It has been 32 long years since the New York Islanders were last crowned Stanley Cup champions. In that 32-year span, the Isles have made the postseason 14 times, but fans have experienced morrow heartbreak than joy. The blue and orange faithful are desperate for their team to once again become one of the most dominant franchises in the National Hockey League.
Luckily, the fortunes of the youngest hockey team in the state of New York have taken a turn for the best in recent years. With postseason appearances in two of the last three seasons, the Islanders have become a team the other organizations in the league must respect and pay close attention to. Fans may find it hard experience complete optimism towards the Isles this season due to some many years of disappointment. However, I am here to tell you that the Stanley Cup is a realistic possibility for the New York Islanders.
Plenty of Depth Up Front
The New York Islanders may have the most talented group of forwards in the entire NHL. Lines one through four are equipped with players that have the ability to impact a game and put some points up along the way. It is no secret that the most talented forward and player on the Isles is their captain John Tavares. After coming up one point short of winning the Art Ross Trophy last season, fans should expect Tavares to be in the running for it once again as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy. Tavares’s line-mate, Kyle Okposo, is arguably New York’s second most valuable player and everyone is expecting a big season from the 27-year-old Minnesota native.
Although Tavares and Okposo may be the most well-known Islanders’ forwards but they are not the only ones that deserve our attention. Youngsters such as Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee are starting to make their mark on the organization and look to make an even bigger impact this season. After putting up 50 points last season, I expect Strome to take another big leap and possibly finish only behind Tavares in points for the Islanders this season. In addition to the players already mentioned, we cannot forget that the Isles possess the best fourth line in all of hockey with Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas. These three men contribute plenty to their team’s efforts and provide much-needed rest time for the rest of their teammates. The Islanders do not have a single whole in their forward lines which is something few teams can say.
Solid at the Blue-Line
Forward is not the only position the New York Islanders are stacked. After acquiring Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy in the summer of 2014, the Isles blue-line became a respectable unit in the NHL. The Isles will also see the return of their other valuable defensemen such as Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey, and Calvin de Haan this season. Fans should expect improved play from all of the players mentioned, especially de Haan who I expect to have a breakout year. Garth Snow also made a respectable move in signing veteran defender Marek Zidlicky who will help improve the team’s power play as well as provide New York’s youth with guidance. The Islanders’ defensive depth may not be as impressive as what they have at the forward position but it is still a unit that will be able to get the job done in 2015-2016.
Reliable Duo in Net
Although some may not think so, Islanders’ net-minder Jaroslav Halak is one of the best in the business. In his first season with New York, Halak played in 59 games, sported 38-17-4 record, obtained .914 save-percentage, and recorded a 2.43 goals-against-average. There is no denying that these numbers are pretty darn impressive and the Isles would not have experienced the amount of success they did last season without number 41 between the pipes. The only downfall to Halak’s 2014-2015 season was that his production dropped as the end of the season approached. It was clear that he was beginning to tire from all that his team demanded from him and could have benefitted from more nights off earlier in the season. Luckily the Islanders went out and signed a reliable back-up in Thomas Greiss this summer who should be able to provide Halak with more games off this season. There is no arguing that Halak will once again be the number one goaltender for the blue and orange this season and will be the man in net when the team makes it to the playoffs for the second straight season. However, Greiss can take some of the load off of Halak’s shoulders as the season moves along so he does not need to relive what took place down the stretch last season.
Could the Wait Be Over?
After 32 years since their last Stanley Cup Championship, things are starting to look extremely promising for the Isles and their die-hard fan base. As it is every season, there are plenty of NHL franchises that have what it takes to be the team hoisting the cup at the beginning of the summer of 2016 and the Islanders are one of them. Although skepticism will be a difficult feeling to let go of amongst Isles fans, the only emotions that should be running through their blood at this point are excitement and eagerness. This is because the Stanley Cup is absolutely a realistic possibility for the New York Islanders this season.