Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Subtracted: Mark Streit, Nino Niederreiter, Brad Boyes, Keith Aucoin
The Islanders are going to be good
The Islanders suffered for a long time to get where they are, but they’ve finally got the pieces to the puzzle. Their new captain, John Tavares, is coming off back-to-back point-per-game seasons, which is only made more impressive by the fact that he just turned 23 this week. When you look at the career arc of goal-scorers, it’s pretty clear he’s about to enter his most productive few years, meaning you can expect him to push past PPG status and end up in the NHL’s top-10 point-getters no problem. He’s flanked by one of the game’s most underrated offensive superstars in Matt Moulson, who in the last three full seasons has put up the following goal totals: 30, 31, and 36. He was on pace again last year, with 15 in a half-year. One-time waiver claim Michael Grabner has put up a 30-goal season of his own, and was on pace for another during the last shortened season. His speed is impossible for d-men to deal with, so he gets a ton of breakaways, which results in a bushel of goals.
The rest of the garden they’ve planted is starting to bear fruit. Josh Bailey showed signs of being a quality offensive producer towards the end of the season, getting himself on 20-goal-season pace in the shortened year. Kyle Okposo is a nightmare to handle – he’s a big strong-bodied forward who’s put up 20 in the NHL in the past, and is still in his own most productive years at age 25. Frans Nielsen is one of the League’s best two-way players, earning himself Selke votes last season, while owning the NHL’s all-time highest completion percentage in the shootout. They’re adding great young power forward Brock Nelson to the mix this year to go with their other two absolute bangers in Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Those guys are #1 and #2 in hits over the past few seasons. Not fun to play.
On the back-end they’re look pretty darn good too. Lubomir Visnovsky came to the Island reluctantly before moving all-in and signing for more years. Travis Hamonic has a new seven-year deal and is on the verge of introducing himself to fans everywhere as one of the toughest defenseman to play around. And the perenially underrated d-man Andrew MacDonald is coming off a year in which he lead the Islanders in ice time (23:31) thanks to his poise, vision, and savvy defensive positioning. That’s more minutes than guys like PK Subban, Francois Beauchemin and Victor Hedman. If they can even get league-average goaltending, the growth of their young players and smart additions should be enough to push this team to new heights.
The Islanders are going to be bad