(Also posted at The Devils Advocate)
What they lost: Experience and leadership. Mike Peca, Adrian Aucoin, Dave Scatchard, and Marius Czerkawski are all gone. Peca was their captain last season, and before him it was Kenny Jonsson who will play in Sweden this year. Peca has also won the Selke trophy twice in his career as the best defensive forward… making him a player who is not easily replaced.
What they gained: Stepping into the Nassau Coliseum this year are Miroslav Satan, Alexei Zhitnik, Mike York, Brad Lukowich, and Joel Bouchard. Satan is a skilled forward who can be relied upon to score consistently. Zhitnik is a good defensive acquisition in the “new NHL,” with puck-moving and skating as valuable skills on the blueline. I’ve also always been a big Mike York fan. The Rangers were stupid to let him go, and it would be poetic justice if he thrives on Long Island.
Staying at home: The players remaining on the Island are somewhat mysteries. Alexei Yashin is still among the highest paid players in the NHL, but his performance on the ice hardly ever merits it. He needs to step up this year, just as he has needed to for the past several years. Rick DiPietro could finally live up to his potential this season… I expect him to be a bright spot for the Isles this year. Janne Niinimaa is still there and Mark Parrish just re-signed. But perhaps the best thing the Islanders have going for them is 2nd year forward Trent Hunter. He was a finalist for the Calder last season and led the team in goals and points. If the Isles want to succeed this season, a lot falls on the shoulders of this promising young man.
Bottom line: This year could be the start of something good for the Islanders. They won’t be a playoff team, but they also won’t be as bad as they were when they had the Gorton’s Fisherman as their logo. On paper, they’re just as good as they were last season. Their young talent will make or break this team. I think Hunter and DiPietro will be very good this year, but the lack of veteran intangibles and leadership on this team will leave them in fourth place in the division.