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?
Newsday >> Losing streak is over, but Islanders still have a lot of room for improvement http://t.co/MNhqz9aCq8
— New York Islanders (@islesbuzztap) December 12, 2013
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.
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.
Smith works full time with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit set on ending world hunger by 2030. He’s a hockey enthusiast living in Pittsburgh, PA and formerly covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for THW.
Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV