The Islanders had been going through a bit of a slog. Their records were routinely lousy, Garth Snow seemed to not be up for being a GM, even though he's had the job for ages, and Rick DiPietro had become the foremost albatross in the NHL. Then, last year, there was finally a light that shone through the darkness. Led by John Tavares, who put up MVP caliber numbers, and likely not for the last time, the Islanders made it back to the playoffs, albeit as the eighth seed. They seemed to be probable cannon fodder for the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins, but then they actually gave the Pens a fight. New York still lost, but they went down with honor.
The Islanders will still be led by Tavares, who is only 22 and already one of the league's best players. We are beyond considering Matt Moulson a fluke, and Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, and Josh Bailey are decent forwards too. Brad Boyes is still around, and the team traded for Cal Clutterbuck, who gives them some depth. Perhaps prospect Ryan Strome will show up to contribute as well.
On the negative side, Mark Streit is gone. He got a fairly ridiculous deal from the Flyers, one the Islanders would have been wise not to match, but that hurts them defensive depth. Lubomir Visnovsky was good last year, but he's up there in age. The same goes for Evgeni Nabokov, who finally gave New York good goaltending and, shockingly, they finally returned to the playoffs. They do have some good defensemen in Andrew MacDonald, Travis Hamonic, and Thomas Hickey. On the other hand, they don't have much backup for Nabokov, unless somebody steps up.
I don't see this team crashing or anything. I don't think the Islanders were a fluke. However, I expect them to be in a tough fight to make the postseason again. They were already in a tough division, and now Washington has joined them. What will Nabokov do in net? Will the defense be sound? I think the offense will be OK, because Tavares is there. That may not be enough though. He can't carry this team all by himself. The Islanders are no longer a laughingstock, but they may still take a slight step back.