With the bevy of new rule changes
this year in the NHL, one can expect many teams to try and take advantage of them. Teams will be using their skilled skaters
to make the most of the new spacious offensive zone; with defensive cores trying to find a way to stifle them.
“I think these new rules should really
provide teams with more offense. Teams with good puck moving defensemen like the Islanders should really benefit too, creating
more goals,” said Former Islander Sergei Nemchinov.
Nemchinov isn’t the only one that
feels this way; NHL officials have been preaching that the new rules would lead to more offense for a game that thanks to
the New Jersey Devils, Jacques Lemaire and the neutral zone trap, has become a lot more about strategy and a lot less about
“I think it’s really going
to open things up. Teams are going to start playing different systems and defenses are going to back up,” said Islanders
Forward Kevin Colley. “The defense is going to have to make sure no one slips in behind them with all that extra room
out there. It’s going to be exciting to watch.”
The Islanders, during the last NHL season
in 2003-2004, were a team that deployed the neutral zone trap. But unlike many of the other teams that used the system, the
Islanders were blessed to have defensemen like Kenny Jonsson, Adrian Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik and Janne Ninimaa that have the
ability to play great defense and add some offense as well. With the new rules that basically eliminate the use of the trap
and three of the Islanders top four defenseman no longer with the team, the new Islanders defensive core is going to have
to step it up for the Islanders to succeed.
“It’s (The new rules) going
to affect the game a little bit; the icing rule and the two-line pass most of all. You’re going to have go after the
puck a lot more than previously,” said Islanders defenseman Janne Ninimaa. “The fact that the goalie can’t
play the puck (outside the new trapezoidal zone behind the net where the goalie can play the puck) is big for us too because
Ricky (Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro) likes to play the puck a lot, so we’re going to have to get it for him. I want
to see how they (the referees) call these new rules. The game is going to be different, but it’s really hard to say
how different. I don’t think though that it’s going to affect anyone’s
numbers. I played with these kinds of rules back home and the game’s not that different because of them.”
“The game is going to be a lot quicker
and it’s going to give the defense an opportunity to play some more offense. I think it’s going to cause an increased
awareness in the game, no more lollygagging up and down the ice,” said Brad Lukowich, a member of the 2004 Stanley Cup
Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, whom the Islanders signed as a free agent in August to fill the void left by former Islander
defenseman Kenny Jonsson deciding to stay in Sweden for the 2005-2006 season.
With new additions like Brent Sopel, Alexei
Zhitnik and Brad Lukowich to the Islanders defense core, the Islanders will have to find a way to quickly come up with on-ice
chemistry to provide the stability needed to limit opposing offences. This would usually be a bad sign for many teams, but
the Islanders defense doesn’t seem staggered by the lack of time they’ve had to play together.
“I haven’t really thought about
it yet (Who he’s playing with on defense), every time you bring in new guys it’s a challenge to make things work,”
said Ninimaa. “The main thing is with all the new guys we have, we really have to find that way to make things work.
Things are going to work; training camp will give us time for things to fall into place.”
The rest of the Islanders defense feels
pretty much the same way.
“It doesn’t really matter who
I’m paired with,” said Lukowich. Their all good players that have made names for themselves, I’m just looking
forward to playing again really.”
Hockey fans are looking forward to it just
The Islanders begin the regular season
on October 5 against the Buffalo Sabres.
One of the
Islanders who I got a quote from for this story, Kevin Colley recently injured his neck seriously and required surgery. Below
is a link to a page of letters on Newyorkislanders.com wishing him the best. Yours truly's dedication to Colley is featured
on there as well. From the bottom of my heart, I wish Kevin the best.
The Official Site of the New York Islanders - Pre-Game Article