Welcome to one of the easier season previews in the last few years. Why? Because a coach/mindset is not in the way of a clear-cut vision and philosophy in how the players were drafted and skill-sets. With Doug Weight coaching, it is unimpeded.
- Kids are at the right time and showing they can/should remain.
- After this preseason – Who the hell is talking about Duchene now?
Expect the first bunch of games to see players in and out as they tweak and look for the right combinations.
Essentially this team is set in top 3 and bottom 3 at forwards. It is the middle 6 that will alternate and adjust.
On even strength play the 2nd and 3rd lines time on ice is almost the same. So it really doesn’t matter on if Matthew Barzal or any other player X or Y sits on line 3 or Line 2. It’s more about what is the line producing.
This roster remains ready for the invariable injuries. This is why even if there are 8 defensemen, over the course of the season we will see the 9th and 10th. It is why we will see the 13th, 14th, and even 15th forward. That is NHL hockey.
Yes, the team is starting off in a good place, but the philosophy and items coming to bear for this season are NO different than any other recent season. It is just that some kids are now ready to push out vets, and to remain… and no impediments/lack of trust/caution remains on the coaching level to erode confidence or youth influx.
I have seen season predictors by some very sharp and less than sharp that have us in the 96-97 point range. This is dead wrong. When I draw out the numbers based on analytics and some extra homework, I am able to predict that this team will at least be in the 100-102 range on points. They could even reach the 104-105 range depending on some factors*.
*Those factors? John Tavares must be a superstar – making the players better around him as he also thrives. This wasn’t quite the case last season, despite that players reaped some of this. Plus overall health of key personnel…. goalies, top 4 D, and top line wings.
So, essentially, this team should be 3rd in the Metropolitan division.
Before we get into the bitching and melodrama session for fans, let us remember that this team missed the playoffs last year by one point. This despite a messy 2/3 season with a coach that needed to go.
Yes, Travis Hamonic is gone. But he wasn’t their best defensemen. He wasn’t even in the top 4. Analytically, he was even behind Hickey. This means he wasn’t really a contributing factor to goals and wins. You know who led there? Calvin de Haan. So, anyone who is stuck on that antiquated “eye-test” because you once saw a player missed a mark or make a mistake…. guess what… they all do. Sit down at the bar and re-fill your beer and relax on those overrated “eyes”. Analytics lets you match the positives vs the negatives, so skewed perceptions don’t muck it up. We will revisit fan sentiment vs analytics a few times this year. Don’t be insulted. Even coaches and hockey operations staff adjust and have to rely on analytics vs their own perceptions.
The kids are alright… right?
Now there is prime opportunity… if Ryan Pulock is ready to take it. Or Adam Pelech. Mayfield? Or even Toews. The Isles sit with two fat 1st round chips in what hockey folks feel one of the best drafts in years coming down the pike. That’s heavy pieces for a trade or standing pat and selecting to assure that steady flow/influx of kids remains.
With Doug Weight at the helm, the team was on a 106-108 point range. This even with a John Tavares, who wasn’t his normal self.
- Weight and company have a coaching staff that are employing team vision
- Eberle replaced Strome. This is a big change allowing Bailey to move down to line 2.
- We have kids rising.
- Vets fighting to remain.
- Two starting goalies in fierce competition to be the starter.
There is just no way this team is 96-97 points. Sorry. This is a team that can and will be in the thick of it. No, they might not have the firepower or pieces to be better than the Penguins or Capitals (who should be near to dropping this season or next), but they are right behind them in my estimation. How far behind is the question? Plus, if they are right behind, breathing down their necks, can they then pull off a deal to get another piece? We will see.
Barzal or BUST?!?!
My suggestion is not to overanalyze in the first few games. Whoever sits Friday and perhaps Saturday, will not be sitting a week later. And vice versa.
The best analysis that really matters is looking at things 10 games in to see what really needs to be tweaked. In 20 games, we will see who and what these NY Islanders really are.
In the meantime, there are many reasons to be optimistic. But I’d also caution to anyone who thinks the preseason standing means this team will be bonkers out the gate. Real season coming up.
Questions that will remain are:
How long does it take for the changes and players to adjust at defense as needed? Hamonic might have been injured and declining, but he was a steady piece nonetheless. Now we need to see how much the kids are ready and pushing there.
Does Eberle solve the top line puzzle and JT hop out the gate? Does Anders Lee continue his goal onslaught?
Can Andrew Ladd shake off a bad season and be a top sniping threat?
How much will Josh Ho-Sang & Matthew Barzal do in year 1? What can Anthony Beauvillier do to build out year 2?
Two more things to consider….
- Don’t expect anything on John Tavares or the arena for a while. Sorry.
- Forget Duchene to Isles. Matt Duchene is more likely to remain on the Avalanche, and as they falter once again, his value will continue to diminish and Sakic will have boxed himself into a corner. Duchene is more likely to be moved by their next GM than anyone else, in my estimation.
So, strap yourself in, the season is upon us.