The Hockey Writers chatted with longtime Islanders home game statistician Eric Hornick, who discussed the Islanders 2017-18 season. Breaking down all the pluses and negatives, Hornick let us know the reasons why he believes the Islanders failed to make the playoffs. He also addressed the Islanders‘ youth and goaltending, as well as the John Tavares contract situation and provided his take on some possibilities for next season.
The Hockey Writers: What statistics stand out the most to you in why the Islanders didn’t make the playoffs this season?
Eric Hornick: Two stick out to me — the power play and their record in one-goal games.
The Isles’ PP went only 35-234 (15.0%) on the season and hurt them through the year. You can see it in their record. The Isles were 18-7-6 when they scored at least one power-play goal and 23-22-6 when they didn’t.
The Isles went 15-10-12 in one-goal games, winning only 15 of the 36 games (.405). That .405 percentage in 1-goal games won was the second lowest in the NHL – the Leafs went 14-8-15 (.378) in 1-goal games. The Isles were 21-6-10 in one-goal games last season, so in the same 37 one-goal games the Isles earned only 42 points this season, compared to 52 last season.
THW: Who surprised you the most this season?
Hornick: On the positive side, I would go with Joshua Ho-Sang, who over the final five weeks of the season showed that not only could play in this league, but he could also dominate. Plus-minus can be misleading at times, but Dennis Seidenberg’s plus-25 (best by an Islander in 13 seasons) came out of left field. Calvin de Haan also made some great strides through the season. Looking the other way, Travis Hamonic had a very disappointing season, missing 33 games with injury and finished minus-21. One could argue that Cappy’s (Jack Capuano) refusal to split Hamonic and Leddy went a long way to costing him his job.
Fixing the Power Play
THW: What do you think “fixes” the Islanders power play?
Hornick: Two things come to mind. Ray Ferraro made a great point in the Carolina game that NBC telecast in March — the Isles spent a power play that night (and several others) acting as the goal was to play keep-a-way and not to attack the net. They need to get more pucks to the cage next season. Watching the early rounds of the playoffs one thing you see is that the successful teams often have a dominant guy on face-offs as well.
THW: What games losses hurt the Islanders the most this season?
Hornick: It’s hard to pick out one or two because you always need to remember that unless the loss ends a team’s season, everything that happens after that is potentially different. The back-to-back 2-1 losses coming out of the bye surely sting; when they opened 6-10-4, they were tied with three minutes to go in 5 of the ten regulation losses. The loss to Boston in March really sent the Bruins on their way but there were others that really hurt, including the game in New Jersey in February where Leddy hit the post in the dying seconds and Weight’s first regulation loss —the game in Detroit where Danny DeKeyser won the game in the closing seconds after a silly icing.
THW: What do the Islanders need to do this offseason to get into the playoffs next year?
Hornick: I think that they need to get Tavares signed as a first step. If they can’t agree with JT in July, they may need to move him by the time training camp ends. He’s too important to the franchise; they can’t risk getting nothing for him. There’s also a decision to make about goaltending (assuming a goalie isn’t lost in the expansion draft). Decisions will need to be made on how young they want this team to be in the fall; is there a spot for Barzal, dal Colle and Pulock, among others?
THW: Anything else you’d like to add?
Hornick: One thing to look for this summer is the schedule. While the Isles survived (and in some cases thrived) on that nine-game road trip, they came home exhausted. It will be interesting (and important) to see a more balanced schedule in 2017-18.