So after thirteen games, the New York Islanders are a little better than they were a few days ago. Every player save for Mathew Barzal now has a goal, but he’ll eventually get his chance, maybe. The goaltending gave up less than 3 goals and did not give up a goal with less than three minutes to play and the Islanders are now 1-0-2 in there last 3. So instead of writing with what’s wrong with them because I’ll let social media handle that, I’ll just go over what I see/hear/read from a distance two states away and give my take on a more positive twist. Here are my thoughts…..
1. I have to admit, I like the Bailey-Tavares-Clutterbuck line. Whether it’s long term or not, time will tell. However, you can see the chemistry between all three of them and in my opinion, Josh Bailey looks like he may have a break out season if he can finish his goals and put them in the back of the net. He’s been close, which is why I think you’ll see more from him. He’s currently on pace for 45 points which is a career best. Can he reach 50 or more points? Possibly. Clutterbuck and Tavares are playing like best friends who haven’t seen each other in a while and they’re just picking up right where they left off. They dominated the OHL, but can they do damage together in the NHL?
2. Some are still complaining about the offense. There’s currently nothing wrong with the overall team offense. When the Islanders are on pace to better last season, and on the edge of the top ten in the NHL, it should give fans some comfort to know that maybe, just maybe, the Isles can still get out of the hole they created. One issue has been the forwards. Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson are both on pace to hit their respective averages (13, 19). Nelson is a little lower, but either one of them should improve at some point. Anders Lee however needs to come around and quick. I also like Brock Nelsons line with Lee and Jason Chimera. I like the fact that both drive to the net when anyone shoots and that’ll give both of them an opportunity to score.
3. Andrew Ladd, Nikolay Kulemin, and Jason Chimera all got their respective monkeys off their backs by getting their first goals against Vancouver on Monday. Should they all have a an extra goal? Yes. Maybe Ladd should have a little more, but look at Shane Prince, who is on pace for 29 goals this year and has 6 points in 8 games. Anthony Beauvillier, someone we all thought would be back in juniors 3 weeks ago recorded a goal and extra forward Alan Quine has a goal as well, not to mention the offensive juggernaut known as Dennis Seidenberg, who already has 4 goals this season. Once again, the depth of this organization is what keeps this team going.
4. Losing Travis Hamonic for 4-6 weeks will be disastrous only if Adam Pelech can’t play along side Nick Leddy. Ryan Pulock may return sooner than Hamonic and that may also help reduce the stress on the defense, not to mention help a power-less powerplay. What I’m curious to see is if Pelech performs so well that Calvin de Haan becomes more of a tradable asset in the near future.
5. The goaltending is just not good. Say whatever you want about the goaltending drama, but the bottom line is this: both Jaro Halak and Thomas Greiss are not performing to their averages. Halak has put the Isles in a situation where he has to be the number one goalie because he needs to have a certain amount of practice time and needs to continue to play games in order to keep his game level up to his “standard.” Where as Thomas Greiss (and the rest of the Islanders) had a really bad game against Tampa Bay and may just need a few games to get his numbers back down to what we’re used to seeing. Berube will have to wait until Halak is traded, but nothing will shock me if he’s next years starting goaltender for the Isles.
6. The coaching. Has Islanders coach Jack Capuano lost the dressing room? Now I’ve obviously never been in any Islanders locker room for a post game interview, so I can’t tell you the real mood, but I’m going to write not yet. When he wanted his defenseman to be more involved in the offense, they responded and now the defense is on pace for 77 goals. No that’s not a mistype. In fact, Dennis Seidenberg is on pace for 25 goals, and no one saw that coming. Will the defense be able to hold this kind of pace? Don’t count on it. Capuano also has to manage a three goalie circus a little while longer, which is not of his doing. Ask yourselves this: If the Isles were say 5-3-4, would anyone be talking about the three-headed monster? Also remember that Ladd, Chimera and Seidenberg were all brought in to change the culture of the dressing room. Throw in 2 junior players to go along with first full years of Alan Quine and Shane Prince and you’re looking at close to 1/3 of a team that needs to learn some chemistry and a new locker room. Change doesn’t come easy and it does take some getting used to. He may have internal issues with Strome, Lee, and Nelson which may be a bigger issue, but for now they have to work out their differences if they all want to keep their jobs.
7. Special teams: For the power-play, see Pulock above. As for the penalty kill, some of the players just have to stop with the stupid, untimely penalties that have cost the Isles points in the standings.
So what have I seen in thirteen games? Depth, like years before has once again kept the Isles afloat. Have I looked at the standings? Yes. Are the standings etched in stone? Not even close. Am I worried? Not at all. Am I concerned? Yes. When do I become worried? Usually around game 20-25 and I really look more into the standings by game 30. Remember I look at the pace, not just the current points. The Islanders seemed to have found some chemistry with the John Tavares and Brock Nelson Lines. I like Shane Prince with Ryan Strome and the current Casey Cizikas line may score more goals than his line from last year. The defensive pairs are almost set and we’ll find out if Adam Pelech is a missing piece. The goaltenders should get into some kind of groove at this point and must steal games. As for the locker room, getting away from Brooklyn may be the best recipe for success and it gives them time to get on the same page, including the coaches. Is it possible the Islanders chemistry comes together between now and game 25? It looks like it just might. I’ve written this before, it’s not Ladd or Chimera or Seidenberg that will get the Isles into the top of the NHL again. That responsibility still belongs to Strome, Lee and Nelson. If you feel that the Islanders are screwed because of that sentence, you may be right, but this team will only go as far as John Tavares can take them. The strong organizational depth and a little push from those three can go a longer way to right the ship. PK