The New York Islanders are feeling pretty optimistic about their upcoming season.
But after coming off the franchise's first playoff series win since 1993, keeping the young pieces of roster relatively intact and adding some impactful veterans, there's reason to feel pretty good at the start of training camp.
"We have a big year ahead of us with the team that we have right now. I expect nothing less than to go further than we did last year," Casey Cizikas said at the team's media day on Thursday.
The Islanders, back together in an official team capacity for the first time since cleanout day, said last year's playoffs left them both a little bitter, but definitely hungrier and excited for what's to come.
"It was good for our team and our fanbase to see that [series win] last year," Travis Hamonic said. "As a group it sets our bar and our expectations even higher than what we feel like where we should be. Ultimately it's at the end with the Cup. We have a long ways to go this season as a group and we feel we have the group and people in place to do it."
The Islanders brought in three veteran players - Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and PA Parenteau - that they think will be the missing pieces to help the younger players over the next hump and beyond. The vets have skated on Long Island since the turn of the month and have gotten rave reviews from the current Islanders.
"Andrew Ladd is proven guy with a good track record for consistency and works hard and is pretty well respected in a lot of rooms and a lot of guys that he's played with have nothing but good things to say," Cal Clutterbuck said. "Chimmer has a lot of experience and he can fly, he can skate. He's a good player. PA has been here before, knows the lay of the land is a great passer, so I'm sure he'll fit in nicely with those top-six guys."
Ladd, Chimera and Parenteau each scored at least 20 goals last season and Parenteau's career-high (67 points) came with the Islanders in 2011-12.
"Those guys are all hard to play against and they'll be good additions to our squad," said defenseman Calvin de Haan.
The Islanders defensive corps did not see any major changes from last season, with the six D that started Game 1 of the playoffs all present on media day. The three goalies from last season - Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and JF Berube - are all returning as well.
"Obviously management has faith in our back end right now and they didn't really do much," de Haan said. "We don't have an old group on the back end, but we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of games at a young age."
Despite early morning physicals, the Islanders were upbeat to start training camp, playing with life-sized emojis and snapchatting fans. The mood was optimistic, the energy palpable and now that blood tests, headshots and physicals are over, they can get to the good stuff.
"Everybody's excited," Johnny Boychuk said. "Getting together with the new guys and the old, the younger guys coming in after their camp, everyone's excited to get on the ice together and start practicing and start the season."
5 Islanders Still At World Cup
Five Islanders - captain John Tavares, head coach Jack Capuano, goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss and forward Nikolay Kulemin - are still at the World Cup of Hockey and will miss the first few days of training camp.
That's not an issue according to Travis Hamonic, who said the rest of the Islanders have known about this for a while and will just "roll with the punches."
Assistant coach Greg Cronin will be overseeing camp, along with assistant coach and assistant GM Doug Weight. Weight said the absence of key guys like Tavares just offer an opportunity for another player to step up and fill a leadership role.
"I think it's a good opportunity for our new guys as well: Andrew [Ladd], Jason [Chimera] and PA [Parenteau] these guys can help lead," Weight said. "This time of year is important for getting those things - practice habits, being on time, how hard you're working in the weight room, the respect of everyone around you. Those are the types of things we're trying to instill from the top down."
Mikhail Grabovski not ready for the start of camp
Forward Mikhail Grabovski was at Islanders media day, but not available for interviews as he continues his recovery from post-concussion symptoms. Grabovski last played on Mar. 15 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Four players released:
The Islanders released four players on Thursday morning: Cristiano DiGiacinto, Connor Graham, Max James and Kody McDonald.
Training Camp Schedule/Notable Dates:
|Sept. 22: Physicals and media day |
|Sept. 23: First day of on-ice work |
|Sept. 26: Preseason game vs. Philadelphia Flyers |
|Sept. 27: Preseason game at New York Rangers |
|Oct. 1: Preseason game vs. Washington Capitals in Bridgeport |
|Oct. 3: Preseason game vs. New Jersey Devils |
|Oct. 4: Preseason game vs. New York Rangers |
|Oct. 5: Preseason game at New Jersey Devils |
|Oct. 9: Preseason game at Washington Capitals |
|Oct. 12: NHL regular season begins |
|Oct. 13: Islanders season opener at Rangers |