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34-37-11 (13th in East)
D Mark Eaton, D Milan Jurcina, D James Wisniewski
LW Sean Bergenheim, G Martin Biron
SIGNING CAPABLE defensemen Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina to stabilize a blue line that allowed 258 goals last season (third worst in the NHL) just might win Islanders G.M. Garth Snow support for executive of the year. If an improved defense means more victories, it also might mean attracting a few more New York fans. Filling the badly outdated Nassau Coliseum has been a rare occurrence of late, but as captain Doug Weight allows, "it's been a tough sell."
The Islanders haven't won a playoff round in 17 years, they've finished last in the Atlantic three years running, and last season they averaged a conference-low attendance of 12,735. The team's silver lining is its young forwards: 2009 No. 1 draft pick John Tavares (24 goals and 30 assists last season), 22-year-old Kyle Okposo (52 points) and 26-year-old Matt Moulson (team-high 30 goals). The great hope is that goalie Rick DiPietro, 29, whose once promising career has been derailed by injuries (concussions, hip surgery, multiple knee surgeries), can return to at least split time with Dwayne Roloson.
A true optimist—and Weight is one—might see better days ahead in Long Island. But with 12 of the team's first 17 games on the road, this season could slip away before the fall's first frost.