With one win in the last four games, the Isles ended up with a record of 34-37-11 for just 79 points. This season was a six point improvement over last season. The team ended up fourth from the bottom in the NHL; which means that they still have a chance in obtaining the first overall pick of the draft. The odds are about 1 in 10.
For the players, there was some nice stories to talk about. First and foremost, the continued development of John Tavares. This season, he has taken a major step up, reaching the 80 point mark this season, with 31 goals and a team high 50 assists. He is quickly becoming a hard man to take off the puck, and his strength and vision are major reasons for his stellar move up the NHL player food chain. Expect even more of an ascension to the top of the league.
Next, Matt Moulson reached 36 goals for the season and 69 points, while accumulating only six penalty minutes on the season. He should be a candidate for the Lady Byng Trophy this season for his gentlemanly play.
The third member of the first line, PA Parenteau, took his career high numbers last season and simply destroyed them. Although he did not reach his 20 goals of last season, he helped on 49 goals, and establishing himself as a top playmaker in the league. As the season ends, he is a free-agent, but I have NO DOUBTS that he will be picked up for a new contract. He is major piece of the team’s puzzle, and most of all, he has the desire to be here.
As far as the other forwards are concerned, there were some other highlights, especially the solid play at the end of the season for Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo. Despite their slow starts, they displayed the type of play that Islander fans were wishing for. Frans Nielsen also reached a career high in points. Despite the fact that his numbers went down, Michael Grabner attained the 20 goal plateau on the last day of the season.
On the defensive side – Mark Streit, despite having a tough defensive season, still recorded 47 points on the year. Travis Hamonic took major steps in his development, and was the highest plus-minus on the team at +6. Andrew MacDonald had another improving season, giving them three solid men on the blueline.
Turning to the net – the emergence of Evgeni Nabokov was a major factor to the improvement of this team. His consistent play, and calm emotional makeup are reasons to be optimistic for next season. With the continued improvement of Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson, there is a crop of talent in the wings, ready to come to the surface.
For Garth Snow, the recipe for the off season needs a little tweaking. Obtaining another strong offensive center will be a huge factor. Also – to bring some more defense to the team, one that was 28th in the league, will help them move towards a playoff spot.
Now for me – the focus turns to the AHL. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders affiliate is currently holding a 3 point league in their division. The Connecticut Whale, the Ranger affiliate, is currently in second place. If the Tigers hold on, this will be the first division title for Bridgeport in 10 years. There are many players that may see time on Long Island next season that are major contributors on this team. With the two goalies, you have Calvin deHaan, Dylan Reese, Aaron Ness, and Matt Donovan on the back line, they have shown consistency throughout the season. Rhett Rakhshani, David Ullstrom up front have been solid contributors to the front line, along with many others.
This is a good opportunity for the young players to get further experience and maturity. The AHL is a great league, and I am looking forward to watching and covering the games for the Sound Tigers over the next few weeks to come.
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