Link – Islanders Are Better After Drafts

This was really the big question after an eventful week in Islanders Country. After the wheeling and dealing, were the Islanders better or not?

This article makes the argument that they are, in fact, better. I could see that. Not everyone agrees.

The thing I think a lot of Isles fans are missing, however, is just how bad things looked going into the exhibition draft. The Islanders were a team pretty much at the salary cap for next season already, that didn’t make the playoffs. That’s a disaster.

So yes, giving up a first round pick to “protect” core players, and then trading away one of them, Hamonic, for draft picks seems a little crazy, but that pick was the price you pay for two things, getting Grabovski’s contract off the cap next season, and getting Vegas to agree to pick a player who they could have just as easily signed next week.

The truth of the matter is, Berube wasn’t coming back. If Vegas wanted to, they could have picked any one of a number of Islanders roster players, and also signed Berube as an unrestricted free agent. By taking Berube, and the cap hit that Grabo stood to take next season, the Golden Knights did the Isles a real favor. A first round pick was their price, and Garth Snow paid it to get some cap flexibility, that then allowed him to make the deal for Eberle.

Will the picks they got for Hamonic turn into Matt Duchene or someone else to be the Isles second line center? Who knows? It could happen, it may not. If it doesn’t, the Isles have an obvious whole in their lineup unless Barzal would be capable of going straight into that spot. I wouldn’t count on that either.

My guess is that this will play out over the Summer, but given the question around this and the necessary contract extension for Calvin deHaan, I don’t see the Islanders making any free agent additions come July. There’s not much room on the roster or under the cap, to do that unless Garth is truly giving up on getting another center.

In the end, whether this team is enough to get back to the playoffs will come down to how well some of the kids play. Ho Sang, Barzal, Beauvillier, Pulock and Pelech are all going to be counted on this season. It’s their time just as much as it’s JT, Ladd and Eberle’s time.


Islanders Fall Short of Playoffs – Post Mortem

After a late run that ultimately fell a point short of the final playoff spot, there’s a lot of speculation over what went wrong with the New York Islanders this season. Was it the free agent signings, was it letting Kyle Okposo leave, was it the lack of a true stud winger for John Tavares, was it the still inconsistent play of Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome, was it the injuries on defense, was it Halak’s struggles early?

I have quite a few thoughts on all of those things but in looking over the numbers compared to the last season, one number leaps right off the page for me.

It’s not the offense. Even after losing two gifted offensive players, the Islanders scored more goals in 2016-2017 than they did in 2015-2016.

They gave up 26 more goals though. In short, the defense and goaltending did not live up to expectations. They were among the worst teams in goals against in the Eastern Conference.

Last season, I thought the Islanders were basically the same team as the year before, just with a luckier first round match up. They didn’t improve as much as it appeared by getting their first series win in 23 years. Going in to this season, I thought the free agent signings would at least let the team tread water on offense for one season. (Chimera and Ladd’s age prevent it from being a long-term solution). They actually did that.

On the other side of the ice though, despite having essentially the same players on defense and in goal, they were significantly worse. I expect that end of the ice to see some changes this off season.

There is a problem with the Isles going into the off season though. They have 3 pending UFAs on the roster; Berube, Gionta and Seidenberg. The rest of the current roster is pretty much under contract. There’s not much cap room at all. The team might lose a player in the expansion draft, but I’m not even sure Las Vegas would take anyone the Isles would make available. (Popular opinion is they lose Hickey or deHaan, but really LV might have better or less expensive options on defense). I don’t really expect any of the 3 UFA’s back, which would just be the death knell to Garth Snow‘s infatuation with J.F. Berube that has resulted in a horrific three goalie system for two seasons.

If the Isles are going to improve the first line, or the defense, they’re going to have to do it through trade, or through youth.

We’ll see what June and July bring, but I don’t see big changes coming in Brooklyn, and that doesn’t bode well either. The hope for the Isles might just that Josh Ho Sang, Anthony Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier taking over roster spots for all of the third line talent on the current roster, and being the first and second lines, and Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, et al taking over the same spots and minutes of the under performing defense from this season. Most of all, they need a full season of good play from their goalies, which didn’t happen.

Teams that don’t get good goaltending, tend not to make the playoffs. For as much as the Isles owe Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak next season, they need more.