Your 2011 New York Islanders?

After a brief hiatus that involved a family cruise to Bermuda, I am finally back at The Checking Line to talk some Islanders hockey. I apologize for the drag in blog frequency...but I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about the Isles roster since I've had plenty of time to think (and I am home sick from work).

The first question is whether or not the Isles are done with sprinkling free agents into their lineup. They've done well so far, adding enforcers Zenon Konopka and Jeremy Yoblonski (who will probably be an AHL call-up), as well as youngster P.A. Parenteau, and defenceman Milan Jurcina and Mark Eaton.

But Garth Snow really hasn't improved this team over last year's, especially if he still intends on them making the playoffs.

This is just as good a guess as yours, but basing my predictions on last year's team, this is how I see the roster looking on opening night if Snow doesn't make anymore additions.

Moulson-Tavares-Okposo
Bailey-Schremp-Weight
Comeau-Nielsen-Hunter
Parenteau-Konopka-Gillies

Streit-Martinek
Eaton-Hillen
MacDonald-Jurcina
Gervais

See what I am saying? This team is almost identical as last year's. All they did was add experience and toughness. You can also figure in that Martinek will miss some time with some sort of an injury. Same can be said for Weight, (who I know is not officially under contract yet - but it will be finished at the right time for salary cap purposes).

If this team is to make the playoffs as is, Moulson needs to have another 30-goal year, Tavares needs to increase his point production and Okposo needs to evolve into the leader everyone expects him to be. Schremp and Bailey will have to be a hell of a lot more consistent and Parenteau will have to be this year's diamond in the rough.

Let's not forget that DiPietro can't afford to miss anymore time either. If he's back to his playing days, it has to start from opening day and last until the end of the year. No more of this 'he's healthy but for some reason is in the press-box' nonsense.

Is this team a playoff team? I'd like to think they are. But the fact that Snow hasn't increased their chances worries me. Jesse Joenssu may get a shot with the team. Same can be said for Matt Martin and Kirill Petrov, if he can get out of his contract with the KHL. However, all three of them may start in Bridgeport and have to earn their NHL careers since this roster isn't exactly free for the taking. And even if they do make the team, they are all young and inexperienced. But don't be surprised if one of them sneak in. A clear cut example is Moulson, who turned the coaching staffs' heads after leading the team in goal-scoring in their exhibition games before becoming the team's leading goal-scorer.

So, if Snow is officially done and cannot strike a deal or trade to improve the roster any further, would you call this Isles roster a playoff team?

-Rob McGowan

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