Elliotte Friedman has been a must-read and must-follow for all hockey fans for years. His “30 Thoughts” blogs on Sportsnet, and his work as a hockey insider and reporter for their national NHL coverage and Hockey Night in Canada is a gold-standard.
With the Islanders in a bit of free-fall, a fair amount of fan panic, disappointment, and a thick blanket of hysteria/anger/loathing has developed on social media sites, boards and just in-general. I thought it would be good to borrow Elliotte’s “30 Thoughts” motif for an ‘Islescentric’ view of things.
- Jason Chimera becoming available is why a deal to Matt Martin was taken off the table at the last minute. Chimera would have brought a speed dynamic to the 4th line. So why hasn’t he been used on the 4th line at all?
- My turn for a spitball here… but what it might look like IS that the Islanders had hoped to move Nikolay Kulemin off the team this summer, hoping to have a taker, at the cost of perhaps a pick… but had to change gears when they saw the costs of top prospects to take on contracts that was going on with Chicago’s trade with Carolina. So instead, Kulemin was moved for line 4 use, but offers none of why Chimera was coveted… no speed. In fact with all the line changes I can’t recall Chimera ever placed with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
- Speaking of Clutterbuck, still can’t see the Isles being able to compete with free agency in getting him a 4-year deal next summer. I believe that is what it will take. And despite seeing him on the top line…. he is still a 4th liner player who can sub on a line or two when needed.
- Brock Nelson’s play, seems one of the few bright spots this season along with Anthony Beauvillier making the team, Shane Prince coming along, and their depth pick-up of Dennis Seidenberg.
- George McPhee… who was NEVER part of the Isles with any connection with Ledecky… was Garth Snow’s agent early in his career, and remained a close friend. McPhee was very impressed with the Isles use of analytics and seems to be operating with some sense of analytics use over in Las Vegas. Is this all he has or will poach from the NY Islanders? Probably not. He will at least grab one key young player via the expansion draft. Las Vegas goes full tiller this summer…. and one wonders what they have up their sleeve.
- Which really makes this year… from Ownership on down to players… about EVALUATION…. whether at 5-8-4 or at 17-0. The Islanders really need to determine who/what they have in their young players in order to prepare for the expansion draft and future.
Who is Anders Lee? Who is Ryan Strome? Who is Brock Nelson? Who is Calvin de Haan?
- Why was Andrew Ladd tossed onto the back 6? Andrew Ladd might not have gotten the points, but his overall play showed analytically that it would eventually happen because he was doing all the items he needed to do… it was just a matter of time. So why did the analytically ham-handed coaching staff toss him onto the back 6 via the 3rd and 4th lines?
- Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, and Jason Chimera’s Shooting Percentages are extremely low right now. No surprise here, looking at the Isles record and stats. However, shooting percentages do re-adjust and usually snap back to their usual averages. Look for at least 2 of these 3 to snap out of the malaise and start making a difference. These % cannot remain this low. For example: Lee is just over 3%, which is horrible. Even if Anders got back to last years average… it would place him over 5% over his current amount. 2 years ago he was at over 12%. Expect these players to start rising.
- By the way… out of all the UFA players last summer… which big money guy did the Isles miss on who is burning up their team? Loui Eriksson (on-pace for 35points this season)? Milan Lucic? Maybe 40-45points at best.
- I am not sure anyone could have predicted that Ladd, who is only 30 years old, and who always scores 20-25 goals would only have 2 goals in 17 games. It IS a cautionary tale to why free agency
frenzyis not a longterm or guaranteed fix for teams. Even Kyle Okposo who has 10 points playing alongside great players is not on pace for even 1pt a game, which was the price that Buffalo paid for his services. Certainly better when compared to our situation. Sure. But lets step back a bit and realize that free agency wasn’t the boon everyone thought based on dollar values. KO is projecting to be about 50-55pts for the season, at best, based on his 17gm play. Frans Nielsen? How about maybe 40 points. Oh… thought they were doing better? Nope.
- We can also tackle the fan fantasy that somehow Travis Hamonic should have been the item that got the NY Islanders Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers. Let me clue you into a reality that should be coming clearer each and everyday. Hamonic is NOT a top pairing dman. He doesn’t have the trade value that some Isles fans think he has. He is not as coveted as rumors had it. He was not going to get the likes of Taylor Hall. Hamonic is a terrific 3rd or 4th dman who can eat 20min+ per game, and he has a lovely contract. Period. Let’s all dispense with dreamy EA Sports NHL trade wizardry that somehow got us Taylor Hall for him.
- Where is the line balance? 2 seasons ago, the Isles spent a lot of time and effort to find a balance of skill-sets within the lines. This and the moves to get Boychuk and Leddy… led to an amazing run of high-end possession play, goals scored, and solid offense. Flash forward to this season and we get what @IneffectiveMath called on twitter… the line combinations more or less resemble spaghetti thrown in the air to see what sticks. How does an organization and coaching staff who drafts, develops and then uses various skills and attributes go from line balancing to just a chaotic jumble of linemates that have no rhyme or reason???
- So as Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin leave and a team now flounders. … 2 of those 3 are analytical-based items they have focused on via drafts… another amazingly… happened to be the LONE useful piece to Mike Milbury’s non-analytical tenure. 3 key pieces to the Isles foundation… and the question must now be asked… did Garth Snow follow analytics best practices to replace them? Or appease his coaching staff? I don’t have an answer here. Just the question.
- Meanwhile, as Isles GM Garth Snow seems terribly calm in the center of this building storm in his meet with reporters… it is NOT a facade. The internal staff have been calm, somehow… as I shared in my previous piece on IslesBeat, even before his meeting with reporters.
- Is there a bit of a Reality Distortion Field going on in Brooklyn and with NY Islanders staff? From outside, peering in, it looks like an unmitigated mess. But according to those inside this field… there seems to be a prevailing opinion that fans and press are overreacting. 17 games into this season with only 5 wins, 8 losses and 4 OT losses is not good by any stretch of the imagination. However, you put a string of 5 or 6 wins in a row and fortunes change sharply.
- BTW: the item that is most cited in being the biggest difference-maker this season is GOALTENDING (more later, because there is something to this).
- Rumors…and I stress JUST hearsay rumors in the Isles fandom… have it that Jack Capuano was supposed to have been removed as head coach last week before the Pens game… with Doug Weight offered the interim coach title. Per that rumor… Weight refused. Players and coaching staff remain behind Capuano. Too bad it isn’t true. None of this actually happened….
- What IS TRULY going on… is that nobody knows when or IF Jack Capuano gets the axe. Nobody will go out on a limb to say he won’t be touched btw…. despite whatever is said officially. However: Snow looks like he will remain GM until next summer and likely longer … despite criticism, newspaper columns or overall fan dissatisfaction.
- The question that needs to be asked by fans calling for Capuano’s head is: WHAT current unemployed coach is the answer. Let me tell you… no other teams are going to let the Isles talk to an in-contract coach during this season. And is an interim coach of a guy already working for the Isles really the answer? Weight? Cronin? Bridgeport’s Brent Thompson? No. Don’t think so.
- There seems to be this assumption … and maybe due to a high level of hysteria… is that fan or reporter or peanut gallery items somehow is what will drive the bus to decisions within the Isles ownership. None of that will be the case. It wasn’t with Charles Wang in charge, and it won’t be with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin as majority owners in-charge… like it or not.
- Speaking of rumors…. there is a new one in regard to Queens (right outside Citi-Field) as a viable option. It has not been reported on yet. This one might have the support… if it is accurate, of the Governor up in Albany. However, if it is real… it will need to be done quickly… like in the next 2-3 years or else it will be just another false hope and less than ideal leverage piece with Barclays. Stay tuned. Trying to pull more out of this that is more than just hearsay. Otherwise, this is just another rumor to the tenuous relationship the Isles have with Barclays. A relationship and leverage that is only made even worse as the Isles flounder this season. Talk about bad timing.
- Meanwhile, as the NY Islanders seem to unravel worse than NYC in the Dr. Strange movie… John Tavares once again looks less than elite. This is a guy who 2 seasons ago almost won MVP with all sorts of different players on either wing: Bailey, Lee, KO, etc.
- Hey… here’s a question to ask Isles fans: Do Sidney Crosby or Alexei Ovechkin fans freak out on where those players are lined up? No. Not really. Yet Isles fans constantly panic, complain or lament on who JT lines up with. Shouldn’t JT be making his linemates better? Didn’t happen last season and continues to happen this season. No “JT bump” to be found anywhere.
- BTW… conversely… both Crosby and Ovechkin both had play outages that made their fans whisper or panic. So does JT. Let’s see if he can break out (my money is on JT, btw).
- There is this flawed eye test of panicked fans thinking JT is disinterested or wants to go elsewhere. IT is more likely he is trying to do too much and taking on the weight of dysfunction on his own shoulders… and that is a burden that should be on the brain trust.. not their loyal star. However, if he is that elite player… it is on him to produce no matter WHO is on his line. Just like two years ago.
- Is Anders Lee fully recovered from his injury last year? Proper and full recovery to getting back up to a certain level of play is oft-missing from criticism and analysis from pundits and the peanut gallery. But it is most definitely an item that can come along for the ride when a player has broken a bone. Anders Lee broke his fibula last season and this CAN be an item that could have rolled him back on play-level or something he must work through. The sooner he can break through the better.
- OR… perhaps the reality is that the Lee we saw 2 seasons ago was a lark. And this current guy the true Anders Lee? We will see. This is why this season is about evaluation. The Isles need to know.
- Remember: Josh Ho-Sang is at Bridgeport. Matthew Barzal should be ready next year. Michael Dal Colle is coming soon, as well (if not trade bait). Kiefer Bellows could be just a year or two away. The kids are coming. IT doesn’t solve this season, despite that fans want to plug them in as magic solutions. BUT it does make it clear the team really needs to get a clear idea on who and what they have as the next class is poised to push in soon.
- In tracking the NY Islanders goal-tending this year… both Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss are well below their last year average or normal averages. This is especially true in high danger shot save percentages (HDS%). Both are well-below by almost 10%. This can be connecting to the Isles OT and 3rd period clutch play failures.
- The one reason that can be cited to constantly starting Halak is that he does get better with more work. However, it can also be argued that Greiss could also raise his game with more opportunities to play. Is this team starting the wrong guy in order to appeal to a trade scenario? OR has the Greiss of last year not shown up? So far, I see the latter here. I don’t think either goalie has shown up this season and this is the crux of the NY Islanders largest problem. This could easily be 8-5 instead of 5-8 if the starting goalie made the clutch saves in the 3rd period or OT. This doesn’t discount or minimize the Islanders offense problem, but it should make clear that goaltending is a lot like starting pitching in baseball. If they are off, the whole team is off.
- BONUS THOUGHT: Meanwhile, Jean-François Bérubé as 3rd goalie… remains unused, yet still tied to the whale… as the Isles sink deeper and deeper into the the murky depths. Just call “super” agent Allan Walsh, Ishmael.
- BONUS THOUGHT: And no matter what “Ishmael” says: Halak’s play this season has not been good or even near last year’s quality… which wasn’t exactly a banner season for him either. And practices or lack thereof can’t be harped on anymore by his agent… because it has remained below average.
- FINAL THOUGHT: You are only as good as your starting goaltending…and the Isles are NOT very good thus far in 17 games. No coincidence here. I think that the Isles are dead-on in their goaltending problem. However, be that as it may, they also have a possession, shooting%, scoring, and offensive pressure problem…. all carrying over from last year.
Thanks to Elliotte Friedman for lending me his “30 Thoughts”.