An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the New York Islanders:
Can Andrew Ladd score 30 goals?
Ladd, 30, has won the Stanley Cup twice and was brought in for his winning pedigree and his ability to play in all situations. But Ladd has scored more than 20 goals in a season five times and gets a chance to play left wing with Tavares, who may be able to bring out even more production. "For my part, I just keep playing my game," Ladd said. "I think when you start to try to do too much, that's when you get into trouble and things don't happen. With a player like [Tavares], I think you keep making it simple and do the things I do really well, and he can do what he does too."
Is Mathew Barzal ready to play in the NHL?
Islanders brass loved Barzal's talent level and work ethic at training camp last season, and the departure of center Frans Nielsen could create a spot for the 19-year-old to step in and play in the NHL, should he continue to perform well during training camp. Barzal saw time on the top line with Ladd and PA Parenteau while Tavares played for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. "Obviously, they're pretty big shoes to fill," Barzal told the Islanders website. "But I'm just taking it day by day and whoever I'm with, I'm just going to go out and play my game and try to work hard out there."
Can Ryan Pulock fill a full-time role on defense?
Pulock, who turns 22 on Thursday, showed flashes during 15 regular-season games with the Islanders last season and had a goal and two assists in six playoff games, helping New York advance to the second round for the first time since 1993. Pulock possesses a heavy right-handed shot and, given an opportunity, could be a key piece on the Islanders power play. But with defenseman Dennis Seidenberg signing a one-year contract on Sept. 28, it's clear Pulock is going to have to earn his spot, just like last season. "It wasn't terrible," Pulock said of his experience last season. "It kind of gave me a chance to get here, get comfortable with the guys again, get a feel for it. I got some good practices in before I was able to play and I was just waiting for my opportunity. Once I got it, it was a special moment for me, obviously playing my first NHL game."
Video: FLA@NYI, Gm3: Pulock scores on two-man advantage
Will the Islanders go another season with three goaltenders?
Jaroslav Halak was none too pleased with the Islanders' decision to carry Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube on the roster throughout last season, but Greiss has one year remaining on his contract, and Berube signed a one-way contract with New York on July 5. Berube got to play in seven games (six starts) last season, a number he'd surely like to see increase. But with Halak and Greiss healthy, one has to wonder if Islanders general manager Garth Snow will try to make a move involving one of his three goalies before the regular season opens Oct. 13.
Can Jason Chimera help the Islanders take the next step?
Chimera is 37, but his skating ability makes him look much younger. He scored 20 goals last season, matching his NHL career high, to help the Washington Capitals win the Presidents' Trophy. The left wing signed a two-year contract with the Islanders on July 1 and will be relied upon to provide speed, grit, leadership and offensive production.
"I think I know what works and what doesn't work," Chimera said. "But I also think I've been around a long time, and I can add some stuff in the playoffs. The thing I like about this team is simply we've got four lines that can play simple hockey in the playoffs, and the simpler you are in the playoffs, the better you do. Sometimes, you have all the skill in the world; look at us in Washington, we had all the skill in the world and never got past the second round. We had trouble getting over that hump. Hopefully, I can be one of those guys who comes in here and helps them get over that hump. We've got a lot of moving parts, a lot of good young guys are going to take another step forward this year, and I'm excited to be a part of that, for sure."