SEPTEMBER 23: Noah Dobson #45 of the New York Islanders skates against the Detroit Red Wings in preseason action at the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on September 23, 2019 in Uniondale, New York.

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Graziano: Meet The New, But Same Old, Islanders, Bold Predictions For Season

Andy Graziano
October 03, 2019 - 1:18 pm
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The New York Islanders went traditional in selecting their 23-man roster for opening night, taking place Friday versus the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum. 

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Islanders Team President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello placed Joshua Ho-Sang, Thomas Hickey and Tanner Fritz on waivers — they all cleared — in order to carry 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders. With the lack of offseason movement, the team looks the same as the one swept out of the second round by the Carolina Hurricanes last season, save for a baby faced blueliner.

Ho-Sang had a quiet camp off ice, but struggled to generate results on it, leading to yet another disappointing beginning for the mercurial forward. Has he just worn out his welcome here? Is Lamoriello really giving him another chance to show he deserves a roster spot? In either case, 30 teams decided Ho-Sang was not worth acquiring for free as a waiver claim. He remains New York property —for now — and could prove to be a valuable fill-in if injuries hit.

Hickey was Mr. Dependable, before missing over 30 games last season with a concussion. Never able to live up to his ridiculously lofty draft slot (4th overall in 2007 by the Los Angeles Kings), he nonetheless played 449 games over seven seasons with the team, often leading them in hits taken and chipped in some memorable goals along the way - OT winner vs. Florida in the 2016 playoffs a prime example. He is the victim of an outstanding training camp by

Noah Dobson, who makes the team perhaps earlier than some thought he would. The 19-year-old starts with the big club instead of wasting another season in juniors after having an outstanding training camp. Likely alternating with Johnny Boychuk in the seventh role, the youngster will learn from the influence of veterans on the Islanders blueline, get a crash course in locker room camaraderie and begin mastering, arguably, the hardest position to play in the NHL. 

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Fritz was a bit of a surprise, considering who made the roster over him. In his 42 games of NHL experience, he has proven to be a dependable fourth-liner who can kill penalties and play competent defense. Instead, New York chose to keep slow-footed Tom Kuhnhackl and one-dimensional bruiser Ross Johnston, even with Matt Martin ticketed as every night fourth-line pugilist. Not sure I see the need, but hey, that’s why I’m writing this column and Lou has an office at Northwell Ice Complex.

Odds and Some Things You Won’t Be Expecting

MoneyPuck currently has the Islanders at 55.5% to make the playoffs, one year after advancing to round two. I’ve read how they calculate these percentages and the multitude of variables that go into it. Not simple, especially if you can’t stand math, but I digress.

The accuracy of any of these is always subject to the unknown, such as opponents playing above their expected level (Islanders last season?), injuries, above benchmark player performance, etc. In this case, I question simply due to where New York sits in relation to their Metro counterparts. 

Carolina currently has the highest Metro playoff odds at 64.3%. Pittsburgh (more on them later) are at 56.5%, Islanders 55.5%, Washington 54.3%, Columbus 49.3%, Philadelphia 45%, Rangers 38.1% and Devils 36.4%. Make of that what you will, but I can’t see Pittsburgh being that high nor Columbus for that matter. Devils have the lowest chances in the entire division? We’ll see.

Islanders left wing Anders Lee skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series on May 3, 2019, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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Anyone who knows me knows I can’t stand making predictions. They seem to only be good for one thing: Betting the opposite way if you want to win. So, I’m going to spare you that I know anything about how many points the Islanders are going to have, if they are going to make the playoffs or what might happen should they get there. But I will take a fun stab at four unexpected things happening during the 2019-20 season. Call it genius, call it stupidity, whatever ... Just have fun with it, will you?

1 – Matthew Barzal will top 75 points. The Islanders' power play is expected to be better, and Jordan Eberle looks to be in mid-season form in October. I’ve heard the cries that his offense will suffer again under the added defensive responsibility Trotz commands, but I think he gets a little more offensive freedom from the bench boss this year. Especially given Lamoriello had a quiet summer and failed to add any top-line talent.

2 – Thomas Greiss outplays Semyon Varlamov. Greiss was reborn under Mitch Korn last year, sharing the Jennings trophy with Robin Lehner and playing to even numbers with the Vezina finalist. His 2.28 GAA and .927 save percentage across 43 games included a quality start percentage of 64.1%, four percentage points more than Lehner. In his first season with the Islanders, people are quick to forget a .925 save percentage. 

3 – Nick Leddy is not a member of the Islanders at seasons end. New York forces Lamoriello see the absolute slam-dunk need to acquire more offense and he is sacrificed to get it.

4 – The third year is when NHL blueliners seem to figure it all out, on average. Ryan Pulock establishes himself as the Islanders' clear number one defenseman and makes his first (of many) all-star team. Contract negotiations next summer are not as easy as first thought to be. Good news is that it seems to be the era of the ‘bridge deal’.

Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyGraz_WFAN