After returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders and their fans look to build on the success of the shortened 2013 season. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
NHL Training camps haven’t even started yet and social media, bloggers, and everyone in between have been making their predictions for the 2013-14 season. Where teams will finish, if they’ll make the playoffs, and who will win awards are just a few of the thousands of topics discussed since the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup in June. They’re talks that help fans get through the dog days of summer. They’re also hot topics to spark conversation. For every argument is a counter argument waiting to be unleashed. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, which always makes for interesting and lively off-season discussions, especially for hockey fans.
As Islanders fans, we all know about the season the team is coming off. After making the playoffs for the first time in six years, a young New York Islanders team shocked the hockey world with their play against the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving them all they had in a 4-2 opening round knockout. After the team’s return to post season and fans thirst for more success, what can we expect heading into the 2013-14 season?
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular/common questions being thrown around by fans this summer:
How Will the Nabokov/Poulin Tandem Perform?
Well, I think it’s safe to say no one knows the answer to this question. It’s been by far the biggest concern for fans. It’s almost a guarantee it’s the duo we’ll see at the start of the season, but having another veteran like Tim Thomas or Jose Theodore at camp certainly wouldn’t hurt. Eyes on Isles own Chris Triantafilis discussed on Islanders Op-Timism how competition at camp could force Kevin Poulin to fully earn the backup spot, rather than have it handed to him on a silver platter. Having an unsigned, proven veteran lurking in the shadows fighting for a spot could be the kick in the butt the Isles netminders need. If we see Evgeni Nabokov play at the level we know he’s capable of, with solid showings from Kevin Poulin, the Isles could be on the fast track to a successful season.
A New Division, A Modified Conference
Another one of the more interesting and unpredictable points coming into the new season is the recent realignment the NHL introduced in March. Most notably, two teams have shifted to the Eastern Conference (Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings), but just one team left and headed to the Western Conference (Winnipeg Jets). This conference shakeup creates an imbalance between the two, making it much more difficult (7% more difficult) for teams in the Eastern Conference to make the playoffs. The Islanders will also have to face one of the toughest and most competitive groups in the newly created Metropolitan Division as well. However, on their side is travel. The Islanders come in at 2nd in the League (29,933) for fewest miles to be traveled during the upcoming season. It will likely be a tight race in the East and specifically, the Metropolitan Division, which if nothing else, will make for some exciting hockey.
How Will the Team Hold Up During a Full Season?
Plenty of Islanders critics believed the team only made the playoffs due to the lockout shortened season. While we can sit here and play the guessing game, there’s no way to prove or disprove that statement. However, an 82 game season changes a teams mindset and strategy heading into it. Who will start in net, who will get called up/sent down, and dealing with fatigue and injuries are much more prevalent. As the young guys in Bridgeport (especially the ones who don’t make it out of camp) continue to develop and become more “NHL ready,” the Isles are more ready than ever to take on a full season. Heading into camp with guys fighting for spots not only provides the team with the best talent, but creates more depth to handle the wear and tear of a full NHL season.
Miss any points? Let us know if there’s a question we missed you have heading into the 2013-14 season below or on Twitter.