As you’ve all probably seen today, the Islanders placed Jaroslav Halak on waivers. As I said earlier on Twitter when the story broke, you can’t really argue with the attempt to maybe try and get someone to take on his contract for nothing, because he hasn’t really been very good so far this season, but the whole goaltending situation in Brooklyn only shows us, once again, how poorly the off season was handled.
Let’s review. Last season the Islanders organization backed themselves into a corner by claiming Jean Francois Berube off waivers, effectively adding a third goalie who couldn’t be sent to Bridgeport without clearing waivers, which clearly was a risk. So, in stead, he played on all of 7 NHL games, and 5 AHL games during a “conditioning” stint. That’s a 24 year old goalie who got almost no playing time to continue his development, and really only got that much because Halak got injured and he became the backup.
So what does the team do this season? The same thing. So now they have a 25 year old goalie who rarely plays, and when he has played, hasn’t been very good. (I don’t know, maybe he’s not in game shape?)
Meanwhile the returning from injury starter played a ton of minutes leading Team Europe to the World Cup championship game instead of having a preseason to work with his teammates, and who simply hasn’t been as good as he was previously for the Isles, or in the World Cup. (In 21 games he’s got a 3.23 GAA and .904 Save %, compared to 2.30 and .919 in 36 games last season and 2.43 and .914 the season before.)
Look, it’s understandable that Halak should sit in favor of Thomas Greiss, who at 2.49 and .922 has been the Isles best goalie by far, albeit in only 14 games, but waiving him is a direct result of simply not having enough roster spots, which brings us back to Berube. Yup, he’s still sitting there, and in only 4 games this season, his numbers are worse than Jaro’s, Will that improve as he becomes the main backup? One would expect, but he’s not really a proven commodity, is he?
My point though, is that the Isles have been playing this weird brand of roster circus since day one this season. That was the day that the front office decided they wanted to take a look at Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, while also keeping three goalies on the roster. So, waive goodbye to having 7 defensemen active, and waive bye to newly signed PA Parenteau.
Look, I’ve had discussions about PA for awhile now with various fans, and I’m not going to argue that PA was ever the long term solution to a first line wing. He’s not. In fact, I would argue that all three free agents the Isles signed, Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and PA, were simply bridges. They were brought in to fill part of the roles left by the departures, and bridge the gap between those guys and the young kids being ready to step into those roles. PA would have been a fine bridge on a one-year contract. Instead, he has 10 goals for the Devils, and the Islanders have spent half a season still having three goalies and a roster full of forwards that includes only one player with more goals that PA Parenteau. This is all on Islander management.
I made the argument at the end of last season that Garth Snow and Jack Capuano would probably be given this season as a freebie, a reward for finally winning a playoff series, even though the Islanders were not a better team in 2015-2016 than the year before. They just got a better first round matchup. In fact, the season left many of us questioning whether the Islanders could actually develop young talent at all. Last season, the Islanders taking the next step to being a contender was dependent on young forwards taking the next step in their development, which didn’t happen. Given the roster turnover this season, it was clear those guys had to be a lot better if this team was going to be competitive in a very tough division, and the free agents were going to have to fill in the missing roles. Looking at it now, you could argue that Anders Lee has stepped up his game, and that’s about it.
This season has also added more questions about what they are thinking. Why, for example, do you bring in two new wingers for Tavares, who was going to miss training camp because of the World Cup, and then not ever play them together? PA was gone before he ever stepped on the ice with JT in a regular season game, and Ladd spent all of about two games there before being demoted. Could no one have seen the possibility that it might take a few games for JT and his new teammates to develop some cohesiveness? Did Snow and Capuano not have a plan for this?
Thus, the Islanders are back to being the circus clowns of the NHL. Add in a bad start by their starting goaltender, and marked improvement by many other Metropolitan Division teams, and you have the last place New York Islanders.
That sort of finish gets coaches and GMs fired. Hopefully the next group can actually develop young talent, because fans might be looking at yet another rebuild if something doesn’t happen fast with these kids.