another 6 years. To me, JT still has a tremendous upside and we still have yet to see just how good he is. He just missed the 30 goal mark last season, though his 29 goals and 38 assists and 67 points was tops on the team. Although he was a minus 16 for the season, I have no doubts that his defensive play will only improve as time goes on. He is surely the number 1 pick the Islanders needed, and he will undoubtedly anchor the first line for the Isles for many seasons to come.
What a season Blake Comeau had for himself? In 77 games, #57 totaled 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points. He really played well, and it was great to see him really start to emerge as one of the core players. I guess the influence of Freddy Meyer and his good healthy eating carried over. Blake could very well be a mainstay on a third line for the Islanders this season. It will be important for him to continue where he left off and to build on the success he had last season. The question will be is he a 20 plus goal scorer for real or was 24 a fluke?
Although he retired, it is certainly worth mentioning Doug Weight as well. It was a shame that injuries limited him so much during his Islander career, particularly with his influence on the ice as the captain, often leading by example. He is a class act, and a guy who has done a lot for the team on and off the ice. His stats as far as his career goes are definitely impressive, but Doug’s importance and value to the New York Islanders has gone well beyond statistics. His role as mentor to John Tavares, for example, is an aspect that cannot go understated, and I am glad that he will continue to be part of the organization.
Who would have ever expected Al Montoya to end up being and Islander and, more importantly, stepping up into the breach when a goaltender was badly needed? One cannot overlook his steady net minding and how he got better and better with each game. In 20 games, #35 had a 9-5-5 record with a 2.34 GAA. This certainly earned him another shot with the Isles, and I have no doubts that Mr. Montoya will be shooting for a role on the team this season. If he continues with the kind of play we saw, goaltending will not be an issue for the team at all.
In the same manner, let us also not overlook Kevin Poulin. Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t hurt his knee in that pre-game skate that ended his season. It is hard to imagine a 20 year old who wasn’t supposed to play any games with the pro team suddenly finding himself starting in net and relied upon to take on the responsibilities of a #1 goaltender. A 4-2-1 record and a 2.44 GAA in 10 games played in is definitely something that should give Islander fans a lot to look forward to in the future.
Finally, we get to Rick DiPietro. Injuries, unfortunately, continued to plague his season, which caused him to only play in 26 total games in which he had an 8-14-4 record and a 3.44 GAA. I am a big DP fan, and I very much wanted to see him rebound and play strong in 50 plus games between the pipes. However, his status for the upcoming season is just as questionable as ever before. Will he be able to maintain his health for a full season? With Al Montoya and now, Evgeni Nabokov around, there will be competition for the starting job, and Ricky is, by no means, a shoe in at all. He will definitely have to improve upon his lateral movement, and the goals against average is going to have to drop by a good half a goal if he is going to make a statement. The Isles are fortunate that they do have depth in the goaltending department, but I surely want Rick DiPietro to be a big part of the picture and a major factor in a strong season.
Thus, overall, after a rather horrific start, the New York Islanders came back strong in the second half and gave the fans a lot of hope and entertainment. I can recall many nights simply being fun to watch, and as much as us long suffering fans in Islanders country hate hearing it, we are left looking forward to “next year”. Nevertheless, that is part of the trials and tribulations of a rebuilding team, and as disappointing as not making the playoffs was, we still have to consider the successes and bright spots we did see. There were many steps forward, and I think that it really points to an exciting, upcoming season. However, we will soon get to that in our Islander preview for the 2011-12 season that will be posted soon. Stay tuned, folks, as Gary, Doc and I give you our take and predictions for this season.
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