The Islanders announced their opening night roster for this Saturday. Using the lines from practice, here's what it looks like:
Blake Comeau - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Matt Moulson - Frans Nielsen - Trent Hunter
Josh Bailey - Doug Weight - Nino Niederreiter
Trevor Gillies - Zenon Konopka - Jon Sim
Long Term Injured Reserve:
So Niederreiter makes the team, and while no one is surprised at that, time will tell if it's the correct move. Many of you know by now that while I was open to the idea of Niederreiter starting the season here, I was not in love with the idea. At the same time, I do like what I had seen by the end of the preseason. It could pan out well, and to be honest the line he is playing on is actually pretty good. Weight looks rejuvenated and has shown off some slick passing ability again, connecting at times during the preseason with Bailey, who also finds himself on this line. Bailey, expecting a breakout season of his own, will benefit from Weight and perhaps bring Niederreiter along in the process. If not, then Niederreiter will find himself back in Portland of the WHL after nine games.
Martin returns to Bridgeport to start the season, a move that might be the best one at this time. It is better for him to be getting minutes on a top line rather than getting next to nothing on a 4th line with the big club. Despite coming back from his foot injury a couple of days ago, Martin didn't show Scott Gordon enough to warrant him staying at this time. Martin, of course took it all in stride and will look to continue to develop his offensive game. The other stuff is there for the most part, and will improve as well. He's close, and we'll see him in due time.
Grabner is going to sit out the first two games of the season, a move that we shouldn't be surprised with given what we saw with Schremp last season. Once Grabner gets the system down, then it's up to him to prove that he belongs here for the long haul. He is very talented, and certainly has said all the right things as far as understanding this opportunity and why Florida put him on waivers in the first place. Really hope that works out, and can't wait to see him play.
Sim makes the team, but mainly due to the injuries to Okposo and Schremp. Sim played like we know he can during the preseason as he continued to show why he is and will be an effective 4th liner for the team. He'll be looked at to be a pest, along with Konopka, while the latter and Gillies will provide some muscle for a pretty tough 4th line. Gillies will be in and out of the lineup this season, and to me, is the most likely candidate to sit for Grabner to start off.
De Haan returning to juniors was perhaps the best decision of all. I agree with Gordon's assessment that he showed us more towards the end, but it took him a little while to get to that point, as it would take most other 19-year-olds coming off a major injury. When you combine that with the fact that the Islanders brought in Mottau when Streit went down, then this move really isn't all that surprising. I'm really glad that the Islanders agreed with mine and many other's assessment and sent him back to Oshawa of the OHL. Now he can continue to develop at the junior level and make up the time he essentially missed for most of last season. He will be the captain of his team as well, as Oshawa announced today. Good stuff Calvin, and we'll see you next season.
Aside from that, pretty much what we expected and not a ton of surprises. We'll see how the eight man defense works for the time being, and who sits. Early indications point to Gervais and Jurcina being out for now, but that can change on a game by game basis for the first few weeks of the season.
One more thought on the roster: I am expecting Rick DiPietro to start on Saturday night vs. Dallas. That seems to be the popular line of thinking among those in the know as well. I find it hard to believe that a healthy DiPietro sits out the home opener.
With the roster set, Sean and I are currently working on our first installment of a series we are calling "Faceoff." We take topics that we disagree on, and elaborate on them to make our cases for your enjoyment. Looks like it'll be a long one, and it will be up before the season starts. So look out for that.