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(Page 3 of 15)'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Playoff disappointment inspiring Islanders

Monday, 08.26.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

When Garth Snow became general manager of the New York Islanders in July 2006, he inherited a veteran club with little help on the horizon.

The Islanders made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Snow's first season. He acquired Ryan Smyth, Richard Zednik and Marc-Andre Bergeron to help them get there, but New York was eliminated in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres.

After free agents Smyth and Jason Blake decided to leave town that summer, Snow changed course. With an outdated building and a budget smaller than the big-market clubs', Snow set out to rebuild the Islanders from the ground up.

30 in 30: New captain among Islanders questions

Monday, 08.26.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The New York Islanders qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time since 2007, but their return was short-lived, eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. With a talented, young core a year older and more experienced, the Islanders won't be satisfied with simply making the playoffs in 2013-14.

Coach Jack Capuano returns for a third full season after guiding the team to a third-place finish (24-17-7) in the Atlantic Division. Garth Snow has been the general manager since July 2006 and, with the help of five straight lottery draft picks, has built one of the deeper prospect pools in the NHL. Some of those players had key roles in helping New York end its six-year playoff drought.

But with success comes greater expectations. Led by superstar center John Tavares, the Islanders can't afford to take a step back in 2013-14.

Here are six questions facing the Islanders:

30 in 30: Second-line Bailey X-factor for Islanders

Monday, 08.26.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

Heading into the 2013-14 NHL season, it remains to be seen who will accompany Matt Moulson and John Tavares on the New York Islanders' top line. The most likely candidates are free-agent signee Pierre-Marc Bouchard and 20-year-old Ryan Strome.

That line will need to produce if the Islanders are going to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season. But the No. 1 line can't do it alone.

New York's second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo was productive last season. Bailey missed the start of the season due to a knee injury sustained playing overseas during the lockout, but the first-round pick (No. 9) from 2008 finished with 11 goals and eight assists in 38 NHL games.

30 in 30: Strome, Reinhart top Islanders' prospects

Monday, 08.26.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

In 2013, the New York Islanders ended two six-year streaks. Not only did they finally get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they went to the NHL Draft without a top-five selection.

Five straight seasons of finishing in the bottom five in the NHL standings allowed Islanders general manager Garth Snow to rebuild his roster basically from scratch. Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake and Brendan Witt have been replaced by John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Travis Hamonic.

The latter three, each signed to a long-term contract, played key roles in helping New York end its playoff drought last season. More help is on the way, perhaps as early as this season.

Here's a look at New York's top 10 prospects, according to

30 in 30: Subtle changes improve Islanders lineup

Monday, 08.26.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

After five consecutive last-place finishes in the division, the promise of hope in the future for the New York Islanders arrived in the present in 2012-13.

The face of the franchise and leader of the renaissance, John Tavares, became a legitimate MVP candidate, and the Islanders returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. Though they put a scare into the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, there is more work to be done at Nassau Coliseum before the franchise heads west on the Long Island Expressway to Barclays Center in Brooklyn or the Islanders become a full-fledged Stanley Cup contender.

General manager Garth Snow continued to be patient, looking for low-risk additions who could add value without drastically altering what the Islanders have built around Tavares. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has concussion issues, but he could be a classic bounce-back candidate playing next to Tavares and Matt Moulson.

30 in 30: Devils set to begin life without Kovalchuk

Sunday, 08.25.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

What a whirlwind of an offseason it has been for New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.

After all the player shuffling that took place in a span of 24 days beginning June 30, there was the ownership takeover earlier this month. It was enough to make anyone's head spin.

It began at the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center, when Lamoriello acquired goalie Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks and drafted goalie Anthony Brodeur, the eldest son of Martin Brodeur, in the seventh round (No. 208).

Lamoriello re-signed veteran forward Patrik Elias to a three-year contract July 4, but one day later lost power forward and fan favorite David Clarkson via free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs. That loss was offset by the signing of free-agent forwards Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Rostislav Olesz.

But the bombshell hit six days after Clarkson left, when right wing Ilya Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL after 10 seasons.

30 in 30: Goalies, Larsson among Devils questions

Sunday, 08.25.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three years, it was an adventurous offseason for the New Jersey Devils.

All the additions and subtractions have left many wondering what will happen in 2013-14. Does the team have the right mix of veterans and young players capable of not only leading the club to a playoff berth, but sustaining a long run once it gets there? Did the NHL retirement of Ilya Kovalchuk set the team back a few years?

A year ago at this time, questions surfaced about how the Devils would survive without Zach Parise, who left via free agency. This summer, it's Kovalchuk.

Here are six questions the Devils face heading into the 2013-14 season:

30 in 30: X-factor Zajac must produce for Devils

Sunday, 08.25.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Two seasons ago, New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac was sidelined by injury for more than half the schedule, but the team persevered and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games.

A healthy Zajac returned to the lineup and appeared in all 48 games last season, but produced  seven goals and 20 points, not the output one would expect from a player about to begin the first season of an eight-year, $46 million contract.

In order for the Devils to have success in 2013-14, they'll need Zajac to rediscover his offensive game.

30 in 30: Merrill, Urbom top Devils' prospect list

Sunday, 08.25.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

After the opening day of New Jersey Devils rookie camp in July, coach Peter DeBoer couldn't help but be impressed with the high-caliber defensive prospects on the ice.

"By far, it's the most depth we have at a position in the organization," DeBoer said.

It includes Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas and Alexander Urbom, each of whom has a pretty good shot at earning some type of role with New Jersey this season.

"I was excited by a couple of them," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "It's going to be very interesting. I will be shocked if there's not a young defenseman, at least one, in the lineup. But I've been shocked before. [That] would really force moves. It's happened in the past, but they have to be ready to play, and that's when you find out."

Lamoriello's trade of veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder on July 7 all but assured DeBoer that at least one of the top young prospects in the system will be playing a significant role.

30 in 30: Devils lineup different up front, in goal

Sunday, 08.25.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

What a strange 36 months or so it has been for the New Jersey Devils.

After finishing first or second in their division 12 times in a 13-year span, the Devils have finished fourth or lower in each of the past three. Twice they've missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but once they accumulated 102 points in the NHL's best division and went on a run to the Cup Final.

Things haven't exactly been stable in northern New Jersey this offseason, but stability could be the end result moving forward.

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