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Eye on the Island: October 2, 2009

Islanders’ New Look

The New York Islanders are opening their 2009-2010 season this weekend as the team’s owner continues his ardent push for the refurbishment of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and intense development of the area adjoining the Islanders’ home arena.

Those attending the Islanders’ first home game on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. will not only see them play the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins but also get a firsthand look at a revamped roster. The team’s second home game, to be held on Monday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. against the Los Angeles Kings, should have a lot of kids in attendance because schools are closed for Columbus Day.

The Islanders finished with the National Hockey League’s (NHL) lowest point total in 2008-2009. Yet they parleyed their on-ice misfortune into the top overall pick in June 2009’s NHL Entry Draft. The Islanders’ selection, 19-year-old John Tavares, was widely applauded because it addressed the Islanders most pressing need: finding someone who could score goals.

Craig Button, an NHL Network analyst, and a former Calgary Flames general manager, had a terrific take on where the Islanders are at this point.

“The future looks promising; unfortunately that future isn’t now,” Button wrote, “John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey are the framework for a very dynamic offense. Doug Weight’s experience will benefit the budding stars. Mark Streit is an excellent player who is not often mentioned in discussions of the top defensemen in the league. Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron are very capable goaltenders and their additions allow Rick DiPietro to work his way back to full health. The path is very clear for the Islanders and while patience will eventually be rewarded, there is no fast-forward button which can accelerate the process.”

Tavares is already penciled in to play on the Islanders’ first line, alongside Okposo and Weight, the team’s second and third leading scorers last year, respectively. Streit, the squad’s scoring leader in 2008-2009, was the lone Islander chosen to play in the NHL All-Star Game a few months ago.

Recognizing that DiPietro, their oft-injured goalie, may not return to the ice any time soon, the Islanders also bolstered their depth at that position in the off-season. They signed Roloson, a free agent who comes to the Island from the Edmonton Oilers, to a two-year deal in July. Weeks later, the Islanders offered a one-year contract to Biron, a former Philadelphia Flyer goalie who was also a free agent.

Roloson and Biron replace Joey MacDonald, who is now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Yann Danis, who joined the New Jersey Devils.

There were also some off-season changes to the Islanders’ broadcasting ranks. The contracts for radio play-by-play announcer, Steve Mears, and radio analyst, Chris King, were not renewed over the summer. In their place, radio stations carrying the Islanders game will simulcast the TV broadcast, most often provided by MSG’s Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe.

Mears has since landed on his feet. The Pittsburgh-area native was named last month the host of Penguins Live. It will air from 9:30 a.m. to noon each weekday during the season on the Penguins’ newly launched HD radio channel.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism.