This is weird. I remember being at the Coliseum a few months ago for riveting playoff hockey. My ears still hurt. Several storylines emerged from last year’s season. John Tavares, 3rd in Hart Trophy voting, emerged as one of the games preeminent superstars in the game and the leader of this team. The Franchise had the “C” on his chest for the teams preseason opener against the Flames. It goes well with the “S” on his cape.
Frans Nielsen, he of the 4 consecutive finishes in the top dozen vote-getters for the Selke, added balance to his game, elevating his wingers in Okposo and Bailey to a legitimate pain in the ass line to play against. Ask Matt Niskinen and his broken nose about that.
Garth Snow (6th in GM of the year voting!) and Jack Capuano (5th in Jack Adams voting) actually revealed themselves to be secretly good at their jobs. Snow has built a playoff team out of the leftover cans Charles Wang lets him return to make payroll and Cappy has coached them up like the dickens. They are added by a capable staff, non more important than Dougie Weight.
These are all good things to have watched unfold last year, but what about the stories for this year? What should The Nassaumen and their faithful anticipate? On the contract extension front, Thomas Hickey, Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, Kevin Poulin and Travis Hamonic (7yr/23m!) were all locked up on multi-year deals. Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov have both decided for guys that initially didn’t want to be here, they are happy to stay here. They will be the veteran leadership in the room.
After the jump, we take a look at the changes on the blue line.
The captain, Mark Streit, took leave of us for more crime ridden dystopian pastures in Philadelphia, where he can be a -24 with more notoriety and much more money.
In his place, Matt Donovan (The AHL’s highest scoring blueliner over the last 2 years) will get his long-awaited shot at the show. He did not look at all out-of-place in the preseason opener and picked up a dandy of an apple in the third period.
This gives us Donovan, Hickey, Strait, Visnovsky, Hamonic and MacDonald on the backline. Calvin DeHaan is nipping at Donovan’s heels, should he falter (and Calvin actually stay healthy), CDH looked a touch more tentative than Donovan tonight, but that could be expected given the time he missed from injury. Carkner will intimidate the hell out of the pressbox if he’s not waived. As predicted, Radek Martinek magically appeared during training camp and will soon sneakily and mysteriously sign a contract.
Up front there was a little more changeover as the team cast El Nino… Swiss for Malcontent Diva, of the shores of Long Island and into the Minnesota Wilderness in exchange for the rough and tumble sasquatch Cal Clutterbuck. Peter Regin and Pierre Marc Bouchard will take over for Keith Aucoin and Brad Boyes in the skill guys without physicality department. Oh, AND MARTY REASONER IS GONE THANK JESUS. Expect a rookie or two (Nelson, Lee, Or Ryan Strome) to get top 9 minutes opening night.
The lines will be as follows:
As of this writing, Strome appears to be the clubhouse leader of the kinder. He could be DYNAMITE with Grabner on his wing and Clutterbuck shotgun for protection. This would allow Regin to be that ideal 13th ‘break glass in case of emergency’ forward and Eric Boulton to not really be a thing. Lastly, in net, we roll with the aforementioned Nabokov and Kevin Poulin, with Anders Nilsson ready to push Poulin. Rick DiPietro is gone… I will remember him.
Off the ice, the transition to BROOKLYN! has begun. The NYI website is now run by team Yormark and is BROOKLYN black. The Motif this year is ‘A Shift in Power.’ Catchy. We also take our newly revitalized team to Brooklyn for a preseason game this Saturday for fans first look at our new barn with actual hockey going on. Lastly, we will venture outside to the house that Ruth built to play the Rangers on January 29th.
This is an important season for our fan base and the first one in a while Isles fans enter not just with hopes, but legitimate expectations. For once, there’s no off-ice uncertainty. No arena referendums. No locker room malcontents. No anchor of an injured goalie contract. No weight of X numbers of playoff-less seasons. This team took a few steps up the mountain last year. Now comes the fun part. living up to and exceeding the burgeoning expectations.
Preseason has started, and while that’s fun, it’s about making it through injury free. So far so good, Clutterbuck had a minor cut to his thigh from a skate, but that was it on night one. We dropped a split to Calgary on Tuesday evening, but all the big guns were firing – Grabner, Tavares, Moulson, Griffin Reinhart! (and some AHL guys) lit the lamp. On to scenic Newark, Thursday, and Brooklyn on Saturday!
Expectation, not hope rules the day. Anything less than winning a playoff series will be considered a failure, And FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.