Isles Must Look Within to Boost Scoring

The New York Islanders’ season so far has been solid as the NHL All-Star break approaches. New York has 56 points and is in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. They trail the New York Rangers by just one point but have a game in hand. Outside of the Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Islanders do not take a back seat to any other team in the league.

Their biggest weakness so far this season has been their offense. This is very surprising as the Islanders finished fourth last year in the league in goals scored per game. Going into this season, one of the teams’s biggest strengths was their scoring depth. The Isles scoring production was down through the first half. Scoring is the main difference between the Islanders being a solid team as opposed to being one of the league’s elite.

Scoring Winger for JT Helps But …

There is no doubt that at the top of general manager Garth Snow’s agenda is landing a scoring winger to play along side John Tavares. Snow has been critiqued in the New York newspapers for failing to do so. Solving this problem is easier said than done. This is illustrated by the fact that while scoring has been one of the Isles biggest issues they still rank 8th in the league in goals scored per game at 2.72.

A strong scoring forward who can mesh with Tavares would be a significant addition for the Islanders. But I am here to tell you if the Isles want to reach their potential and have a deep playoff run, the rest of the team has to start scoring as well. If Snow landed an Eric Staal-level offensive player to play with Tavares that alone will not solve their scoring issues.

Power Play

I have been banging this drum since last spring, when the Isles were ousted by the Capitals in a seven game series in the first round of the playoffs. In that nip and tuck series, that could have gone either way, the Islanders’ power play went 0 for 14. As Leroy Jethro Gibbs says in NCIS “there is no such thing as a coincidence.”

It’s  hard to understand the state of New York’s inconsistent power play. Given the talent on the roster, the Isles should have a power play that is ranked in the top ten. However, they are currently ranked 17th with a 17.8% efficiency. How well the Isles’ power play performs the rest of the way, especially into the playoffs, will be the deciding factor on how long their season lasts.

Wake Up Call Needed

Outside of Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen and New York’s fourth line, everyone else on the team needs to pick up their game offensively. Tavares who was seconds away from winning the scoring title last season only has 15 goals and 31 points so far. Talented youngsters Anders Lee (6 goals) and Ryan Strome (5 goals) are learning how hard it is to be a proven scorer year in and year out. While Kyle Okposo’s stats look fine, he needs to be a difference-maker at the critical juncture in  tight games. Nick Leddy who has just 2 goals this season needs to provide more of an offensive spark from the blue line. Finally Josh Bailey, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin all have to provide more scoring punch from the secondary unit.

The Islanders will need a team effort in order to solve this problem. Follow me on Twitter @TheNLKing