I said this on Twitter last night, and I want to expand on it a bit further, but before I do, let me just say this. I’ve been saying this over the last few weeks, not just over the last couple of losses. Even when they were on a winning streak, I felt this way about the team. In fact, it may have been most true then.
Isles goaltending this season has masked a lot of problems, the same ones we saw in playoffs, kids not developing, defense very “meh”.
— Mike McBride (@MikemacSports) December 20, 2015
The reason I have this opinion goes back to what the Isles did, or rather didn’t do, before the season started. They tweaked, but mostly stood pat. They lost Lubomir Visnovsky, but added Marek Zidlicky. They added a new backup goalie in Thomas Greiss. But otherwise, it was clear that Garth Snow and Isles management were counting on the young Islanders improving internally.
It hasn’t happened. The team that struggled with consistent scoring at the end of last season, and in the playoffs, still struggles with consistent scoring. The team with the clueless powerplay against the Caps in the playoffs, still has a pretty awful powerplay. The team with one line who consistently scored and others who were very, very streaky, still has that. In fact, even the one line hasn’t kept up with last season’s pace. John Tavares has 23 points in 31 games, after scoring 86 points last season.
I’d argue that the only Islander forward out-producing himself from last season is Frans Nielsen. That’s it. The guys we assumed would make the next step this season have either been about the same (Brock Nelson), or have taken a step back. (Anders Lee and Ryan Strome.)
At the same time, the defense isn’t really producing any goals either. Last season, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk combined for 19 goals. Through game 34 this season, Boychuk has the only three goals on the season from that pair.
Since the plan to get better through internal development hasn’t happened, the Isles are right where they were last year. They sit third in the Metro, and look like a first round loser, despite the fact that Halak and Greiss have been better in goal.
I think it’s also fair to question whether the Islanders can truly develop young talent. For all the hits (Tavares, Okposo, Neilsen) there are a lot of misses that can be seen with a quick look at the recent drafts choices, and a few that have never lived up to expectations. (Hello Josh Bailey!)
Perhaps the most interesting thing will be trying to see where this team goes forward. Travis Hamonic and his trade request are still out there, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen are still potential UFA’s, and there are young players in the pipeline with a lot of promise, but does the team of Snow and Jack Capuano have what it takes to turn this into a Stanley Cup winner?
I’m not convinced of that, but I also hope I’m wrong.