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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Island’s Home Team

Charles Wang, the New York Islanders’ owner, made the biggest news at the team’s Media Day last week when he announced that the Islanders will call Nassau County their home at least through the end of the 2014-2015 season.

The Island’s political class, unable to develop a consensus on how to revitalize the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum or the vast acreage surrounding the aging facility, must have breathed a sigh of relief. Yet 2015 is on the horizon. It is not as if we’ll all be flying around on jet packs when the calendar turns to that date. Moreover, Wang only said he’d honor the five-year balance remaining on the team’s lease agreement with the Coliseum, and gave no guarantee that the Islanders would stay here beyond that time.

I’ll return someday to the public policy and civic implications of having Nassau’s best-known professional sports franchise leave Long Island. With a new Islanders season about to start, I’d rather focus on their prospects in 2010-2011.

The Isles spend most of October on the road but have their first two games of the season are at home: a Saturday, Oct. 9 contest against the Dallas Stars and a Monday, Oct. 11, Columbus Day afternoon game pitting them against the New York Rangers.

The summer months were busy ones for the Islanders’ front office. Recognizing the team needed a significant upgrade on defense, general manager Garth Snow acquired veteran defenseman James Wisniewski in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for the Islanders’ conditional third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Former Pittsburgh Penguin Mark Eaton and former Washington Capital Milan Jurcina, both of whom play defense, were also added to the Islanders roster as free-agent signings. They will skate alongside defenseman Mark Streit, the squad’s lone representative at last year’s National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star game.

The final line of defense, of course, is the goaltender, and the Islanders appear to be in good shape in that regard. Veteran Dwayne Roloson did a terrific job in 2009-2010 as the team’s primary goalie, and he’ll be joined this year by Rick DiPietro, who has been hampered by injuries and has seen little action for the past two years.

The Islanders’ biggest rising star, however, plays on offense. Center John Tavares immediately made a name for himself last year, his rookie campaign, as a scoring threat. Tavares, the NHL’s number one overall draft pick in 2009, is again likely to be among the Islanders leaders in points (goals and assists) this year along with right wing Kyle Okposo, left wing Matt Moulson, and center Doug Weight, the team’s captain.

MSG Plus, the cable TV network, has announced it will air 81 Islanders games in 2010-2011, and said there will be a new face in the broadcast booth, too. Butch Goring, a member of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup winning teams in the 1980s, was tapped to succeed Billy Jaffe as an analyst. Goring will team up with Howie Rose, who is returning for his 16th season as the Islanders’ play-by-play announcer.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net