Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 08 October 2010 00:00
The New York Islanders are currently several years deep into their rebuilding process, but seven months from now, the team fully intends on securing one of eight playoff spots in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
At the Islanders Media Day on Tuesday, Sept. 21, Anton Newspapers was invited to an on-ice practice and locker room session with the team during training camp, and the energy surrounding the team mirrored its playoffs-or-bust mentality.
Forward Matt Moulson, a 30-goal scorer for the Islanders during his first season with the team in 2009-2010, noted the team had made significant strides last year and is ready to take the next step as an organization.
“We came into this season with a different attitude than last year. Last year it was kind of, ‘Let’s play well and see where it gets us,’ and this year our goal is the playoffs and anything less than that, we’re not going to be satisfied,” said Moulson.
Nine points separated the Islanders from a playoff spot last year, but forward Rob Schremp, a native of Fulton, NY, noted that the team hit a rough patch in late January and couldn’t quite recover.
“Every year is different, last year we had a stretch right at the Olympic break where we blew it. I think we lost five or six in a row, and at that point, everyone else won those five or six games and that’s where we lost distance,” said Schremp.
A waiver acquisition for the Islanders on Sept. 29, 2009, Schremp was a solid contributor for the team last season, especially in shootouts. This season, the Islanders added several new faces via free agency and, like Schremp, through waivers.
“Obviously we want to start the season hot and come out and make an impact. We’ve got a bunch of new acquisitions and we want to come out and show people we’re serious.
“Like I said, the guys we pulled in with, Eats (Mark Eaton) and Wiz (James Wisniewski) and Juicy (Milan Jurcina), [they are] big pieces of the puzzle. [Zenon] Konopka, all these guys are upsides to the organization, we’re just excited and just want to get it going,” said Schremp.
The Islanders are holding training camp at the Coliseum for the first time in over a decade, and Schremp said he wasn’t exactly crushed when he heard the news that the team wouldn’t be traveling for camp.
“It’s good to be at home and kind of have your own surroundings and settings, whereas you go to new cities and you try to find where to go eat pasta or where you get a pre-game meal, you’re here you know where it all is and what’s what, it’s comforting.
“It would’ve been cool to be in China, but I don’t think anyone’s that upset about it. This is good that we’re at our home rink and we can start building [from] day one,” Schremp said.
Schremp noted that about two weeks before training camp began, many of the Islanders had come to the Coliseum to start skating early. The consensus among non-playoff teams is that players come back the following season well rested and eager to get back on the ice with their teammates.
“We built so much last year as a team, and at the end of the year I felt like we played good hockey and seeing camp now, all the guys are flying around, everybody looks good. It’s exciting so we need to come out early swinging.
“It’s going to be a hungry group, we’re all excited because we come to camp and we see, ‘Look at Johnny (Tavares) skating right now, look how good he looks, look at Ricky (DiPietro), he looks good, look at Kyle (Okposo) and how much stronger he looks,’” said Schremp.
While team success fundamentally begins on the individual level, Schremp explained his mentality going into the season.
“In my head I have a goal and I’m going to shoot for it, and hopefully it comes true,” he said.
The Islanders goal of becoming a playoff team commences on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. when the Dallas Stars visit the Nassau Coliseum.