Coming off a crushing Game 7 loss to the Capitals in the opening round of their second playoff appearance in three seasons, the Islanders are hoping to celebrate their first season in Brooklyn with their first postseason series victory since 1993.
Coach Jack Capuano’s squad, spearheaded by 25-year old captain John Tavares and backstopped by goalie Jaroslav Halak, will have to find a way to wrestle some attention — and, more importantly, points — away from the Hudson River rival Rangers as the local feud figures to become even more intense with both clubs now firmly based in the five boroughs.
Here are three questions facing the Isles entering the regular season, which begins on Friday when they host the defending-champion Blackhawks.
Will the fans come?The Barclays Center is the new home for the Isles. But will Brooklyn embrace its new NHL team as capably as it has the Nets, who have averaged just over 17,000 per night at Barclays over their first three seasons? The arena will hold up to 15,800 for hockey, making it a challenge for the team to exceed the nostalgia-tinged attendance figure during the final season at the out-of-date Nassau Coliseum, which drew 15,334 per game in 2014-15.
Will youth finally
be served?We’ve been hearing for several years now that the Islanders have one of the best young rosters in the sport, but being ousted by Washington last season has to serve as a wake-up call that potential is no substitute for victory. The Isles must win a round and go on a deep postseason run if Tavares and his squad want to emerge as more than a team that looks good on paper.
Will Okposo stay or go?Kyle Okposo will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, making him the subject of recent trade rumors that figure to pick up steam if the team performs below projected capability over the first few months of the season. The Isles likely will play a game of wait-and-see with the hard-charging forward.