If there is a word that can describe the New York Islanders heading into this season, it all comes down to expectations, which are higher than ever. After back-to-back Eastern Conference Final appearances, the hope for this season is that third time truly is the charm. Maybe the new UBS arena will spark some playoff magic, and a Stanley Cup would be apart of the inaugural season. I think the new pup will help lead the charge too.
It was difficult waters for Lou Lamoriello to navigate through this offseason, with a multitude of cap challenges, however he still managed to retain majority of the Islanders core. They allowed Jordan Eberle to be taken by Seattle in the expansion draft and traded defenseman Nick Leddy to Detroit and Andrew Ladd to Arizona.
All of these moves allowed the team to retain some of it's top talents. Adam Pelech (8y-$46M) Anthony Beauvillier (3y-$12.45M) , Ilya Sorokin (3y-$12M) Casey Cizikas (6y-15M), and Kyle Palmieri (4y-$20M) all decided to remain on Long Island. Reinforcements were added in the veteran form, signing names like Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara.
Loosing Ebs, who scored the third most goals for the Isle last season, will showcase a new look top line. Anders Lee is set to return from ACL surgery, which is insane how fast the turnaround was. Barry Trotz was cooking in the lab to make sure the Captain was coming back in time. An offense of Lee, Palmieri, and Barza; (top point producer the past four seasons) is something Islanders fans should be excited for. If they can land some consistent production from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey. The chemistry between the "Killer B's" (Brock-Bailey-Beauvillier) will be fun to watch again. The offense will be key for the teams succsess, and hopefully they can emulate what was working last season into an 82 game stretch. Trotz will have to figure out how he wants to approach distributing time among the defense.
The defense consisting of Ryan Pullock, Adam Pelech, and Noah Dobson will need to step up big to fill the void of Leddy, who brought in 31 points last season. The "oldies-but-goldies" Andy Greene and Chara (39 and 44 years old respectively) will fill in some minutes, but the expectation cannot be high for the pair. Both gritty solid veteran presences for sure though. Then of course, there is the goaltending duo of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, one of the strongest pair of goalies in the league. Sorokin will be the No. 1 goalie until Varlamov is healthy.
Finishing at the top of the Metropolitan Division and cruising through the playoffs shouldn't be a question for this team. Remaining healthy and producing a run at the Stanley Cup should be the only focus of the season. It'll be a fun season of Islanders hockey and relevancy has returned to Long Island.
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