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Islanders Post-Mortem – Closing in on 300 Goals Against

Hopefully, the Islanders will actually fall short of the 300 goals against mark. (There’s still one game left though, and 7 GA is not completely out of the question.)

The thing is, in order to truly evaluate players this season, we have to keep this fact in the back of our minds. The Islanders didn’t just give up the most goals in the NHL this season, they’ve given up the most in years. Approaching 300 goals against is quite an accomplishment in this NHL day and age. The last teams to actually make it to 300 were the 2006-07 Flyers, and the Penguins and Capitals the year prior. The last Islander team to give up 300 was the illustrious 95-96 team.

Those teams were absolutely awful. Most of them finished below 60 points on the season and wound up with top draft picks for their efforts.

The 2017-2018 Islanders, however, have 78 points. They’re much closer to a .500 team based on the odd NHL points system than any of those other teams. They’ve scored the 8th-most goals in the league. They’re not untalented, they are simply really, really, easy to score against.

That makes it difficult to evaluate the individual numbers. Yes, Tavares, Lee and Bailey are putting together a great season, Eberle has been more than we expected, and Barzal is doing things that only the most rarefied rookies have ever done. Guys are scoring at career-high levels across the lineup, all the while the team can’t stop anyone.

Is it the defense? Has the goalies been pretty bad? Is it the system?

Yes.

That’s the hard part of analyzing the team’s season. They were so bad we don’t know where the line between crappy defense, bad goaltending and crummy backchecking by the forwards begins and ends. It’s all of those things!

But, here’s my question. How much of the offensive production do we need to be skeptical about precisely because this team didn’t bother with playing much defense?

Earlier in the year, I started to look at the Islanders like the old Loyola Marymount college basketball teams. Their “strategy” seemed to be “We’re going to go out and score 100+ points, you have to keep up with that pace”. There wasn’t a lot of defense, or clock management, etc. At times I honestly thought the Isles strategy might be “Let them shoot so we can get the puck back that way”. I don’t have any other explanation for giving up 50 shots on goal over and over.

So, if the Islanders system required them to actually limit shots against, focus more on possession, etc. would the top two lines have still produced at that rate?

We may never know.

What we do know, is that those top two lines produced at a fabulous rate, and everything else about this team was, generally, abysmal.

So where do we go from here?

Well answer number one depends on John Tavares. He let this linger all season and didn’t really say anything one way or the other about his impending free agency. That’s his right, and it’s his right if he wants to sign elsewhere come July 1. It’s also our right as fans to hate him if/when that happens. I have zero qualms about any of that.

The second part of the answer will come in goal. Jaroslav Halak is also a UFA. I don’t see a lot of fans clamoring for him to be brought back. That’s understandable given the way this season has gone. But the Islanders need a goaltender. If they go into next season with Greiss and Gibson, look out. How they get a quality starter though, is an open question. There’s no sure-fire free agent to go after. It’s going to require making a deal.

Defense kind of looks the same way. There are a lot of questions back there. Is deHaan going to stay healthy or do they let him leave via free agency? How well will Boychuk hold up as he gets older? Will Hickey be back? What options are out there to improve the defense? What would it take to trade for a top pair defensemen? Clearly, Nick Leddy can’t play against the top lines, someone needs to.

Lastly, what about those 3-4 lines? There was not a lot of quality hockey going on there. How many of those players have any trade value?

As I said though, this all starts with Tavares, and his salary. If he leaves, the Isles have plenty of cap space to go after some serious upgrades in other areas, and I’d expect a very different looking team next year. If he comes back, they have less cap space, but still flexibility to make some changes through trades and incoming prospects.

Either way, this team needs to look different. What’s on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office didn’t work this year. You can’t swap out a couple of 3rd liners and expect that it’ll be much different next year.

 

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Link – Syracuse’s 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable

I don’t disagree with this, but let’s not blame Syracuse for the problems of all of college basketball.

“Syracuse’s zone exposes why college basketball is an inferior product compared to the NBA. Nobody can shoot. Coaches are too married to their precious offenses. The players are not given enough creative freedom. So, against a zone, teams invariably resort to whipping the ball around the perimeter for 25 seconds until they’re forced to jack up a contested jumper late in the shot clock.”

I compared Syracuse to Kentucky on Twitter over the weekend, not because Syracuse has a ton of top-level NBA talent, in fact that don’t and rarely ever do. But the genius of Calipari was recognizing that the best way to be competitive with the one and done rule was to go out and recruit a whole bunch of top kids every single year, and accepting that they’d leave a year later. He didn’t try to coach them beyond that, or make wholesale changes to their games, he just recruited more talent and let it play. It doesn’t always work, but they are much better than most NCAA teams.

Syracuse, and Jim Boeheim, also recognized the situation and took advantage, just in a different way. They recognized how college basketball was getting worse and worse at fundamental basketball. They can’t recruit with the Kentuckys, Dukes, Kansas, but they can compete by forcing teams to shoot well and move the ball. Most can’t do it. Most have played one on one matchups and have no idea how to attack a zone this good in an actual game.

I’m a Syracuse fan. I’m under no illusion that this is anything more than a mediocre team. But, the 2-3 zone they play forces teams to shoot and play good basketball to beat them. That has them in yet another Sweet 16 despite being a very mediocre team.

A lot of more talented teams are at home.

So yeah, Syracuse is playing ugly, ugly basketball. The fact that it works is why they do it. Don’t blame them for playing to their strengths, it’s what good coaches do.

Syracuse's 2-3 zone works but it makes college basketball unwatachable

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Link – NBA making plans to get involved at high school level, once again

This has always made more sense than the one and done rule.

“A plan is expected to include the NBA starting relationships with elite teenagers while they are in high school, providing skills to help them develop both on and off the court. It would ultimately open an alternate path to the NBA besides playing in college and a way 18-year-olds could earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League, sources said.”

Could it be that the NCAA’s current mess is creating a situation where the NBA commissioner is ready to cut them out of the elite basketball player development model completely? Or at least is willing to compete with the NCAA instead of trying to work with them?

And would it be better for the NCAA to get out of the elite basketball player development market and be a truly amateur sport again? There’d still be a lot of good basketball players, but this might take some of the money/influence out of their game, which the FBI might be forcing them to do anyway.

I think what we have now is going to look a lot different in a few years.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22615784/nba-making-plans-get-involved-high-school-level-once-again-espn

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Link – College sports warn against moves to legalize betting

Oh I think we already know that this is going to happen.

“Noting that unpaid college athletes are especially vulnerable to large amounts of money flowing through their game and that “there is a serious concern as to where all this new money would go,” McMillen said that nearly 80 percent of the members of his group were opposed to legalized sports betting.

“These kids are on scholarship. Listen, we’ve seen point-shaving scandals before,” he said. “We’re concerned.”

They absolutely should be concerned. On the other hand, they should have been concerned about agents working with schools to get kids money and this latest news from the FBI shows that they did a pretty horrible job at finding that, so why should we think stuff like this isn’t already going on?

It will, however, be yet another case of everyone making money from college sports except the kids actually playing. So why shouldn’t they bend the rules a bit?

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/college-sports-warn-against-moves-legalize-betting-n848856

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Link – College football heads in wrong direction with largest attendance drop in 34 years

Why? Lots of reasons I suspect, but let’s look at the easy one first:

“Bowl game attendance also declined for the seventh straight year to an average of 40,506 in the 40 games. That marks a 23 percent drop-off in average bowl attendance since 2010.”

The playoff has created three really interesting bowl matchups. The other 37 bowl games? Glorified exhibitions that are totally meaningless. It’s no wonder that fans aren’t all that interested in traveling and attending these games the way they used to be.

But what about the larger issue, the trend of fewer people showing up even in the regular season?

Yes, I’d agree that students don’t turn out the way they used to, and that’s part of it. They aren’t looking at football as a huge part of the college experience, although I suspect many of them tailgate and watch on TV. It’s just spending 4+ hours in the stadium doesn’t really interest them as much as it once did.

It’s also that many games college program fan bases are in “playoff or bust” mode, meaning that once it becomes clear this isn’t a playoff team, why bother showing up? Especially if you’re playing some FCS team that you don’t care about at all.

Also, tickets are expensive. That’s a lot to spend to take the kids to a game.

Lastly, football in general is going through a change within our culture due to head injuries. There are a lot of people questioning whether to even watch football any more, especially at this level where players aren’t even being paid for the risk they are taking. There’s some moral ambiguity in being a football fan in 2018, and that’s going to keep some people away.

Mostly though, I think young people simply don’t want to dedicate their entire Saturday to a football game. Given the pregame events, the length of games themselves, and the limitations on what they can do in the stadium, why not just watch on TV, or just catch the highlights later?

And that’s not good news for the NCAA.

https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/college-football-heads-in-wrong-direction-with-largest-attendance-drop-in-34-years/