Islanders Through 20 – What’s Gone Wrong?

cropped-IMG_0073.jpgThe New York Islanders stand dead last in the Eastern Conference, and are pretty close to having the worst record in the NHL, so asking what’s gone wrong is a pretty simple question. In short, everything.

The 20 game mark is always a good place to check in with the team, and the individual players to get a feel for what’s happening. The season is basically 25% over, and looking over the individual stats for the Islanders is an exercise in suffering not seen around here in a while.

For example, after 20 games the Isles have two players with 5 goals. That extrapolates out the a team that will end up with two 20 goal scorers on the season.

Let’s put that in perspective. Last season the horrific Maple Leafs team had one 20 goal scorer and one 19 goal scorer. This Islander team is just barely ahead of that.

Last season, I argued that the Islanders did not actually improve over the season before. Yes they won a playoff series, but that was mostly because of a lucky matchup compared to the season before. The Islanders made virtually no changes, and had the same weaknesses, which were exposed against the Lightning the same way they were the year before against the Caps. This season they were forced into changes with the departures of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. The free agents signings have been a disaster. Andrew Ladd has two goals and three points. Jason Chimera has one goal. The Islanders have no first line, and no consistent scoring threat at all.

The team constantly gives up leads and game winning goals late in games. Last night they took that to a new level, tying the game with a minute left only to lose it seconds later.

Last season, I said the team didn’t improve because the young players didn’t improve. This season, with the changes made, the Islanders were an easy pick to slide unless the young kids improved and really stepped up. That still hasn’t happened. Ryan Strome is a mess. Brock Nelson isย  serviceable third liner playing on the second line. Anders Lee is a streaky, inconsistent scorer. Anthony Beauvillier doesn’t look lost at his age, but he also only has two goals despite playing with John Tavares lately. Josh Bailey is Josh Bailey, scoring at about a point every other game just as he always has. He’s playing a lot on the first line too.

In goal, Greiss has statistically been much better than Halak, but has only played in 8 games, while Berube is taking up a roster spot, and has yet to play at all.

In total, Garth Snow bet this teams future on it’s ability to develop young players, and we have yet to see any evidence that it can. Jack Capuano has displayed no understanding of who his players are. Granted, it’s hard to create a first line when you’ve been given 10 third line forwards, but it’s the coaching staff who should have been developing these guys into something more. Ryan Strome was projected to be more than that. Andrew Ladd is more than a fourth liner, and on and on.

In fact, this team is pretty consistently dominated by other team’s young players, ones without the same draft pedigree as the Islanders young players. (Seriously, anyone want to exchange any one of these guys for Nikita Kucherov?)

Do I think they should be fired? Yes. I actually thought so last year but I knew winning a playoff series would prevent that from happening. The reason I think they should be is because the Islanders currently have a lot of highly regarded, young, talent, but I don’t trust the front office to develop them properly, and I fear what sort of desperation trades they are going to make.

This season has been a disaster, but the Islanders as an organization are not without hope. With the proper management in place, one that can develop and evaluate talent properly, the Islanders could get this turned around quickly, especially with a top draft pick next season. Desperation trades are not going to get them there, and the wild fantasy trades that I’ve seen some fans suggesting, are not going to happen. Developing talent will, and right now, the Islanders are going on 3 seasons where they’ve shown no signs of doing that.

That requires a change.

Playoff Chaos Again, But Will Ohio State Lose Out?

Field View from Press BoxAfter yesterdays losses by 3 of the top 4 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings, things are pretty much a mess. As it stands right now, we have unbeaten Alabama, and everyone else.

Which, is kind of what we thought we had, but with 3 other Big 5 conference teams also undefeated, the playoff picture seemed pretty simple. Now, it’s really not.

Given Ohio State’s 5th place ranking before yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of Buckeye fans celebrating, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Yes, this week OSU should get into the top 4, but can they stay there?

First, obviously, they have to beat Michigan State and Michigan.

Then, things get interesting. Unless Penn State somehow loses to either Rutgers or Michigan State, they will win the Eastern Division. They will go on to play in the Big ten Championship game, while Ohio State sits around waiting to see what happens.

Here’s the challenge. There has not yet been a team in the final four that did not win it’s conference, and for Ohio State to become the first, they need to be clearly better than two of the conference champs, and every other one-loss team.

That could be a problem.

  • Let’s assume one spot goes to Alabama.
  • Let’s also assume a one-loss Clemson wins the ACC and gets a spot.
  • Out West, if Washington wins the PAC12 with one loss? I think they’re golden.
  • In the Big 12, any of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (2 losees each), or West Virginia (1 loss) could win it.
  • In the Big 10, Penn State may wind up playing 2 loss Wisconsin for the title.
  • Louisville could also be sitting out there with one loss.

Are you so sure the committee will still see Ohio State as one of the top four?

If Penn State wins the conference, I think they get in over OSU, they won the conference and beat them head to head. In that case, I think 11-2 beats 11-1. Wisconsin would be a tougher call, does the committee value winning the conference, or OSU’s OT win over Wisconsin? Either way, I’m not feeling super confident that OSU gets in over the winner of their own conference.

That means OSU has to be clearly better than the PAC12 and Big12 winners, and hope the committee values their SOS more than Louisville, who may only have a close loss to another playoff team on it’s resume, just like Ohio State would if PSU wins the conference and gets into the playoff.

If you’re a Buckeye fan, here’s what you’re rooting for:

  • A Louisville loss to Houston, or a Clemson loss in the ACC championship.
  • Washington State or USC to win the PAC12. Preferably as a 3 loss team!
  • Oklahoma to win the Big!2 – That early, dominate, win in Norman would be hard for the committee to ignore.

See how much simpler the path to the playoff was before Michigan lost? We can’t ever count on them… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do you think OSU gets in? How do you think this will play out over the next three weeks?

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Link – Islanders haven’t received any offers for Halak

“Staple said on Twitter that he thinks the Isles offering around Jaro had more to do with making a point than anything else, and I think that’s probably right on the money. Garth Snow doesn’t have much tolerance for the nonsense that went on this weekend, and he needed to send a message that it won’t be tolerated further.”

Say what you will about Garth, and I’ve been vocal in my opinion that he gotten this last off season all wrong, but he definitely doesn’t play games with players and agents. I was stunned that Walsh tweeted what he did about the Isles goalies this past weekend, because it turned the team into a soap opera out in public, but Snow was sure to put an immediate end to that.

Of course, the situation with the goalies is stupid and remains that way, so let’s not forget it was Snow it has let that go on in the first place!

https://www.sny.tv/islanders/news/islanders-havent-received-any-offers-for-halak/207691608?cid=Yahoo&p=ya5nbcs&yptr=yahoo

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Link – Investigation of Baylor University said Art Briles failed to alert police of allegations

“In May, Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton released a scathing report about Baylor’s handling of sexual assault allegations. That report led to the demotion and then resignation of former university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr; the firing of football coach Art Briles; the suspension and then resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw; and the firings of multiple athletic department employees.

The Journal on Friday quoted Baylor regents who detailed some of the Pepper Hamilton findings for the first time. According to the regents, in at least one case, Briles “knew about an alleged incident and didn’t alert police, the school’s judicial-affairs staff or the Title IX office in charge of coordinating the school’s response to sexual violence.””

This is the sort of information that had not bee n public before and had led many people to feel that Art Briles was simply a scapegoat and would have no problem working in the NCAA or even NFL again as soon as this attention sort of blew over.

If he knew about a sexual assault involving even one of his players and didn’t report it, neither one of those organizations should ever want to be connected to him. Hiring Briles at this point would only go to show that you don’t care about sexual assault. Probably not a good image.
http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/17912838/investigation-baylor-university-said-art-briles-failed-alert-police-allegations

Link – Both of last season’s MLS Cup finalists missed playoffs for first time ever

jarmoluk / Pixabay

jarmoluk / Pixabay

Neither team was struck by extraordinarily bad luck. They were simply not very good and that’s why their seasons are over. From the MLS Cup final to out of the playoffs in 11 months.

Is this parity, or was let year just a case of two not very good teams getting on a hot streak? And if it was the latter, does that mean that there are no very good MLS teams that could consistently win over streaky teams? Either way, it’s been surprising to see both of those teams fall from the heights so quickly.

http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/both-of-last-seasons-mls-cup-finalists-missed-playoffs-for-first-time-102416

Link – WATCH: Ben Simmons didn’t give a damn about school at LSU

His journey from the preps to the pros is being chronicled in “One & Done,” a Showtime series set to premiere Nov. 4. The latest trailer for the show highlights his dichotomous experience at LSU, during which he was once benched because of his academic struggles.

I have to be getting better every day,” said Simmons, who averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 2015-16. “I’m not worried about my oceanography class.”

Is there anything in sports more fraudulent that the one-and-done basketball phenomenon? The NBA age-limit created this monster, if I were the NCAA I’d be doing whatever I can to help someone who wants to challenge it. It’s not making college basketball better, that’s for sure.

http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/ben-simmons-76ers-injury-update-return-one-and-done-showtime-sports-video/3amkzip8slkh10odutlzcpub5

Did Garth Snow Get The Roster All Wrong?

cropped-IMG_0073.jpgI know that Isles fans, especially those of us on Twitter, often get labeled as being a bit, shall we say, reactionary? Either this team is awesome or it’s worse than it’s ever been and there’s not a lot of in between.

Given that, and at the risk of being labeled a reactionary, I do think this 1-3 start falls directly on the makeup of this team, and I do believe it’s all wrong.

In fact, I even said it after game 1, a 5-3 loss to the Rangers.

The reason I said that had everything to do with the decisions that we made leading up to opening night, and what I’ve seen since then only seems to play into that fear.

Case in point. Isles fans were excited that Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier made the team, but thus far Barzal has played in one game, and while Beauvillier did get his first NHL goal last night, he’s currently playing 8-9 minutes per game in the 3 he has played. Seems to me that both of them are really only here temporarily and will be heading back to juniors shortly. You can’t keep them here and not give them ice time, that’s not how you develop young players. But, by keeping both of them on the roster, the Islanders had to jettison P.A. Parenteau, and keep only 6 defensemen. Those choices seem to be impacting what is going on with the team. First, on defense, instead of Seidenberg being a 7th D, he’s playing in the third pair with Thomas Hickey, and Calvin deHaan is playing on the 2nd pair with Johnny Boychuk. I haven’t really been impressed with those pairings, let alone the top pair of Hamonic and Leddy. How different would the matchups be in they could play Pulock with Hamonic and deHaan with Hickey? We don’t know, because there’s no roster spot available.

Up front, you would think that after John Tavares spent almost all of the preseason at the World Cup, that you’d maybe start the season playing him with someone he already knows, Strome, Lee, Nelson, etc. (Or even, you know the guy who was signed for that very purpose?) Instead we were “treated” to a line of Ladd-Tavares-Chimera in game one. Three guys who have never played together. It’s probably not surprising that the Isles have gotten nothing from their top line thus far.

Meanwhile if you look at the ice time, it would appear that the Isles 4th line is their second line, Josh Bailey is playing more than anyone, and the guys getting the least ice time are the ones this team desperately needs more production from, but it’s hard to get much when they play 10 minutes and under per game.

In short, the Islanders let a bunch of free agents walk away, only partially replaced them (Ladd, Chimera, Seidenberg in, Martin. Okposo, Neilsen, Strait out), find themselves wholly dependent on getting more consistency and production from their young players, who aren’t getting much ice time at all in order to produce those numbers.

And, of course, the Islanders also have a roster spot in use by their third string goalie, again.

This is not a plan. The team is 1-3, already falling behind in a highly competitive division. Instead of stringing along the roster, it’s time to get it to the point you would play out the season. That means, if Barzal and Beauvillier are destined for juniors, go ahead and send at least Barzal instead of sitting him. If Beauvillier is going to stay, go ahead and play he and Lee on the wings on the first two lines. Look, I like josh Bailey, he brings a lot to the game, but he’s a 3rd line guy at best offensively. If he’s going to play 22-23 minutes, we know where this goes, and it’s mediocre. I’d rather see the team live and die with one their young guns playing alongside Tavares, whether that is Lee, Beauvillier, Ho Sang, etc. They have more upside for scoring than the guys playing there now, and maybe, just maybe, their play-making ability will help get Ladd going, because he seems kind of lost out there.

On defense, the same holds true. Jack Capuano can talk about wanting his d more involved offensively, but look at those 6 again. Where is that going to come from? We know what this group can do, there’s not much room to grow with that group. There are, however, guys like Pulock who could bring some of that to the table.

Yes, it’s a risk, but let’s face facts here. The Islanders, on paper, are not as good as they were last season. The only way they get better is by improvement from within, which comes from young players stepping into new, expanded, roles. Look around the league at the teams who have some real young talent coming to the forefront early in the season, while the Islanders roll out Jason Chimera or Josh Bailey on their top line. Not much to get excited about there.

Brand me a negative nelly if you will, but I just don’t see how this team competes as it is currently constructed. It’s back to being a borderline playoff team instead of one taking the next step toward competing for a Stanley Cup. That’s not good enough.

Link – Once A Strength, Center Position Now A Mystery For Blue Jackets

Three years ago, the Blue Jackets’ center position was the strength of the club: Ryan Johansen, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Derek MacKenzie and Mark Letestu were the spine of the forwards.

Through trades and free agency (both coming and going), the Blue Jackets have transformed the position, so that it now reads: Brandon Dubinsky, Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, William Karlsson and rookie Lukas Sedlak.

Rule of thumb in the NHL: good centers make good wingers look great; poor centers make good wingers look poor.

The Blue Jackets are 0-2 after losses to Boston and San Jose to open the season. Several of their highest-paid forwards are struggling and the lines aren’t making sense already.

I lived in Columbus when the Blue Jackets got started, and for a number of years afterward, and during that time, I can’t even comprehend how much ink and web space was taken up talking about how the Jackets didn’t have a true #1 center, that they had never had one and because of that the slotting of centers and playing time was always a matchup problem and that was why they continued to struggle.

Then, suddenly the Blue Jackets had an All-Star center. In fact, he won the MVP of the All-Star game didn’t he?

Of course, he then got run out of town and traded for a young defenseman, because he was “out of shape”, or some such thing when the team started last season horribly.

We also won’t mention that guy who played center in New York for years in the top 6, and now in Ottawa does the same who was part of that ill-fated Marian Gaborik trade.

Turn the calendar ahead a year and here we are, with another bad start to the season staring them in the face, and we’re back to talking about how not having a true number one muddles the line combinations and make it difficult for wingers to score, and on and on.

Maybe it’s time the Dispatch started to blame management for the teams problems?

http://bluejacketsxtra.dispatch.com/content/blogs/puck-rakers/2016/10/a-week-of-work.html