The New York Islanders season ended with the same result as the last three seasons, there is a different feeling amongst fans of the team. There is excitment for October to come. It is a feeling that has not been felt among Islanders fans in quite some time.
The core players for this time finally seem to be developing the way everybody had hoped they would. Blake Comeau hit the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career. Frans Nielsen led the league in shorthanded goals with seven, and is even being mentioned for the Selke Trophy for best defensive-forward. John Tavares scored 29 goals and had 38 assists, which is better than his totals in both categories from his previous year. Andrew MacDonald showed Norris Trophy-potential when healthy this season. Travis Hamonic also emerged as a great young defenseman at only 20 years old.
Matt Moulson backed up his 30 goal campaign from last year with 31 goals this season and was awarded with a three year contract. Waiver-wire claim Michael Grabner exceeded everybody's expectations by scoring 34 goals this season and becoming a possible nominee for rookie of the year. Grabner's 34 goal total as a rookie is the second most goals scored by an islanders rookie ever behind only hall of famer Mike Bossy's 53 goal rookie season. Grabner also surpassed hall of famer Bryan Trottier's rookie goal total of 32. P.A. Parenteau scored 20 goals and 53 points in his first full NHL season. Al Montoya, whom GM Garth Snow traded only a sixth round pick to get, surprised everybody with his excellent play in net, and was awarded a one year contract extension.
Jack Capuano was named interim head coach back in November during a skid that saw the Islanders lose 20 of 21 games and resulted in the firing of Scott Gordon. His simplified system is a big reason for the Islanders having two 20 goal scorers and five 30 goal scorers. He has showed that he deserves to have the interim tag removed. According to Chris Botta of Islanders Point blank, the Islanders plan on doing just that by rewarding Capuano with a two year contract to be the head coach of the Islanders.
The Islanders can look forward to continuing to make progress and hopefully make the playoffs next season, which is something that the fans, the coaches, and the players expect the Islanders to do.
A healthy Kyle Okposo from the start of the season, the continued improvement of Blake Comeau, John Tavares, Michael Grabner, the return of Mark Streit, and the addition of Nino Niedereitter are just some of the things the Islanders can expect to see at the start of next season.
Some things still need to be figured out, though. Josh Bailey's development seems to have stalled. The Islanders need to figure out what to do with the oft-injured Trent Hunter, and the situation in net is as confusing as it has ever been with the emergence of Al Montoya as a capable number one goalie, rising star Kevin Poulin, and of course Rick DiPietro.
The Islanders are also poised to add another top-4 draft pick this summer as well.
Next season looks like it should be a fun one, and one that may (and should) see playoff hockey in April 2012.
I will have pre-draft, post-draft, and free agency period stories this summer to keep you up to date on the Islanders offseason events as well.
Have a great summer time Islanders fans. Let's go Islanders.