New York Islanders Season Preview, Part 1: Baby Steps
Aaron Doster, USATSI

John Tavares and the New York Islanders look to take another step forward in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

Baby steps.

That’s the way Isles head coach Jack Capuano surmised his team’s recent progression in an interview with the media.

“Our goal was to win the Stanley Cup last year and we didn’t, but we can build off that,” Capuano said. “We’ve taken some baby steps.”

“Guys know now what the standards are. I feel good about our team, the experience of our team and what [general manager] Garth [Snow] added to our hockey club. Hopefully we can take the next step.”

The Isles brought in two-time Stanley Cup champion Andrew Ladd, 20 goal-scorer Jason Chimera and former first-line winger PA Parenteau to accomplish that goal.

“We have a big year ahead of us, and with the team we have right now, I expect nothing more than to go further than we did last year,” said center Casey Cizikas, who helped the team advance to the second-round of the postseason for the first time in the last twenty-three years. “Last year did a lot, just to show how close we were. That Tampa series has left a bitter taste in our mouths. It was definitely not easy to go out like that.

“But we have to learn from that and know what it takes to get further, and I think we’re going to do whatever it takes to win a Stanley Cup here.”

That’s the ultimate goal, one that has alluded the franchise since the mid-80’s, when they were the envy of the league. While the 2016-17 version of the club doesn’t evoke many memories of the good ol’ days, it can challenge for Lord Stanley’s Cup with help from the youngsters.

The Brooklyn-based squad needs the heralded threesome of Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson to break out of their sophomore slumps. In addition, they need Mathew Barzal to impress and Ryan Pulock to take a couple of steps forward.

But that’s not all.

They’re going to have to figure out how to replace Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin. They’re going to need to identify a starting netminder and figure out where Dennis Seidenberg fits on defense.

If so, then their glory days are ahead of them.

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.