There are a lot of questions surrounding the New York Islanders as they head into next season. The biggest one will be whether or not they are capable of making the playoffs for the second year in a row.
The NHL Facebook page recently asked this same question, and many fans were either skeptical, positive or found the idea downright absurd (and these weren't just Rangers fans).
Despite an intense, hard fought playoff series with a very inexperienced roster against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that has been one of the most dominant forces of the league for the past few years, many critics are still not convinced that the New York Islanders are a guaranteed playoff team.
At this year's 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders traded Nino Niederreiter, one of their top prospects, to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a draft pick and Cal Clutterbuck; a 5'11" and 213 pound forward that is known for delivering devastating body checks and sticking up for his teammates (Photo credit: SWP2011/Flickr).
He has also been able to contribute offensively over the years, scoring 15 goals in 2012 and 19 goals in 2011.
Clutterbuck called me this afternoon to discuss the trade from Minnesota, his previous ties to the Islanders, what fans can expect out of him on a nightly basis and more.
The Islanders were very busy at the start of an off-season that forecasted a flurry of movement from GM Garth Snow. On the agenda was signing a number-one goaltender and top-six forward, both of which took place on July 5th. A few other moves were made to help keep the core intact for many years to come, as well as removing another bad apple from the organization (Photo Credit: Official New York Islanders/Flickr).
After signing forward Peter Regin to what is seemingly a depth signing, the Isles quickly looked to fill the void left in the crease.
The Isles were reportedly interested in goaltender Ray Emery, who ended up signing a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. This forced Snow to return to his original choice for the crease and sign Evgeni Nabokov to another one-year deal at $3.25 million.
The Islanders have built the core of their young team through the NHL Entry Draft and this year they looked to continue that trend. GM Garth Snow added one NHL ready player on draft day this year, Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck was not drafted though, he was acquired through a trade with the Minnesota Wild. (Photo Credit: sportsnet.ca)
The New York Islanders are currently on the outside looking in on the final match-ups of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who elimated the Isles in six games, are currently set to battle the Boston Bruins to see who will fight for the Cup from the Eastern Conference (Photo credit: douglasgallery30/Flickr).
One Islanders skater, Travis Hamonic, has been spending time in his cottage up north in Canada, enjoying some personal time away from the game.
The 22-year old defenseman is someone I have followed since his days in the WHL after being drafted by the Islanders with the 53rd overall pick of the 2008 Entry Draft. Since then, he has emerged from an inexperienced rookie into a reliable top-four defender, responsible for shutting down an opponent's top scorers.
Hamonic called me this afternoon (once he found a spot with good cell service) to discuss his game, the first round match-up against the Pens and the culture that has overtaken the Islanders locker room.
The New York Islanders lost 4-3 in overtime last night to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, thus ending their run in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins took the series in six games, winning the last battle on Coliseum ice in front of a sold out crowd of Islanders fans that continued to give their home team a standing ovation despite being eliminated.
"It's exciting to play in a building like this. It's a lot of fun. In my opinion, we're probably the loudest arena in the league now," said Matt Martin after the game.
"The fans were unbelievable through the end of the season there in the last five home games and all through the playoffs. They were a big factor in the way we played at home down the stretch. It makes a huge difference for us. People don't realize it but it gives you a little extra boost, a little extra energy when the crowd goes nuts like that. You definitely want to do something exciting."
Fighting has been, and will continue to be a controversial topic of discussion for as long as it is in the game of hockey. There are those who are against it, and those who are in support of it (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr).
There are those who enjoy seeing a good'ol scrap just for the fun. You know, the ones who say they went to a fight and suddenly a hockey game broke out.
But there are others who understand the role a fight can play in waking up a team; it's ability to provide a spark on the bench that can contribute to better defense, stronger goaltending and ultimately goals that can win hockey games.
That's exactly what Kyle Okposo provided last night.
After being dismally shutout 5-0 in Pittsburgh for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, the Islanders were headed in the same frightening direction last night during the first period of Game 2. The return of Sidney Crosby once again beset the Islanders after he scored his second goal of game to give the Pens a 3-1 lead after a period.
But a rejuvenated Isles team would show up the in the next frame and eventually shock the Penguins, in addition to just about everybody watching. The Islanders outplayed Pittsburgh for the rest of the game and scored three unanswered goals to even the series at 1-1. (Photo Credit: T.J. Corona/Flickr)