November 21, 2018
As we sit about 20 games into the New York Islanders season, we’re looking at a team that will end up with just around…84 points, as I predicted in the preseason. They may even hit 90. Not that this team isn’t fun to watch. It’s probably culture shock for #IslesKoolAid to see a competent head coach run a team, but this roster isn’t exactly the thing that lights the world on fire. It probably doesn’t even make the playoffs. But there is hope in the transition.
Ideally they’ll fall out of the playoffs late in the season as they play competitive hockey to ensure a shot at entering and hopefully winning the draft lottery. Ideally they’ll show enough promise so that their head coach, Barry Trotz, doesn’t exercise his out clause to go coach an expansion team. Ideally this will be their only bad season, bad enough to have the NHL again rig a draft lottery prior to the Belmont move, or high enough to make a pick a tasty trade piece. Ideally they’ll assess the roster and decide who stays and who goes.
What have we learned this year? We’ve seen a very capable and eventual hall of fame head coach for the first time since Al Arbour. Barry Trotz has tightened up pretty much the same defense that was horrible last season and have seen a decreased goals against. The offense isn’t scoring at the same rate based on the loss of Snake and the devolution of Anthony Beauvilier, but overall the team is in better shape as compared to a year ago. The goaltending has played above expectations which is probably the work of the Islanders new and historically good goaltending coaches.
Their record at this point is 10-7-2 as we approach the traditional Thanskgiving eve game against the disgusting Rangers. What have we seen so far that gives us hope for the team? And what have we seen that gives us the shakes?
Mathew Barzal is still putting up points, but he’s not scoring goals. That’s a concern for the 20 goal scorer because the lack of goal scoring will lead defenses to focus on stopping his passing, which will take his game away. He’s already shown that he’s not exactly a first line center, a role that shockingly Brock Nelson is managing.
Josh Bailey is scoring goals. I’m stunned by this. Sure some of then go in off of defenders, but I can’t take away that my biggest complaint about Bailey is that he’s not a goal scorer and now he’s scoring goals. However, I also saw Bailey light the league on fire in the first 3 months of last season, and did so little in the 2018 portion. If he doesn’t score 20 for the first time in 11 years this season? He’s garbage.
Anders Lee is showing what hard work and skill looks like, as he assumed the team captaincy. I’d argue he’s a better captain than John Tavares for a number of reasons, including being college educated, a thoughtful speaker, not a robot, and a decent human being. However, he’s not worth an 8 year contract.
That kind of contract would absolutely hurt the team. Lee plays a physical game. He’s a late NHL bloomer- he wasn’t in the league at 18. He’s sort of old entering his unrestricted free agency. And “old” people break. Look at the Johnny Boychuk deal. It’s already bad, and it has years to go before it’s done. It hurt the team. Andrew Ladd? Deal already bad- and more than half paid- and it hurt the team. Players with that kind of mileage break down. A 5 year deal would be the smartest way to handle it. If maybe he’s an 8 year, $6 million player, than maybe he’s a 5 year, $7 million player. And yes I know those dollars are low for goal scorers, but he also gets no assists. He’s a one trick pony that will break.
I love him, but he is what he is.
The 73 4th liners? They’ve been solid. Chipping in goals, making key plays, and pretty much turning the hockey experts on their ear.
But there’s some bad. The defense, while improved, still looks bad. While Ryan Pulock has been continually progressing as a defenseman, Adam Pelech has been regressing if that’s even possible. Thomas Hickey seems less effective, Luca Sbisa is what he is, and Johnny Boychuk is continually bad. And Nick Leddy? He’s had games of Nick Leddy 3 years ago, and Nick Leddy of last year. Inconsistent.
Also bad? Andrew Ladd. They so overpaid him. People will argue that Ladd is doing better than Kyle Okposo, the man Ladd replaced, but #IslesKoolAid also overlooks that the Islanders could have signed ANYONE, and went with Ladd. Remember who was available that year? You could have had Eric Staal, and at less money. Or James Reimer for less money than Thomas Greiss. Or David Perron for 120+ points over the last 3 seasons for half the price of Ladd.
More bad? Anthony Beauvilier. 18 games to get his first assist. 19 games to get to 5 goals. 3 goals in one game. Reminds me of him getting 6 goals in his last 5 games to get to 20 goals. Streaky. Young. Affordable. TRADEABLE.
If Toronto is listening, I’d probably look to make a Leddy based trade for William Nylander. I’d look to make a Brock Nelson trade to shore up the defense- maybe Winnipeg for Jacob Trouba? I’d look to trade Beauvilier for a top defensive prospect. I’d look to resign Jordan Eberle at $6m per and if that’s not good for him, trade Eberle. After the John Tavares debacle, you can’t let assets leave for nothing.
Also, I don’t believe Nylander is worth $8 million dollars a year. Asking for that money makes his trade value lower. But I no longer feel Nick Leddy is worth $5.5 million. So losing Leddy, Beau, and Nelson, you’re losing a sizable chuck of the salary cap which allows maybe giving Nylander, a 60 point player, a significant deal. Or maybe, you don’t trade for Nylander. Maybe you free up cash to chase a free agent. Matt Duchene? Since the Islanders minors have just about zero centers and all wings, that’s not a nightmare. And Duchene is a better player than Nylander. He plays defense, for one. Also he’s scored more than 20 goals more than once.
But these are all ideas for moving ahead long term. Let’s look ahead short term.
The Islanders will beat the Rangers continuing their recent dominance over the over the hill Lundqvist, and will also have a chance to beat on former Islander Ryan Strome, who was supposed to be what Mat Barzal is. Some specific predictions:
– Barzal will have 2 points in returning to form against the Rangers
– The Islanders defense will find a way to chip in a goal
– The two teams will combine for more than 5 goals
So Islander fans, enjoy the game, and Ranger fans, be ready for an evening of sucking it. Also, be glad you’ll be at MSG, because you always lose in Brooklyn. You probably want the Islanders to move back to the Coliseum more than the Islander fans.