Islanders fans, your season starts tonight at 10:00 against the Canucks. There are a total of 8 games before October, so don't expect to see Tavares in all of those games. What I like about this team already is that the training camp roster has all the NHL and AHL players signed. No invites of aging veterans (Satan, Parrish), no tryouts for other players.....this is your team. The players did not have a lot of a training camp, (although they have been skating for a week on Long Island, and of course on their own) so no injuries before any of the games. Here are a few things to know heading into the first game, and why the Islanders will be better than last years squad:
Stability. The Islanders brought back 97% of the players from last years team. That's improtant because most are younger players who will be building the Islanders franchise back up. There is a system in place again for the second straight year. Gordon now has a full year under his belt, and most of the players are familiar with it, both Islanders, and Sound Tigers. There should be no thinking about what to do. It should be natural to them and easier for everyone.
Better goalies. Not to knock MacDonald and Danis, but I'll take Roloson, and Biron over most NHL goalie tandems right now. You have two number one goaltenders to start the season, and over a stretch of say, 30 or so games, you know that the Islanders will be in most of those games. DiPietro is in camp in pads, and facing shots. Let him come back on his own time and then the Islanders will still have a dynamic backstop.
Healthier defense. Like I said, no major training camp, means less likely of injuries before the regular season. If the defense stays healthy, they could be a difference maker when you have quality goaltending to support you. In this camp pay attention to Calvin DeHaan. He may make a push to be kept around if he has a great camp.
More confidence in the younger players. The last twenty or so games for the Islanders last year was crucial because the younger players were given bigger roles, and they flourished in it. Players like Bailey, Comeau, Okposo, Tambellini, and Neilsen are all on the same page and have more confidence going into this season, and I believe that it will show on the score sheet and in the overall record.
John Tavares. Everyone on that team has taken him under their wing, especially roomate Doug Weight. As I type this, there is chemistry being developed right now, and it will continue all year. Fans need to give him time. He's learning a lot, having fun, and he's getting used to his first pro training camp, pre-season, and of course a new profesional system.
Know this Islanders fans, the team has turned the corner, brighter days are ahead, and the Islanders are finally going in the right direction. What they still need is a lot of maximum effort from every player from the top line of the Islanders to the fourth line of the Sound Tigers. Last year ends at 10:00 tonight. No more talk about injuries, the draft, free agent signings etc. Start looking ahead, and get excited. Your season starts.....Tonight!!!!