Welcome to the NHL FanHouse 2008-09 season preview. While other sites are previewing "30 teams in 30 days," we decided to take advantage of the extra time off before the start of the season to bring you all 30 previews over the next three weeks. We're counting down in reverse order of finish from last season in each conference every weekday from now until October 3. Look for an Eastern Conference preview every morning and a Western Conference preview every afternoon. Click here to read them all.
Who's In: Scott Gordon (head coach), Doug Weight, C (UFA), Mark Streit, D (UFA), a youth movement (Frans Nielsen, Blake Comeau, Kyle Okposo, Jeff Tambellini).
Who's Out: Ted Nolan (hear about that?), Wade Dubielewicz, G (Russia), Miro Satan, RW (Penguins), Josef Vasicek, C (UFA), Ruslan Fedotenko, LW (Penguins), Bryan Berard, D (Flyers).
What's Changed: Well, if you haven't heard by now, there were some issues when it came to the direction of the team earlier in the summer. It was clear that Garth Snow and Charles Wang wanted to bring in the kids and go with a youth movement. Snow and former head coach Ted Nolan clashed throughout the second half of the season and it was apparent to anyone within Nassau County. Actually, the only people who probably didn't know were stranded out on a deserted island somewhere.
When coach and GM clash, as Nolan knows, the coach usually gets the boot. And, well, that's what happened here. The real surprise was not that Nolan was let go, but how long it took. The team began rookie camp in August at about the same time that Scott Gordon was hired. There's no sense in rushing to make a selection as important as who your next head coach is going to be, but sometimes you've got to have a coach. Like at summer camp. But hey, this is the Charles Wang era and, as we all know, the Isles march to the beat of their own drum. You've gotta respect that.So now the Islanders enter the season with a new coach (Gordon), new philosophy and a bunch of young faces in the locker room. Like last year, nothing good is expected. Everyone from here to Vancouver is picking the team to finish at the bottom of the conference, but no sweat, isn't that what everyone said last year? Despite a 13th place finish last year, they were in contention for most of the year, peaking in December among the top six in the conference. Now it's up to Scott Gordon to see if another Islander coach can make something out of these players.
Who's on the Hook: The kids. Let's face it. Scott Gordon's job is likely safe for one year and Snow probably isn't going anywhere just yet. This season is all about seeing how far these kids will take the team and how well they progress. For some, it's their first shot at the big time (Okposo, Tambellini) and there is room for error. For others the time to step up is now or never (Gervais, Bergenheim, Campoli).
Where They'll Finish: I'm biased here, but I'm also a realist. I would expect a similar showing to the one that earned this team 13th last season. They probably won't make it into the single digits.
Blogs to Watch:
Chris Botta's Point Blank
On the Islanders' Beat (Newsday)
And to self-pimp... Barry Melrose Rocks has a healthy pro-Islander bias.