New York Islanders preview

Overview: Every year, in almost every sport, there comes a team that no expects to do much. Only that team surprises everyone and makes the playoffs. Last year, it was the Colorado Avalanche. Two years ago, it was the St. Louis Blues.

This year, it will be the New York Islanders.

With John Tavares having played a full NHL season, he should break through this season have an 80-point year or so. There’s some talented players around him (including the fifth pick overall in this summer’s draft, Nino Niederreiter).

Rick DiPietro should be healthy and play 50 to 60 games, surprising everyone who isn’t me.

It all adds up to a playoff spot.

Best offseason move: Signing Matt Moulson to a one-year, $2.45 million deal. Moulson came out of no where to score 30 goals for the Islanders last season. But there’s nothing in his history that says he can repeat that. By signing him to a one-year deal, they can make sure they don’t have another Trent Hunter on their hands, and wait to see what happens with him this season.

Worst offseason move: Not making enough of a splash in the free agent market. The Islanders are smart in the way they’re handling the team. Build through youth, get them lots of ice time, let them learn as they go. But you need someone there who can teach them what it’s like to win. They don’t have that. And since they have $21 million in cap space, they could have made the effort to go get it.

Dark horse trophy candidate: Rick DiPietro for the Bill Masterton.

Pool pick: Kyle Okposo. He’s 22 years old, and probably the most important player in the Islanders organization not named John Tavares. He’ll be counted on to shoulder a lot of scoring help, and he should succeed. I see him finishing with about 70 points. Who to stay away from: Matt Moulson. Sure, 30 goals sounds good. But he only had 18 assists. People will take him, thinking that if he’s playing with Tavares, he should be money for 60 points at least. But never pick someone based on who they might be playing with. Moulson came out of nowhere last season, but the smart money is on him taking a step back.

Sporcle quiz: Can you name the New York Islanders leaders?

Best hall of fame choice: Doug Weight. He’s scored more than 1,000 points, has a Stanley Cup, has been a captain, and is closing in on Gordie Howe’s record for oldest NHLer. He’s injury-prone nowadays, but he used to be one of the leaders for Team USA in competitions, and has helped the States win a silver medal and a World Cup of Hockey championship. Not a first ballot hall-of-famer, but he should make it in.

Blog to follow: Lighthouse Hockey

My Prediction: Fourth in the Atlantic, Eighth in the East

Famous celebrity from that city: Anne Hathaway

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