Hockey from the Blind Side, The Sting hasn’t Quite Left Me

Yes, the sting of having witnessed the New York Islanders eliminated from the 2016 playoffs a week ago still has not completely subsided in me as of yet. I don’t know exactly why, but I think this time was even sharper a hit to me than the game 7 lackluster effort that ended the Isles playoff run in the first round last season.

I have been asked by a few people what my thoughts on the season happen to be. Do I consider the season a “success” or “failure”, or what should Garth Snow do in the off season, are some of the things I have been asked.

To be honest, I have yet to really sort my thoughts out as of yet. I really am not sure how I feel about the season or the future of this team. I am hoping by writing this post that I will gain some perspective myself as to what I am thinking or how I feel.

I think that the biggest “problem” I have dealt with has ben the “expectation” of this season. I felt this team was capable of doing more, and though I think the Tampa Bay Lightning proved to be the “better team” in the playoffs, I think the Islanders potentially should have been the “better team”. That is where my mixed emotions truly start and end as far as looking back on the season.When I think back on the season, it was really almost a foreshadowing as to what would come. How many times did we write about the concerns we had for the lack of consistency and the evenings the Islanders won games in which they were probably outplayed and out worked? How many times did Thomas Greiss or Jaroslav Halak steal games for the team? Despite the couple of long winning streaks, how many times were we sometimes perplexed by the success?

That intangible aspect to the play of the team that seemed to be missing most nights was really what ended up dooming them in the playoffs in my opinion. We saw flashes of it at times, but let’s face it. The Islanders got out of the Florida series simply because John Tavares and Thomas Greiss took it upon themselves to Will the team to victories.

In the series with the Lightning, the sixty minute effort was not there for every game. They played a great game #3 and should have won it, and they played good enough to win the 4th game. However, they could not hold leads and lacked the killer instinct to close the deal. In the end, Tampa’s experience and patience and will to win was too much for the Isles to overcome. Don’t even get me started on what in the world happened in the final game as that was a disgrace in my opinion.

Do I think getting out of the first round was a “success” for the New York Islanders? Yes, I do. Do I feel another 100 point season was an accomplishment? Absolutely so.

The reality is, from those perspectives, I feel the Isles took steps forward and continued to show that they are a contender in the eastern conference. They belonged in the playoff picture, and there is no doubt in my mind that they will be back again next season.

Nevertheless, they did not play to their potential on too many nights. Too many guys took on the role of “passengers” as Jack Capuano calls it, and there were too many regressions by guys counted on as ones who were supposed to take steps forward. Plain and simple, though the Isles scored a lot of goals, the secondary scoring fell short of my expectations, especially in the playoffs. John Tavares was shut down in the Tampa series, and, thus, so was the Islander scoring overall.

Just to answer some other questions I have read in other places or have been asked by friends or family:

• Do I think Jack Capuano and his staff should return for next season?
Yes, without a doubt I do. Coaching was not the problem. The team that took the ice fell short in effort and results, and not the coaching.

• Should Garth Snow be replaced?
No way. I think he had a very solid plan and if all things went accordingly, this team should be playing in the third round. The pieces were there, and it wasn’t Snow’s fault that they didn’t come together.

• Of the major unrestricted free agents the Islanders will be dealing with, who should they make sure return?
In a perfect world, I’d certainly like to see Nielsen, Okposo and Martin all be back. That is my opinion, though I realize more than a few people consider Okposo expendable if push comes to shove. Unfortunately, as a realist, personally, I am prepared to deal with Kyle wearing another team’s jersey come October.

• Should the Islanders go out and sign or trade for someone to play with JT on the top line?
If it’s possible, absolutely. I don’t know how realistic that will turn out to be unless a trade is involved, but I am now convinced the forward compliment needs a boost from the outside.

• Should Jaro Halak be traded?
I think Jaro has pretty much answered that by his quotes at the end of the season. He doesn’t like the three goaltender system and I am of the mind that the trade for a perspective winger to play with Tavares could come through that avenue because of that. I would rather have a combination of two experienced goalies as we did this season, but I don’t think that will be the case come October.

• What should the defense look like next season?
With Travis Hamonic rescinding his trade request, that makes me feel a lot better about the defense. I think Ryan Pulock should certainly step into a role among the regular 6, and they have the depth to make training camp quite interesting. Based on what has happened in the past, though, don’t be surprised if Garth does go out and get another veteran to add to the mix as well.

• What should be done about Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson?
Nothing at all. I think they are part of the future of this team and I do not believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water. Nelson scored 26 goals last season, and I have no doubts that Strome is going to come into camp next year with a serious chip on his shoulder and spitting nails. They will both be OK in the future.

It will, without a doubt, be a very interesting summer for Garth Snow and the New York Islanders. It’s now time for me to sit back and observe what happens. I need to step away from hockey and enjoy some Mets baseball for a while …


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