Islanders Training Camp Part One: An Overview and some tough questions.

By Bill Bennett

Yes, I wrote it.

Contend for the Stanley Cup this season 2000-01.

And yes, if that means without Zdeno Chara, so be it.

That is a very bold statement, but the fact is the Islanders for the first time in years have a strong young nucleus of players who are no longer
just happy to be in the Nhl, with several players entering their prime years and an ownership that added the talented veterans that were desperately
needed here for years, in addition this team now has the depth players in its minor league system, as well as an outstanding group of prospects that
have the ability to win one of the few spots on this years team and make a significant contribution.

Many of the players who are returning from
last years 24 win, 300 man games lost to injury season learned that they can beat any team in the Nhl last year because many of those wins came
against the best teams. The Islanders biggest problems was depth and inexperience and players were brought in to address both needs.

Along with a new ownership that will make the changes to improve this season.

Some Very Tough Questions:

1. It took eighty five points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season and ninety the year before that, how do the Islanders make up that kind of ground in one year?

Forget the 248 goals scored the last two years, this team will score. Czerkawski played seventeen minutes a game last year and scored 35 goals without an experienced center. Brad Isbsiter scored 22 goals, was injured and looks to have star potential. Mark Parrish had 25 goals playing behind Pavel Bure, works hard in front of the opposition’s net to score and is only 23
years old. Mats Lindgren is finally ready to play healthy. Bill Muckalt showed he has a scoring touch in his brief 11 games last year. Oleg
Kvasha is coming into this season with similar numbers and experience to Isbsiter a year ago and with plenty of expectations.

Dave Scatchard, Claude La Pointe and new Islander Mike Stapleton will chip in with clutch scoring and Tim Connolly will be a year older and has the
potential to have a huge year. Rounding out the forwards on the roster are hard hitting forward Steve Webb, who is going to be pushed to make this
year team.

Behind this the organization has Hobey winner Jason Krog, who settled down in providence and had a solid second half. Taylor Pyatt, is a goal
scoring left wing who was drafted in 1999 and by all indications has the best chance to make the team, as well as right wing Juraj Kolnik, and fifth overall selection left wing Raffi Torres. This group also includes Dimitri Nabakov, who showed some offensive flash at the end of last season. Depth signings such as Jeff Toms, Robert Petrovicky and Jesse Belanger will also get a chance to fill in for injured players.

2. Do the Islanders have a Goaltender who can win this season?

The biggest question the Islanders have facing them going into this season.

Observers who watched Kevin Weekes and Roberto Luongo last year saw both young goalies make incredible saves and stop over thirty quality shots most nights, with Weekes rarely having a bad game and making many games closer than the score. Can John Vanbiesbrouck handle 60 games and play at a level that will demand his best
goaltending since he joined expansion Florida in 93-94 ?

Is Rick Di Pietro ready to handle this at Nineteen and should the Islanders even attempt it if he looks ready ?

Are Wade Flaherty and Steve Valiquette any kind of answer ?

If Goaltending is the Islanders problem Mike Milbury will be expected to find a short-term answer until Di Pietro is ready, expect quick action if the Isles lose one goal games on soft goals and Beezer is in net.

3. Are the Islanders able to provide a solid defense that can keep the puck out of the net and contribute offensively?

If Jonsson stays healthy and can gain some confidence and Roman Harmlik can score at even strength the Islanders have a defense that can play physical, take pressure off the goaltenders, and contribute on the powerplay and score at even strength.

The additions of Hamrlik and Haller give Jonsson
and Eric Cairns the help it needed badly last year. Combine that with the progress of Matthew Biron and the addition of hard hitting Branislav Mezei and the Islanders have a solid unit that is as good as any in the Nhl, with a solid group of prospects behind them as well.

Note-The team released a statement at the time of this posting that Zedeno Chara will not be part of the Islanders this season under any circumstances, and this could mean the
Islanders are about to come to terms with Unrestricted Free Agent Gary Galley.

Milbury is quoted by the team as saying he would not sign Chara even if it was for one dollar and made it clear it was not personal with Chara’s agent Rich Winter.

Stay tuned on this one folks……….

4. Will this team have the chemistry they had last season?

Make no mistake about last years 24 win team, they were predicted by many so-called experts
to win 10 games and really could have won thirty or more if they had the depth in the organization to follow up wins against Dallas and New Jersey
with loses to Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

Last year the Islanders were demanded to play an offensive style and work hard every game, and when they did not new coach Butch Goring demanded to know why and this year will be more of the same, with any player not earning his time either on the bench or off the team. When everyone is held to the same standards its easy for a team to have chemistry because they are all expected to contribute and work together.

Goring is not here because of his four Championship rings, he earned the respect of the players and they responded to his teaching and his staff and the enthusiasm he brings shows in his players.

Toward the end of last season he promised that anyone who did not finish the season
playing hard would not be back and some of them were gone before the expansion draft, or not qualified on July 1st,letting them become free

5. Can the Islanders win games at Nassau Coliseum?

The expression: They play a good road game says all you need to know about the Islanders because it is really the only type of game they know how to play. It was clear that playing at home in front of small crowds was hard on the young club for the last few years. The changes made this summer will result in more wins and the ability to put away teams at home and learn how
to put on the show in front of the home fans.

6. Can the Islanders draw fans to Nassau Coliseum ?

For the first time since 1988 when John Pickett decided to stop being involved with this franchise on a day to day basis, the Islanders were finally sold to two gentleman who not only showed they want the franchise to win at a press conference but have put pride and action behind those promises and brought in the players to do this in new owners Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, who have been present at team events and have signed many of the upcoming stars in the organization to long-term contracts, and have
given Mike Milbury the ability to run his franchise like an Nhl general manager should be allowed to.

It’s a hard sell for Islander fans who lost a generation of die-hard fans after the
Championship era, and the team has increased ticket sales with the moves made, but the Islanders need to win hockey games to bring fans
to see games on weeknights, and the problems
that othe
r owners have faced are still here
because of the years of neglect Nassau County has shown toward its only professional franchise.

Until arena negotiations take place and are completed with our new owners Tom Gulotta, Morton Certilman, Jospeh Mondello, the entire County
Legislature and Al D’Amato should do their part and pay for season tickets, attend every game, pay for top priced seats downstairs, and eat the same food the fans are being provided by Smg.
Nassau may not have any money but they do.

Honorable Mention:
The Islanders cable ratings on Fox were up 18 percent last season, and the teams website has been a great source of information and been
fan-friendly, interactive and honest since its inception last summer and received over
two million hits in June 2000. Alan Hahn of Newsday has provided outstanding coverage of the team last season and his coverage has been
straight-forward and accurate.

Part Two: The fight for Jobs will be on Monday.

More on Chara as well.

Bill Barrett, is the moderator for the Islanders Internet Community: [email protected]