Previewing the East: New York Islanders
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Head coach: Jack Capuano
LAST YEAR: 24-17-7 (55 points), 8th place in the Eastern Conference, eliminated by Pittsburgh in East quarterfinals
VS. CBJ in '13-14: 10/5, 11/9, 3/23, 4/6
OUTLOOK: Raise your hand if you had the Islanders giving the Pittsburgh Penguins everything they could handle in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year. That's what we thought. The Islanders were one of the most surprising teams in the NHL a year ago, and though many considered them a team on the rise, few predicted this young club being as consistent as it was over the 48-game schedule. A combination of steady goaltending, an improved defense and solid special teams helped the Islanders break through and get back into the playoffs - and they very nearly pulled off a stunning upset in the first round. While they've lost some pieces (most notably former captain Mark Streit), their dynamic young core is a year older and they've made moves to lock up their most important pieces, like defenseman Travis Hamonic. And whenever your team is anchored by a guy like John Tavares, you have to like your chances every single night. Add in offseason additions like Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin, and the Islanders have more depth than last year's team that made strides toward sustained success.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
With the departure of Streit to Metropolitan Division rival Philadelphia, it's very possible that Tavares could be named the next captain of the Islanders as soon as this fall. He has all the qualities teams look for in a franchise player: dynamic skill, commitment, a good attitude, and represents the Islanders in the community. Tavares was nearly a point-per-game player in 2012-13 (47 points in 48 games) and at age 22, the sky is the limit for the Islanders' star center.
The Islanders had to wait a while before Bailey came into his own, but the 23-year-old is emerging into a solid two-way player. Drafted ninth overall in 2008, Bailey has yet to put up the offensive numbers expected (career-high points total is 35, set in 2010) but plays a well-rounded game in all three zones.