The New York Islanders deservingly named John Tavares team captain recently, and now they hope that their hockey club can become a perrenial contender.
Tavares leads a crop of young and talented forwards, but once again it will be about whether or not they can keep the puck out of their own net. Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, and Kyle Okposo all return up front, with the latter being looked at to have another big year. After struggling immensely for so long it was amazing to watch how good Okposo was down the stretch last year. Many Islanders fans wanted the organization to ship him out of town because they were sick and tired of watching all that talent wasted. Whatever it was that Jack Capuano did to get through to him it certainly worked. If Okposo can repeat that performance and give New York another dimension offensively they're going to be a tough team to defend this year.
Cal Clutterbuck was the lone noteworthy free agent signing for the club, but he could prove to be a big one. The type of play that Clutterbuck brings with him from Minnesota is exactly what Garth Snow's Islanders have been missing. A nasty, in your face, won't back down type of player who can actually play hockey and take a regular shift. For far too long the only Islanders who could defend a teammate were usually stapled to the bench because they couldn't play. Clutterbuck should open up space for some of their playmakers.
Evgeni Nabokov returns between the pipes and it's unfortunate New York wasn't able to find someone to spell him a little bit. Kevin Poulin doens't do it for me and while Nabokov played really well at times last season he also looked lost for long stretches. Travis Hamonic will anchor a young defense group that desperately needs to up their game in front of Nabokov if the Islanders have any chance at making the playoffs this year.