Isles looking at another long season

It’s been a rough year for the Islanders.

On the ice, they stumbled to another last-place finish in the Atlantic Division and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Off the ice, things were even worse.

There was the public embarrassment of Evgeni Nabokov refusing to play for them when they claimed him off waivers. There is the fact that they are struggling to even reach the cap floor despite accepting New Jersey’s salary-dump trade for Brian Rolston and still having Alexei Yashin’s buyout on the books. And there was the public’s rejection, by referendum earlier this summer, of a plan to fund a new arena to replace the decrepit Nassau Coliseum.

Things can’t get much worse for the once-proud franchise that dominated the NHL nearly three decades ago with four straight Cups from 1980-83, yet hasn’t won a playoff series since 1993.

2010-11 record: 30-39-13, 73 points (5th Atlantic Division; 14th Eastern Conference; did not qualify for playoffs)

Key additions: F Brian Rolston (trade with New Jersey); F Marty Reasoner (free agent); F Tim Wallace (free agnet); F Trevor Frischmon (free agent)

Key losses: F Zenon Konopka (signed with Ottawa); F Trent Hunter (trade with New Jersey); F Doug Weight (retired); D Radek Martinek (signed with Columbus); D Bruno Gervais (trade with Tampa Bay); F Jesse Joensuu (signed with HV 71, Sweden)

Burning question: What will happen with Evgeni Nabokov?

The standoff between Isles GM Garth Snow and disgruntled goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been well-chronicled. Nabokov signed with Detroit late last year, coming back from the KHL for a chance at winning a Cup, only to be claimed off waivers by the Islanders. Nabokov then refused to report to New York, and had his short-money contract held over to this year by the league.

Nabokov has no options outside of Long Island if he wants to play in the NHL again, and he’s stated he’s willing to play for the Islanders this year and come to camp. But how will that play in the locker room with the teammates he rejected last year? Nabokov probably is the Islanders’ best option in goal, but will they really give him a chance to start over their brittle, 15-year, $67.5-million man, Rick DiPietro?

2011-12 outlook: The Islanders didn’t do a lot this offseason to improve. Brian Rolston’s best days are behind him, but his veteran presence should help a bit. Getting defenseman Mark Streit back after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury will be a bigger help. There is some promising young talent in place with John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo and more in the pipeline with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome in the system, but it will take time for that young nucleus to come together and the prospects to develop.

Did you know? How long has it been since the days of the Islanders’ dynasty? Of the team’s top 12 scorers last season, only one was born before the Isles won their fourth and final Stanley Cup in 1983. And that was P.A. Parenteau, who was born less than two months before New York swept Edmonton for its fourth straight championship in 1983.