Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
With the Lightning facing off against the New York Islanders tonight, it's time to check in with Islanders blog Lighthouse Hockey regarding the future of the franchise in goal, on the ice, and in the state of New York when they relocate to the borough of Brooklyn.
1. Update us on the plan to move to Brooklyn. There are still two more seasons, after this one, where the Islanders will be at Nassau Coliseum according to the original announcement last October. That still hold? What's your take on this huge move by the franchise?
Brooklyn is the best remaining option, even if it seemed like a distant third a few years ago. Despite a decade of trying by Charles Wang long after previous owners would have bailed, the politics of development, NIMBYism and friends helping friends kept something from happening in Nassau. It's great to have resolution that keeps the Isles in the neighborhood, even if it inconveniences many longtime fans. It will connect them with new fans and other old fans who've long since moved from Long Island.
Would the Isles like to move to Brooklyn sooner? Possibly, if something made sense. You hear rumblings of it, but things traditionally do not get done in Nassau with any degree of efficiency, and seldom reason. Even without owning the building in Brooklyn, the move should represent a huge revenue boost thanks to the arena (luxury boxes, share of revenue, visibility) and the escape from what has always been an unforgiving lease at the Coliseum.
2. The Islanders have some amazing young talent in the system, and at least one amazing player on the current roster in John Tavares. Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen are also well regarded. Tell us about the newer guys like Travis Hamonic or Thomas Hickey or others currently playing on this team who maybe we don't hear much about, but who look to be key contributors in the future as Niederreiter, Strome and Reinhart gradually come of age. (Or: describe the Islanders of 2015-16)
Travis Hamonic is quietly their best all-around defenseman. You don't hear about him as much because he faces the opponent's best and doesn't get meaningful powerplay time to goose his offensive output. Thomas Hickey was a nice waiver pickup who could be reliable third-pairing guy if they retain him. Casey Cizikas is hardly an amazing talent, but he's a budding checking line center that fans love for his motor and his hockey smarts. Coming soon are some very promising talents in: Ryan Strome, who could make a great 1-2 punch behind Tavares; Brock Nelson, a very smart two-way player who might also excel at center; Niederreiter, a front-of-the-net goal getter on the wing; and Johan Sundstrom, another crafty two-way center.
Basically, down the middle they have a lot of nice options to fill in behind Tavares and around Nielsen. Some of them might have to find roles at wing -- a nice problem to have -- or else turn some of these names into surplus trade bait to fill other holes.
3. The unlikely sagas of Rick DiPietro and Tim Thomas converge in Uniondale. Current number one goalie Evgeni Nabokov will be a free agent this summer. What is the immediate plans for Islanders goaltending next season, do you think?
It's a tough call and possibly their biggest hole. Nabokov isn't getting younger nor better. Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen, once decently regarded prospects, each have question marks that cast doubt over whether they can be true NHL #1s. The free agent market isn't enticing. DiPietro's injury decline is well chronicled. It wasn't part of the paper move and isn't at all likely, but if they could coax a year out of Thomas that might be the best summer option. They'll need to find something for 2013-14.