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Isles' leadership group a mix of veterans, youth

Joining captain Mark Streit to wear letters this season are veterans Brian Rolston and Steve Staios, along with young standouts Kyle Okposo and John Tavares.

Thursday, 10.06.2011 / 5:54 PM / News
By Brian Compton
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Isles\' leadership group a mix of veterans, youth
Joining captain Mark Streit to wear letters this season are veterans Brian Rolston and Steve Staios, along with young standouts Kyle Okposo and John Tavares.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Last season, the New York Islanders were a group that was decimated by injuries before even playing their first game.
 
They played much of the 2010-11 season without their captain, Doug Weight, and all of it without alternate Mark Streit. Younger players were forced to take on leadership roles perhaps before they were ready.
 
That's why Isles GM Garth Snow went out of his way this offseason to sprinkle in more veterans who were not only capable of accepting leadership roles, but ones who relish them.
 
"I think we've got a good mix," coach Jack Capuano said at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, just moments after naming Brian Rolston, Steve Staios, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares alternate captains. "You don't want to talk about last year too much, but when we did lose Eats and Motts (Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau) and Dougie (Weight) to injury, it gave other guys a chance to step up leadership wise. I love the mix that we have right now with our youth and our veteran guys."
 
With the signing of Jay Pandolfo earlier this week, the Islanders will boast eight players who are 30 or older as they open the 2011-12 season on home ice against the Florida Panthers. It's a far cry from the past few seasons, when the Isles would often ice a rather inexperienced group.
But Rolston believes the experience that younger players such as Tavares, Okposo, Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Andrew MacDonald have gained in seasons past will prove valuable to a club that plans on ending a four-year playoff drought.
 
"They've added some age and I'm obviously one of those guys," the 38-year-old Rolston said, smiling. "But the thing is about our young guys, they're mature. Even though they're young in years, they're mature. They've been around. They've been in this League long enough to have their feet wet. They know what to expect and know how to play 82 games. That's what's exciting. They're ready to step up and make that next step, and we're just here to help out in that aspect."
 
Staios, 38, entered training camp without a contract and accepted an invite to Long Island on a tryout basis. Obviously, the 15-year veteran made quite an impression as he not only landed himself a contract, but now has been labeled one of the leaders of the locker room along with Rolston, Okposo, Tavares and Streit, who was named captain last month.
 
"It's been an interesting month," Staios told NHL.com. "It took a while to get to this point, but I was focused on coming in and being a big part of this team. I have a lot of experience that this young group can lean on at any time. I'll try to lead by example more than anything. Hopefully the way that I compete, guys can follow and rely on that.
 
"There's a few guys here that have been through the battles and understand what it takes. It's much easier to be a good teammate when things are going good, but there's going to be tough stretches during the year that every team goes through. I think that's where we as leaders have to take full responsibility to get our team going again. It's a process. We can't make the playoffs today or tomorrow or Game 1. But we certainly can start to build that culture and build that team identity that we need to be successful." 
 
Okposo spent the first half of last season on the injured reserve list after injuring his shoulder during training camp. Now fully healthy and raring to go, the 23-year-old is preparing for what he hopes is a breakout season -- both individually and from a team perspective.
 
"It's great and we're excited about it," Okposo said. "We've had some veterans in the past, but this year I think we've done a really great job of blending. We're just excited to get under way."
 
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 46 21 24 -2 45
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 46 8 25 16 33
B. Nelson 46 15 15 6 30
F. Nielsen 46 9 16 4 25
J. Boychuk 36 4 18 15 22
J. Bailey 34 8 13 8 21
N. Leddy 46 7 14 15 21
N. Kulemin 46 11 9 1 20
A. Lee 40 13 5 7 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 25 9 0 .910 2.41
C. Johnson 6 5 0 .870 3.38

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