The 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 is 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.