Our final season preview interview will be with Rob McGowan from TCL Isles. We would like to thank Rob very much for taking the time to answer our questions. If you don't follow Rob on twitter yet, you can do so here.
STI: For those that may not be familiar with you, could you provide a little background information about yourself?
RM: I'm a member of the NYI Blog Box and have been for the past few years. This allows me to be a credentialed blogger for the New York Islanders, granting me locker room access to Isles home games, practices, and also allows me to conduct interviews with players and staff. I run a website for The Checking Line, called TCL Isles. We have a staff of writers that provide pre and post-game coverage as well as many other featured stories. I've been a fan of the Isles for several years and combine my fandom along with my diverse knowledge of the game from officiating, coaching, and playing to provide our readers with the best coverage possible.
STI: Most people loved the Islanders draft this year, what were your thoughts on it?
RM: I was hoping for Garth Snow to trade this year's pick in the hopes of landing a top line winger or more importantly, a top pairing defenseman. Unfortunately, that did not happen. However, the Isles picked up another solid top-5 prospect that seems to be a safe bet as a future top line forward. There is never a problem with stockpiling for the future. But at the end of the day, this team needs to win now.
STI: The Islanders have greater depth at forward heading into this season then they have had in quite some time. What kind of impact do you think that will have on the team?
RM: There is no question that the added depth will improve secondary scoring from the second and third lines. This should help the Islanders maintain their leads and scoring on a more consistent basis, which is something they have had trouble with over the last few seasons. It's also great for a player like Frans Nielsen, who aside from last season's great year offensively, has been used above his limits as a two-way, third line center. With Mikhail Grabovski able to slide into that second line center position, Nielsen will be able to build off the year he just had while adding depth up the middle on the bottom two lines.
STI: Even with what has been a great summer for the team, a lot of fans are still hoping for a trade for a top 4 defenseman. Do you think one will happen? If it doesn't, do you think this team as currently constructed is good enough to qualify for the playoffs?
RM: I think right now the Islanders are poised to make a run at making the playoffs. This team, as it stands now, projects to be an 8-10 seed in the Eastern Conference, in my opinion. If Snow is able to land a top-four d-man, which he absolutely should be trying his hardest to do, then this team may project to be a 6-8 spot in the East. Defense, so far, is the only area that has not been addressed this off-season and last year proved that there was a glaring hole to fill. If Snow doesn't make it happen, his overall performance as a GM this off-season drops a grade level in my eyes.
STI: After the Islanders trade of Thomas Vanek, the first line left wing spot was and has continued to be a talking point among fans. Do you feel as though the Islanders have the solution for that spot in house? Or is that something they will have to bring in from outside the team?
RM: Giving someone like Brock Nelson a chance to play on the top line and build off the rookie season he just had will be a great opportunity for him. Especially playing alongside someone like John Tavares. But is he going to be able to score at the pace of Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson? Most likely not. It's still important to build from within, but adding another offensive threat to play on the top line via free agency or trade would've been a much more safer option.
STI: With this year being the last season at the Coliseum, do you have a favorite moment or memory from your time there?
RM: Absolutely. There are a few that I would have to choose from though. Watching Eric Cairns pummel Shayne Corson at center ice during game 6 of their playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs is still one of my favorite memories, or being at the Coliseum the night that Al Arbour won his 740th game as head coach. Anytime that I get to step into that locker room and interview NHL players is an experience, and privilege, that I won't forget as well. But my favorite moment of all time may be the one that turned me into an Islanders fan over night. I wasn't really into hockey, but my friend took me to a game sixth row alongside of the net the Isles shoot twice. I noticed that the Islanders now had Michael Peca, Garth Snow, and Chris Osgood, three names that immediately stood out for me from my hockey card collection. Mark Parrish scored a hat trick that night, which happened to also be stick night. The crowd at Coliseum did the wave for the first time in over 20 years and went on to beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim by a score of 5-3. Parrish scored his first shorthanded goal of his career en route to his hat trick, which made him my favorite player at the time. The next day I was using my new, cruddy wooden and plastic stick to shoot a wiffle ball into an empty bucket in my driveway. I was hooked on the game and didn't miss an Islanders game for the rest of the 2002 season. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then the Coliseum, or the Madhouse on the Meadowbrook as I remember it, has become a second home to me. This final year will surely be a bittersweet and emotional one.