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Isles find themselves in the lottery again

by Brian Compton /
What happened?


C John Tavares
GOALS: 31 | ASST: 50 | PTS: 81
SOG: 286 | +/-: -6
G Evgeni Nabokov
RECORD: 19-18-3
GAA: 2.55 | SVP: 0.914
LW David Ullstrom
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 8
SOG: 40 | +/-: -2
John Tavares
Islanders were eighth in the League on the power play at 18.5 percent.

The Islanders had expectations of qualifying for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but a glaring lack of depth -- both up front and on the blue line -- hurt the club's chances of succeeding. The defense was not properly addressed by general manager Garth Snow last summer, which forced 38-year-old Steve Staios to average 17:04 of ice time per game. The trio of Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau provided plenty of offense, but fourth-line center Marty Reasoner nearly went the entire season without a goal, while 19-year-old rookie Nino Niederreiter had just one goal and zero assists in 55 games. Michael Grabner went from 34 goals as a rookie last season to 20 this time around, while Kyle Okposo struggled to find his identity. Team captain Mark Streit was a minus-27 as the No. 1 defenseman, while Milan Jurcina was a League-worst minus-34.

In the end, the Islanders finished 27th in the League standings, which means they've finished in the lottery for a fifth straight season.

How to fix it?

Snow must go out this summer and provide his young core with a better blend of veterans. Brian Rolston had just 9 points in 49 games before being shipped to Boston at the trade deadline. Staios, Jurcina and Mark Eaton were asked to do more than they were capable of on the blue line. The trio of Evgeni Nabokov, Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro at the start of the season denied the team of stability in goal. The Islanders will continue to preach patience, but it is time for their rebuilding process to take a step forward. While defensemen Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness will be provided opportunities to make the club out of training camp, it is imperative that the team lands at least two experienced blueliners who can make an impact not only in the dressing room, but on the ice, too. Those players may have to come via trade, which means Snow may have to part with a couple of his prospects this summer.

New York has a key free agent to sign -- Parenteau is due a hefty raise after tallying 67 points (49 assists) this season and ultimately would like to remain an Islander. Nabokov recently agreed to a one-year deal and is unquestionably the team's No. 1 goaltender heading into training camp.

Three reasons for hope:

1. Tavares is one of the top centers in the sport. The 21-year-old has only gotten better since his rookie season and had a career-high 81 points this time around and will be an All-Star in this League for years to come. More importantly, he's signed for another six seasons.

2. Travis Hamonic is just scratching the surface of the player he's going to become. The 21-year-old managed to be a plus-6 on a team that allowed 52 more goals than it scored this season.

3. The Islanders struggled to find secondary scoring this season, but more help is on the way. Ryan Strome, the club's first-round pick (No. 5) in 2011, had another solid season for the Niagara Ice Dogs in the Ontario Hockey League, tallying 30 goals and 38 assists in just 46 games. Strome will likely play at least nine games with the Isles next season and if he performs well, he'll stick in the NHL.

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