What’s Missing for the New York Islanders?

It took the Islanders five tries in December to find a win and snap a 10 game losing streak. This is the same team that had a series tied 2-2 with the number one seeded Penguins in April of this year. They didn’t lose any major pieces, the coaching staff is still solid with Jack Capuano leading the way. So Isles fan are left wondering, what’s wrong with our boys?

What it’s NOT

It’s not Jack Capuano. According to CBS NY News, the Isles front office agrees.

It’s not a lack of talent. The Islanders are skating with a top line of Thomas Vanek, (who recently surpassed 500 career points), John Tavares, (who was named a Hart Trophy Finalist last season) and Kyle Okposo, (who’s already scored more points this season than all of last year.) Yes, this line is still getting used to playing with each other, but the talent is there. Tavares makes players around him better and Okposo is becoming a very good hockey player. Once Vanek learns how to play with another superstar, that line will begin producing very efficiently. Some think that Vanek leaving the Buffalo Sabres was a win for Buffalo and a huge risk for New York.

High risk, High reward for sure. But give it time; I believe very seriously that the Isles will contend for the Metropolitan Division, in the future.

What is IS

The problem with the New York Islanders, in my opinion, is one) their defense is depleted by injury and two) they are getting ZERO secondary scoring.

The Islanders are currently playing without seasoned veteran Lubomir Visnovsky and young talented Brian Strait, who’s had trouble staying healthy since his arrival in 2012.. With them out, the Isles are playing very inexperienced D-men, which isn’t always a bad thing; unless your starting net-minder is also out, which is also the case with the Isles. Evgeni Nabokov hasn’t played in nearly a month and Kevin Poulin had a horrible month of November going 1-7. Poulin has a chance to be the goalie of the future, but he’s not good enough to play without an experience D in front of his crease.

Nabokov is on the verge of coming back, which will also help Poulin out by giving him a break. But the defense is still a problem. Strait can’t stay healthy and Visnovsky is near the end of his career. In my opinion, the Isles need to get a top 4 defensemen by way of trade or waiver. Sadly, they gave away a 1st and 2nd round pick when getting Vanek so Garth Snow (GM of the Isles) is going to have to get creative. The Isles are just a few pieces away from being great, they just need to solidify their blue liners.

But the secondary scoring for the Isles is something that can change NOW. Everyone is slumping at the same time, which is bad news for Isles fans. Michael Grabner hasn’t scored a point since October 17th… Josh Bailey scored just two points in November and has yet to find his way onto the score sheet in December.

The list goes on. These are players that need to score. The Islanders averaged nearly 3 goals per contest last season but this year, they find themselves in the bottom half of the league in scoring and on the power play.

Final Thoughts

The talent is there. I believe that the Isles are the most talented team in New York and with time playing together, they will become an elite team.

The stat that has to change… Penalty Kill Percentage. Yes, Nabokov coming back will help this. But the PK unit is about heart and a will to win; you don’t superstars on your PK to be successful, you need four guys who will do anything (legal) to keep the puck out of their goal. The Islanders have the second worst PK percentage in the NHL right now. If they can tighten that up, they’ll find themselves in more positions to win.

Poulin is playing well in December. Nabokov is coming back. Vanek is starting to find his way in New York. Things are looking up for the Isles.

Happy Holidays and Let’s Go Islanders.

 

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Brady Smith

Brady Smith

Smith is currently a student at West Virginia University. He's a hockey enthusiast and currently covers the Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV
Brady Smith
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9 Comments

  1. What I find really lacking with the Islanders is a good offence/defence system. The best defence is ‘puck possession’ which the Islanders are very weak at. Teams that are good have strong puck possession systems, something lacking on the Island. Look at the Chicago’s, Pittsburgh’s, Anaheims, St. Louis, Detroit’s etc. all have tremendous puck possession systems. When they play the other teams have little time with the puck.

    Concerned

  2. Concerns regarding the impatience and long term vision of the organization. The lack of a #1 goalie is the primary concern in conjunction with the team’s inability to play consistent defense on a nightly basis. The impatience of Garth Snow cost the Islanders a young talent in Niederreiter. He is now doing well in Minnesota. Moreover, the trade for Vanek cost the Islanders a #1 and a #2 draft choice with no assurance he will resign with the team as he is a unrestricted free agent at seasons end. It is not that Vanek is not a good player but it cost the Islanders way too much to get him. Not only Moulson but also those two drafts choices.

    Paul

    • I would agree with you Paul. Poulin is not a franchise keeper and Nabokov doesn’t have much time left. As for Vanek, you’re correct. Moulson was a great fit with Tavares and on the Isles power play (reminds me of how Chris Kunitz has blossomed beside of Crosby in Pittsburgh). I would’ve understood Moulson and a pick for Vanek, but Vanek just wasn’t worth the first rounder. Garth Snow needs to build a team that is deeper than it’s first line. I’d also like to add, again, that the Isles are in need of a dominant, lockdown top 4 defenseman. de Haan may grow into that. But with Visnovsky’s future hanging in a balance, the Isles need to invest in a D-men.

  3. You lost me at Poulin is playing well. He has too many aspects of his game that are not teachable. Also, he has added explosivness to his list of problems.

    You remind me of, well, me when I was a late teen, early 20’s. The optimism of it just being a few tweaks ways is how you show your cards.

    This team is missing a lot more than tweaks.
    Example 1: Moulson for Vanek. Aweful trade, more or less a point for point deal, and Moulson is speedier, and loyal.
    Ex. 2: Clutterbuck is distracting, and is better suited in a rebuilding team, not one that is maturing. Notice when he wakes the other team up, if and when the Isles get aq lead. Not good. Do you see Detroit mouthing off, and crunching guys with a lead? No. You see system dedicated hockey.

    I could go on and on with facts.

    • I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t lose you until the last paragraph. I would like to point out that Poulin made the Sportscenter Top 10 plays last night at #3. You are right about his game not being teachable at many aspects. And you raise other very good points. I couldn’t agree more about the Vanek trade; Moulson was to Tavares what James Neal is to Evgeni Malkin and Nikalas Backstrom is to Alexander Ovechkin. But that deal is done and the Isles have to make it work. I appreciate your feedback. I hope the comparison to a younger you (I am 20 so you are spot on) was a positive comment.

      • Sportscenter does not pay his salary. Neither do his stats. He will be a “remember Poulin”.

        That’s what I mean by the comparison to myself. I had Jamie McClennan. Even have his rookie card.

        Just enjoy the stream of high end prospects that will forever come your way. That will, if you get to watch the develop in person (for me it went back to Palffy, Bertuzzi, Chara to name a few) can be a wealth of satisfaction on a miserable organization.

        We all have the Strome Saga unfolding. Enjoy!

  4. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – December 13, 2013.

  5. Nice article. Incorrect “their” in first sentence of final thoughts.

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