Each April, Islanders fans of late are stuck watching the best hockey on Earth without their beloved team being involved. Missing the playoffs has been a reoccurring theme for the New York Islanders since the mid 90′s. Watching this year’s tournament with intense matchups like Flyers-Penguins, Blues-Sharks, and Rangers-Senators has left a salivating taste in my mouth. As an Islanders fan, you can only hope we get to see our team in a series like these soon. Instead, we are left to root for other NHL teams for the next two months, a move patented by New York Mets fans for ages.
Now that the Islanders season is in the books and most of the players are successfully working on their golf games, we can take a look at what went wrong (mainly everything) and what went right this season. Here is a breakdown of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for the 2011-12 Islanders season.
- John Tavares. I don’t think there is anything to say about Tavares that hasn’t already been said. He became a superstar this season. He made is first career All-Star Game. He finished the season with 81 points, good for 7th in the NHL. It was a treat to watch him blossom this season and we all look forward to the special things he can do next season.
- Matt Moulson. Tavares’ buddy and linemate continues to fly under the radar as one of the league’s top goal scorers. For a guy struggling to keep a job with a big league club, Moulson has certainly come a long way. He finished the season with 36 goals which was his third consecutive 30 goal season. With a good bill of health, you can expect another 30+ from him next season as well.
- The Human Hitting Machine, Matt Martin. The second year left wing made a name for himself this year as he led the NHL in hits. And it wasn’t even close. It’s a good thing too considering how soft the Islanders were as a team this year. If not for Martin, the Isles would have looked more like figure skating than a hockey club.
- Travis Hamonic becoming a top-pair defenseman. In only his second season, Hamonic became the Islanders most reliable defenseman. His offense took a little while to get going, but playing against opposing team’s top line each night is a tough task for a 21 year old.
- Kyle Okposo. Looking at his numbers, one might say 24 goals and 21 assists is not THAT bad. But for a player who showed so much promise, and played with such force, Okposo was a far cry from his former self. I’m not sure if it is from the shoulder injury last year, but he was not much of a physical presence most of the year and struggled to generate offense when not on the Tavares line.
- Nino Niederreider’s development. The Swiss rookie who was the 5th overall pick in the 2010 draft played 55 games this year. He recorded just 1 goal and 0 assists. 1 point. I honestly think I could play in the NHL and accidentally pick up a couple of assists here and there. However, I don’t really blame Nino. The 19 year old should have been back in the WHL this year but instead he was relegated to 4th line duty with Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo. That’s not a recipe for offense.
- A step backward for Michael Grabner. Hopefully we can chalk this season up to a “sophomore slump” for the speedy Austrian. Or we can look at the 7,000 breakaways he failed to convert this year. The speed is still there for Grabner, however his inability to convert chances into goals just did not develop. His lack of production effected the Islanders greatly.
- Garth Snow’s Off-Season Signings. Signing Marty Reasoner, Brian Rolston, Steve Staios and Jay Pandolfo could very well be classified has the worst off-season in the history of professional sports. Seriously, this aging quartet did more harm than good to the “youthful” Islanders core. If Snow goes down the same path of signing over the hill veterans again this summer, do not expect much of an improvement next year.
- Rick DiPietro. Well, I don’t know what to say about this. It’s sad actually. As someone who always supported DP, I can’t back him any longer. Just too many injuries and one of the worst contracts in sports. The Islanders need a solution for the DiPietro situation and they need it soon.
- The arena situation. It seems like the Islanders have been talking about the Lighthouse Project and building a new arena for decades. With the lease to the Coliseum expiring in 2015, they need a solution fast. It’s bad enough the Islanders play in the biggest dump in the NHL and now they have an asbestos problem. Hopefully this Brooklyn thing can work out, or someone else on Long Island can spark a resolution. If not, I hope Tavares starts brushing up on his French. He’ll love Quebec City!