Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The final week of New York Islanders training camp promises to be busy. Players on the bubble hoping to make the 23-man roster, which has to be announced by Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. ET, will have plenty of opportunities to put forth their best case to management and the coaching staff.
New additions Andrew Ladd, P.A Parenteau and Jason Chimera have been assimilated into the squad, while captain John Tavares, goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg are expected to join their teammates as early as tomorrow.
New York will close out its exhibition schedule with games tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils, Tuesday against the New York Rangers, Wednesday again vs. the Devils and next Sunday against the Washington Capitals.
There are some questions that need to be answered before the regular season begins on Oct. 13 in Manhattan and big decisions ahead for head coach Jack Capuano and staff.
Have Alan Quine or Matthew Barzal done enough to make the team?
The Islanders have an assumed 13 forward spots to fill, given a 13-7-3 roster setup to begin the year, and there is no doubt both players have the talent to claim the 12th or 13th forward slot. Do Capuano and Garth Snow again rely on age and experience -- not necessarily talent -- in choosing Steve Bernier or Stephen Gionta? Do they risk losing Quine on waivers by giving Barzal an opportunity at 19 years old, even though he doesn't look completely ready but has nothing to prove in Seattle? Not that it would be totally unprecedented, but it could be a major mistake. Why?
Where is the secondary offense coming from?
New York did not really add any offensive firepower to its lineup this summer, which could make the aforementioned mistake all the more glaring. Ladd will probably replace Kyle Okposo's production. Chimera should exceed Matt Martin, but is not a guarantee in a checking line role. Parenteau could be a dark horse for 20 goals and 40 points, especially if he rediscovers the chemistry with Tavares, but there is no big gun. No Taylor Hall. No Matt Duchense. No James Van Reimsdyk. New York will be, barring a trade, counting heavily on rebound seasons from Ryan Strome and Anders Lee, plus a more consistent Brock Nelson to boost the secondary scoring.
Who plays goal?
Earlier in the summer, especially after hearing Halak's comments at breakup day, there were strong indications Snow would try to deal the netminder. Obviously, the groin tear and subsequent rehab prevented that from happening. All Halak did was re-focus and play outstanding hockey in the World Cup, leading Team Europe to the final against Canada. He is sharp and in shape, gaining much more out of the tournament than training camp could have ever provided. I think, right now, there is no question he has won back his starting job. Thomas Greiss, so spectacular last year when Halak was injured, might be best suited for a backup role, and if he continues his solid play, gives the Islanders one of the best backup goaltenders in the entire division. J.F. Berube, although gifted with tremendous talent, seems to be the odd man out.
Who mans the blueline?
The Islanders have nine defenseman capable of filling seven spots on the blueline. Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey are locks. That leaves only two spots for four defenseman: Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield and Seidenberg. At 35 years of age and on a cheap one-year deal, it's hard to imagine Seidenberg as anything other than a Brian Strait-type fill-in for rest and/or injury. But the thinking is he will be in the 23-man to begin the season since he likely would not pass through the waiver process. Pelech and Mayfield, logically and based on talent, would start the season in Bridgeport. The caveat here is that Mayfield would have to clear waivers. Can Snow get the timing correct and place Mayfield on waivers during a time when chances a team claims him are at their lowest? We might have to find out.
Will the gripes about Barclays Center ever end?
Probably not, but it should never overshadow the product on the ice. The team makes money regardless of how many people are in the seats. But more people in the seats mean a more energized atmosphere that players certainly feed off. The switch to practices and gameday skates in East Meadow helps everyone, and new owner Jonathan Ledecky has made almost every transportation option (short of a helicopter) available to his team. He obviously was not thrilled with the idea of players riding the LIRR. The seating will never be perfect. The scoreboard will never be centered. But the fact remains Barclays and Ledecky are working together to improve the atmosphere for everyone. And that's never a bad thing.