An independent blog on the New York Islanders and the NHL by a guy from New York.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Islanders Start A Wild Ride

Our New York Islanders have played 13 games under the direction of Doug Weight and have clawed their way back into the hunt for a wild card spot with an 8-3-2 record. And they have definitely improved as a team in all zones and managed to mount a more complete effort on the ice. Now we can certainly ignore the 7-1 (Chimera, penalty shot goal) drumming in Toronto last night, but overall, we all have to be happier with the snarl they have played with recently, currently 3 points out of the 2nd wildcard spot. With the news of Claude Julien being fired, many fans had the team asking for permission to talk with him like they had done with Gerald Gallant, but Montreal had rehired Julien a short time later at about $5M per for 5 years according to Pierre LeBrun. To me, you don’t change the chemistry that Weight has been able to cultivate after the toxic inconsistency that swirled around the team behind Jack Capuano. At times, they played well, improved in areas, but never found a way to rise up and take the next step under his leadership. Weight will most likely be given an opportunity to see what he can do this season, especially with the team in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot. 

Things don’t get easier with the Rangers at home on Thursday, a home-at-home with the Devils this weekend and on the road to visit Detroit, Montreal and Columbus to finish out the month. They need to continue generating PP opportunities (15-76 at 19.7%) and keeping their man-down situations (7-55 at 87.3%) to a minimum, just as they have in their last 24 games.  The differential is the best in the NHL per Eric Hornick.  How does Jason Chimera feel about the rivalry to be renewed tomorrow night? Staple quoted him as saying, “I’ve only been here six months and I hate ’em,” Jason Chimera said. “It’s not just the team, it’s the people that cheer for them. You hear your neighbors talking about the Rangers and you want to beat them even more.”

The trade deadline is 20 days away and fans have Duchene, Landeskog, Sharp or even Vanek (who is known for hating the idea of playing in Brooklyn) penciled in to join the team via trade. To get any of those guys will take a lot of assets, especially right now because the rumors of deals that have been making the rounds are clearly to the advantage of the seller. The Avalanche have Duchene under contract and although they are firmly entrenched at the bottom of the league, GM, Joe Sakic is in no hurry to move an asset like him without premium assets in return. And with the Isles so deep on defense right through the Sound Tigers roster, wouldn’t be so quick to compromise that depth without due cause. AHL All-Star, Devon Toews leads the team with 24 assists and Ryan Pulock leads the defense with 10 goals and 22 points in 27 games. Especially with Travis Hamonic injured, they would be ill advised to make a trade of a defensive commodity at this time. Jaroslav Halak (11-1-2) has been making the most of his time in Bridgeport, where he has a team record, ten game winning streak and has helped the Tigers push out to a 30-16-1-1 record. If he isn’t in the long term plan and although expensive at $4.5M cap hit per through next season, he might be just what a team like the LA Kings would need to stay in playoff position.

Some say without a major acquisition to play on the first line, John Tavares will sour on the idea of resigning. Publically, Tavares (20 and 26 for 46pts) has stated his intention is to play in New York and isn’t looking ahead to free agent at all.  Anders Lee has 20 goals (2nd to Tavares on the team with 21) and 12 assists in his last 26 games and is playing like a bonafide 1st liner, ranked 3rd in points on the team with 34. And let’s talk about Josh Bailey. Bailey has 11 and 27 for 38 points in 55 games and is playing like the high 1st round pick he was back in 2008. The isles scoring depth has helped the first line get a little less attention and that has translated in goals, and by extension, wins. Brock Nelson, Jason Chimera, Ryan Strome and Andrew Ladd have played much better as of late and the defense has made big contributions as well.

Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield are still keeping pace and Nick Leddy is an amazing player to watch under the Weight regime. 1st in D ice time at almost 23 minutes a game, Leddy has .57 pts. per game rating and 2 ppg. “As a team, we changed a few things. We’re having the puck a little more,” Leddy said. “We’re moving our feet a lot more in the offensive zone, using the D more, having a five-man attack, and it’s providing a lot of offense for us,” per Staple in Newsday.  “Thomas Greiss has started 17 of the last 20 games (9-5-3) and 19 of the last 25 games (11-5-3).  He has allowed two goals or less in 13 of his last 19 games,” per Eric Hornick.

The meter is running and their fate is in their own hands.  They play 22 of their last 34 away from the Barclays Center. Hornick mentions they “do not have a homestand longer than two games. Following this 10-game stretch the Isles will play nine straight road games for the first time in franchise history.” They need to tighten up at the start of the game, where they have started to return to the ugly habit of surrendering the first goal over the last 4 games and improve their 7-12-4 road record if they have any hopes of doing some damage in the playoffs. Additions, subtractions, whatever.

The damage should start against Michael Grabner and the New York Rangers.

Isles Notes:

Shane Prince, Cal Clutterbuck are still out due to injury. Travis Hamonic remains on the IR.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Islanders Re-Sign Thomas Greiss & JT Islanders All-Star

Thomas Greiss has agreed to terms and signed a 3-year, $10M contract (Staple) to remain with the New York Islanders. I’ve always been a fan of Greiss. I first noticed how he kept an underwhelming Team Germany in the Winter Olympic and World Championship tournaments. He finally joined the Isles organization when he signed as a free agent in 2015.

The 31-year-old net minder has worked hard and has become a cornerstone of the improving Isles defense, is well liked by his team mates and wants to be a part of the crease for the next few seasons. He endeared himself to fans and got noticed by management last season when he backstopped the Islanders to a playoff series win for the first time since 1993, slowly winning the starters jobs away from Jaroslav Halak who is now playing in Bridgeport (6-1-2 in AHL this season) with the Sound Tigers.

Despite how much the NHL media wants to create a controversy of the free agency of star-player, John Tavares and his New York Islanders, Tavares once again tried to take the focus away from the off-season and focus on the now. “I’m excited about where the Islanders are headed and hopefully we can work something out." Tavares finished the Los Angeles NHL All-Star tourney with 2 goals and 3 assists for the winning Metro Division, playing well and showcasing why he is a super star in a league of super stars. JT was beat out again for MVP honors, this time by Flyers’, Wayne Simmonds, a one-time player for the Kings. Well, I guess there is always next year.

"I got a text from Mr. Gretzky saying this guy is a machine" - Doug Weight on @91Tavares at the All-Star Game. #Isles

Isles Notes:

Denis Potvin, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Pat LaFontaine were honored and selected to the NHL 100 greatest Players List. I think they missed a few legendary Islanders myself, but what can I say.

Per Arthur Staple, “So what now? Just speculating -- if #Isles make a deal at Citi Field or Belmont, that still requires a place to play next 3-5 years. Here's one scenario that's a whopper: #Isles make an arena deal, hire MSG events to run the building and play at MSG while arena is built. Just from talking to people the last few years, lots on the table if and when #Isles and Barclays part ways. So, that's not exactly reassuring, but it's pretty clear from NHL and #Isles side that moving out of the NY area is an absolute last resort.”

Mangano says Isles return possible.

Bloomberg reporting Barclays want Isles out.

Per Chris Botta, “A story we all hope ends happily soon. Bettman makes clear Ledecky/Malkin are reviewing all arena options. As they should. Good luck.”

Sound Tigers Notes:

BST Defensemen, @devontoews6 with the second fastest time ever recorded (13.5 seconds) in #AHLAllStar Classic fastest skater competition with a time of 13.478.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Islanders Accountability: Worth The Weight

 A day after a 4-0 win in Boston, Jack Capuano was relieved of his coaching duties by the New York Islanders. Assistant to the GM and assistant coach, Doug Weight was named interim coach. Weight is a storied American player who has respect throughout the NHL as as a competitor and a person by many. But all of that doesn’t mean he would be able to pull the nose up on an Isles season that has, at times, looked like a rudderless plane trying to make an emergency landing.

Sometimes, things click, guys fill their roles and the team rallies to overcome adversity. At other times, complaints of passengers, roster changes, uninspired or erratic play adds to the frustrations of slow starts or blown leads late in the game - resulting in ugly losses and looking up from the bottom of the league standings. When speaking to the press, Weight promised to make some changes. Changes with the current team that would add a much needed accountability, and eventually, result in some consistency. Especially in their transition and checking game. Those would be the things the team could rally behind, rekindle their confidence in themselves, each other, and their purpose. Earlier this season, that must have been an uphill battle, even to the most relentless competitor on the roster.

Five games into Doug Weight’s revised program, The Islanders have gone 4-0-1 and been climbing in the power rankings. The teams best start ever following a mid-season coaching change according to team statistician, Eric Hornick. The Islanders have even started to climb the eastern conference and currently sit just 5 points out (21-17-9 with 51pts.) of a playoff spot behind the 8th place Boston Bruins heading into the All-Star break. Their 6-2-2 run in their last 10 games has enabled them to capitalize on some of the slumping teams in front of them. It’s also important to note they still have up to 3 games at hand on the teams (except Ottawa & Toronto) they are chasing. The Islanders have been able to shutout Boston and Dallas behind the play of Thomas Greiss (14-7-3, 2.25gaa, .928Sv%), beat league leading Columbus (2nd in NHL) Sergei Bobrovsky and Montreal (4th in NHL) Carey Price with sustained offensive pressure and an impressive balanced scoring attack.

New York is now even at 136 goals for and against and are climbing the offensive charts and now have 5-10+ goal scorers. John Tavares (13 points [8-5-13] in the last 8 games) and Anders Lee lead the team with 19 & 17, while an improving Brock Nelson, Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd (2 goals last night vs. Montreal) have 10. Josh Bailey (PP goal vs Montreal) has risen to his critics this season with 32 points, second only to John Tavares with 40. D, Nick Leddy is third on the team with 27 points.  The squads game has quickened and their transition game has improved. While defensively, they have been joining the rush all season, their checking game has improved in both ends and has really helped steal the puck away from the opposition and help with neutral zone turn overs and add to their scoring potential. The isles are now 9th in the league in goals per game (2.87) and 5th best on the PP at 14.6%. They have also started games well offensively and are 16-4-7 when they score the first goal (Hornick).

Defensively, the Islanders have been steady and are improving with the rest of the team. Having fought through injury this season, the call-ups of Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield have helped the team not miss a beat when guys like Travis Hamonic and Johnny Boychuk have been injured. Calvin deHaan continues to play big minutes for the Isles and “is tied with Erik Karlsson (127 blocks) for 2nd place in the NHL, two behind Kris Russell.” On Thomas Greiss, “In the last 11 games that he started he has allowed only 22 goals, and 7 of those came in one game.  He has allowed two goals or less in 11 of his last 13 games” Per Eric Hornick. Greiss has risen to the challenge and gives New York a chance to win every night. The Isles are 6-9-4 away from the Barclays and that will have to change, especially in the 2nd half of the season with 22 out of the last 35 games on the road. This will be the next challenge for Weight’s Islanders and determine the chances for a post season run.

"We looked like a confident team that has something to prove and somewhere to go." 

Lead on Coach.

Isles Notes:

Team Captain, John Tavares will represent the New York Islanders in the NHL All-Star Game this weekend.

Montreal had won 7 straight against the Islanders with Carey Price winning 5 straight against them on the road prior to last night’s 3-1 Isles win. 42 shots against the Canadiens by New York was the 2nd most allowed this season.

Thomas Hickey is out with a lower body injury.

Cal Clutterbuck left the game against Montreal in the 2nd period and did not return.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The BST are 23-15-1-1 so far this season. Jaroslav Halak (4-1-2 in AHL so far this season) had a shutout against Providence on Wednesday. They face the Rangers AHL affiliate, Hartford Wolfpack tonight.

Josh Ho-Sang has 5 & 3 for 18 pts and a -9 ratring in 34 games this season.

“Bracken Kearns leads the Sound Tigers in both goals and points (16-19-35).  Rookie Devon Toews leads the team with 21 assists and is tied for second on the team in points (4-21-25).  Ryan Pulock leads the defense with 6 goals (6-9-15 in only 19 games).” - Hornick

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Islanders Fire Jack Capuano

The New York Islanders fired Head Coach, Jack Capuano today. President and General Manager Garth Snow made the announcement that Jack Capuano had been relieved of his duties as Head Coach and that Assistant GM Doug Weight has been named Interim Head Coach. Andy Graziano quoted Snow as saying, “Bob Corkum will come down from his position in the press box to run the bench with Weight and current assistant coach Greg Cronin for the remainder of the regular season, as it doesn't sound like anything more will be happening from now until then.

Last year, the Isles entered the playoffs for the third time in the last 4 seasons under Capuano. They finished with more than 100 points in the 2nd consecutive campaign and won their first playoff round since 1993. This summer, Capuano was selected by John Tortorella as an Assistant Coach for Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Jack Capuano joined the Islanders organization in 05-06 as an assistant under Steve Stirling (then Brad Shaw) and became the Isles interim head Coach in 2010 replacing Scott Gordon, then full branded Coach in 2011. Capuano had served as Head Coach of the Islanders minor league affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he finished with a 133-100-8-14 record in 4 AHL seasons.

According to Eric Hornick, Jack Capuano was the 2nd winningest coach in Islander’s history. He had a record of 227-192-64 behind the Islander’s bench.  “Among the 9 New York area teams, only the Yankees' Joe Girardi has led his team longer than Capuano.”

Most games coached (Islanders):
1.      Al Arbour 1,500
2.      Jack Capuano 483
3.      Mike Milbury 191
4.      Terry Simpson 187
5.      Scott Gordon 181

Most wins by Islander coaches:
1.      Al Arbour 740
2.      Jack Capuano 227
3.      Terry Simpson 81
4.      Peter Laviolette 77
5.      Ted Nolan 74

Garth Snow spoke to the media on the move, "The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as Head Coach," Snow said. "His leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons. He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward." Shannon Hogan mentioned Snow had consulted key members of the organization, “captains and inside staff,” on the decision and mentioned Snow wouldn’t comment on who possible candidates are or when the team would meet with them. “It’s not a dictatorship,” Snow said on how much influence Ledecky and Malkin had on the decision. I’m sure the ownership was ready for the change and let Snow know what they wanted.

Tom Gulitti mentioned, “Snow said his responsibility is, ‘100 percent ...Obviously, I'm not hiding from the fact it starts with me."  The organization has been in the hunt for a team President, and if they find one, Snow may be in jeopardy as well if that President thinks the team needs a culture change, especially based on the second half of this season. Presidents usually want their own management structure in place to be sure of a like mind set. And hiring a new coach would usually be done by the GM who the President and ownership feels will give All-Star, John Tavares the best chance to lead the team to a deep playoff run and a chance at a Stanley Cup final. After losing homegrown character guys like Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, Capuano couldn’t seem to recapture a team identity with the additions of Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. It’s not just on the coach. While he needs to keep the team rolling, the GM has a big role in putting those building blocks in place. Snow has acknowledged team shortcomings based on the roster starts with him. “I take full responsibility."

To be fired after a well-played 4-0 win against the Bruins was a little strange, but it must have just been another affirmation to ownership that the guys already here can make things happen when they work hard and play within a system. It could have illustrated at just the right time that things still weren't working with Jack Capuano in place. Team consistency under his watch has always been a problem. Many of us thought it might happen after the 7-4 breakdown against Carolina, so although the writing was everywhere for a lot of people, it seemed to be a strange time to do it. Perhaps with a couple of days off before facing Dallas on Thursday, the organization thought it was a good time to make the transition. "It's an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans," Capuano said. "I'd like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the Head Coach of the Islanders. I'd also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work."

The Islanders currently sit last in the Metro (17-17-8) at the half way point of the season and last in the east with 42 points, one of the worst point totals in the league. They still have games at hand and are only 7 points behind the Hurricanes for 8th in the east. Jaroslav Halak was sent to Bridgeport and now Jack Capuano was relieved of his duties. Whether it’s another move in management or on the roster, the next change will come when it comes.

Let’s continue to support the guys.

Per Elliott Friedman, “Hearing NYI have permission to talk to former Florida coach Gerard Gallant. He was an Islanders' assistant from 2007-09.” Arthur Staple is reporting the permission was granted before Capuano firing.

Isles Notes:

Thomas Greiss got his 2nd shutout as an Islander yesterday in a 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins.

Josh Bailey has 12 points (1 & 11) in his last 12 games.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Isle Be There: An Islanders' Night In Brooklyn

Last night, our New York Islanders faced the Florida Panthers on a night slated to celebrate NHL and Islanders broadcasting legend, Jiggs McDonald. Jiggs was presented with a microphone award and specialized jersey to commemorate the night by the organization, greeting the crowd by making a gesture of a heart with his hands and pointing fondly to those in attendance. He concluded the pregame ceremony with a ceremonial puck drop and left the ice shaking hands with every Islanders player on the bench before making his way up to the booth to call what is probably his final game before retiring from broadcasting in New York.

I was lucky enough to get a few hours away from home courtesy of my wife, who looked after my father, so I could head down to Brooklyn for a rare opportunity to see my first game at the Barclays Center. When I arrived, the fans were gathered around the front of the building and the energy was evident.  Although our Isles haven’t exactly been putting the NHL world on notice, the die hards were there and ready for things to happen.

I won’t get into the abysmal 2-1 (Leddy) loss by an offensively deficient Isles squad (now 15-16-8) who seemed to have trouble staying with the puck at every turn. I won’t complain about their horrible passing game or about sitting through the worst effort by an Islanders team I have ever witnessed in person. This is not to say that every player was off or that they didn’t do anything right, just that it was another disappointing home effort on such a special night for the organization and the fans.

What I will say is that I still had a fantastic time. From being surprised with gifted tickets by my friend Chris to meeting Denis Potvin, the night started off well. I found the staff at the Barclays friendly and in good spirits. I made it a point to finally meet Paul Cartier and Eric Hornick in person and visited the new team store, all before puck drop. I had a nice time speaking to fans, stopped by to say hello to Tom at Section 228/229 and even managed to relax for a few hours and forget the personally unforgettable, even despite the game not turning out the way we all wanted it to. That’s the magic of going to Islanders games for me. Especially when you get as lucky as I am and have an opportunity to write a blog, meet people you wouldn’t normally meet and get to become specially involved in a fan community who in my experiences, are second to none.

While I still expect more from the team, I know there are a few issues that need to change before they can right the myriad of wrongs I witnessed last night. Not really sure when and how that will all occur. We all have our wish list on what those things are and I understand why so many of us are fed up with what we see as another campaign heading in the wrong direction. I even understand the frustration of not wanting to make the trip into Brooklyn or sit through what would seem to be another disappointing season from the stands.

But to me, the ups and downs of being an Islanders fan and going to the games has given me some powerful memories, intense emotion and a sense of community. A kinship that is shared by a fist bump or a smirk to a stranger I might pass in a mall or grocery store, even living almost two hours north of Isles country. I have gotten out at traffic lights to give out my KoC card when I’ve spotted a NYI bumper sticker and even started conversations with other fans, all over the country, who love this team and what they represent to us with deep rooted allegiances. From Ralph Macchio, to Kevin Connolly, to Vincent Piazza, to my cousins from Hicksville, we all share a bond that makes us what we are. We have big chips on our shoulders and have endured a lot of disappointment, hoping to get back to what we lost so long ago.

I’m still not giving up. I’m still staying positive, but always calling them out when I see something I don’t like because I’m a New Yorker and I’m a fan of the team born in Uniondale, now playing in Brooklyn.

And there is nothing more I’d rather be.

Isles Notes:

"John Tavares has been selected to represent the New York Islanders at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, taking place from January 28-29 at Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA."

Scott Mayfield up for Hamonic (IR) with lower body injury.

Isles Prospect Report: Ilya Sorokin and Anatoli Golyshev named to KHL All-Star Game.

NHL Notes:

“NHL teams will be permitted to have only home and road jerseys next season as Adidas takes over for Reebok as the official outfitter of NHL uniforms.

There will be no third jerseys, in order to make the initial implementation of new sweaters easier.”


Congratulations on an amazing 50 years in sports broadcasting to Jiggs McDonald. Thank you for being part of so many of our childhood memories when this team was great. And even when they weren't.

Sorry we missed each other tonight, but I can speak for all fans, young and old when I say we miss you already, but so glad you came around when you did.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New York Islanders: Finish What You Start

Coming off of their 5 day NHL “Bye” period, our New York Islanders fell to the 2 worst teams in the Western Conference on their latest road trip. They dropped a 2-1 contest in O.T. to Colorado and an offensively starved, 2-1 shootout loss to the Coyotes after giving up the tying goal in the final few minutes of regulation. Eric Hornick mentions, “The Isles lost on back-to-back nights in either overtime or a shootout for the first time in club history.” New York is last in the East (15-15-8) with 38 points and are still struggling to close teams out. They have been strong at scoring first, but have 8 loses in the extra session and faltering where they, at one time, showed a strength. Those missed 8 points (O.T. or Shootout loses) could have played a big part on changing around the fortunes of the season thus far. The inconsistent scoring punch has played a role in their situation, especially in overtime and the shootout. The departure of Frans Nielsen from their shootout roster, has impaired their ability to finish those kinds of games out even more.

Eric Hornick illustrated a few disturbing patterns in the Isles end-game:

“The Isles have allowed the final goal of regulation in nine of their 11 games that have gone to overtime this season, including three in the final minute.”

“Isles have been tied in the third period in ten of their 15 regulation losses (and 18 of their 23 overall losses) but have allowed the lead goal in the final 3 minutes of regulation five times.”

“Isles are 1-3 in shootouts this season, scoring on 5 of 22 attempts. The Isles have not scored a goal in any of their three losing shootouts (0-8).”

On the positive side, they have up to 4 games at hand against some teams in front of them.  Ground can be made if they can ever get things going and are still within 9 points of a wildcard spot in the playoff race. If they continue to steal points, they should remain in the running for a post season push. However, if they don’t figure out a way to shake off these shortcomings, they may not ever, truly take that next step.

I feel they can, but it will take more than building on the positives and I think it finishes with a change in the coaching style and in the front office. Garth Snow believes in Jack Capuano, but as I wrote about in previous articles, perhaps a newly installed President to share control and infuse change in team ideology would trickle down to every part of the organization. Real consistency on special teams, checking game and a solid 60-minute game plan needs to be instituted by the coaching staff and enforced by the players to realistically contend as an elite team.

That will take an organization belief that the talent is actually there and organizational culture has changed.

Here’s to believing in what’s important.

The Islanders have a home at home against Florida, including a night to honor NHL and Islanders broadcasting legend, Jiggs McDonald at home on Wednesday, January 11th.

Isles Notes:

Adam Pelech has been activated off IR and been called up to the Islanders from Bridgeport.

Per Michael Fornabaio, “Halak (who will ultimately wear 41; Cullity to 39) declined to comment on the past week. "It's past." Looking forward to playing.”

With Jaro going with the BST, Eamon McAdam (G) has been reassigned to the @MissouriMavs by the @NYIslanders.

Per Eric Hornick, “Jaroslav Halak earned his first AHL victory since February 24, 2008 but left the game late in the 2nd period with an injury.” Halak went to the locker room after taking a high shot.

Per Michael Fornabaio, “Brent Thompson wouldn't be specific about where Halak got hit but said "he'll be fine."

Per Stephen Valiquette, “(Michael) Grabner is Tied with Ovechkin with 18 goals. 2 more than Malkin. 4 more than Seguin and McDavid. 6 more than Kane. 7 more than Tavares.”


Islanders prospect, Keiffer Bellows (2016, 1st round, 19th overall) had 2 goals in the gold medal game and helped Team USA to a 5-4 shootout win against fellow prospect, Matthew Barzal and Team Canada.  The Americans were an impressive 7-0 in the tournament and Bellows spoke highly of his squad and their dynamic relationship and team culture. "Champions walk together forever," Bellows said.

Per Rob Taub, “Bracco, McAvoy, Fox, Thompson bringing home the gold to Long Island, outstanding #USAWJC.”

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Isles Down Jets - Halak To Bridgeport

Have a Happy, Healthy & Safe New Year in 2017!

Our New York islanders went into their untimely, but mandatory 5-day NHL break after tonight’s game at the Winnipeg Jets.  Casey Cizikas made a return (Beauvillier scratched) and Greiss was in net for an inspired effort as the Islanders won for the 4th time in 5 games, beating Winnipeg 6-2. In that time, they’ve scored at least 4 goals in 5 of those games and in 15 straight periods (Hornick).  The Isles had 6 different players (Kulemin, Tavares, Prince, Strome, Lee & Ladd) score a goal. Anders Lee added his team-leading 14th goal and Josh Bailey, his team-leading 19th assist. They will remain at an NHL .500, 15-15-6 after 36 games over their bye-week, but have once again looked as if they are starting to find a groove.  They are at Colorado on Friday, 1/6 and Arizona, Saturday, 1/7. It was great response and a character win for New York.

Yesterday, Garth Snow elected to place starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (62-38-13 in 3 seasons with Isles) on waivers after a soft performance in a 6-4 loss against the Wild, snapping a 3 game winning streak. Halak, apparently, refused to speak to the media after the loss and it may have been the last straw of what has become a negative image of the former All-Star goaltender. He hasn’t been happy with the team for some time. Halak is under contract for the rest of this season ($2.5M) and the next, with a $4.5M cap hit. I felt it was only a matter of time that either Halak or Berube were moved based on the comments of shared agent, Allan Walsh. If you recall, Walsh complained that the trio of Isles goaltenders weren’t getting enough ice time and that it was having a negative impact on their game and the success of the team. The Islanders then made Halak available for trade. It’s no surprise that this kind of attention brought about by a player’s agent probably didn’t sit well with Garth Snow. Eric Hornick reminded us that it was the 2nd time in 3 months that New York waived (P.A. Parenteau claimed by Devils) one of Walsh’s clients.

Halak’s record was 6-8-5 with a 3.23gaa and a .904Sv% this season. Yesterday, Eric Hornick mentioned that in 2016, Halak is 14-15-6, .908Sv% and a 2.94gaa, 2 shut outs while Greiss was (8-5-0, 2.48gaa, .922Sv% this season) is 20-11-2, .918Sv%2.59gaa and no shut outs. Greiss’ 9th win of the season tonight (30/32 with a .941Sv%) was a big one for both he and his team. 

Halak was struggling despite coming off a solid World Cup Tournament effort over the summer. So if Greiss and Berube are part of the Isles future in net, UFA Thomas Greiss needs to be re-signed for next season and to remain an RFA, JF Berube needs to play in 28 of the remaining 46 games.  When I polled my followers on Twitter, many feel that with the efforts they have seen lately, this was the right move, but aren’t happy with the way and timing of how it went down.

Could this be the first change in team culture forced by the new majority ownership or just Garth Snow adjusting on the fly? Could it be that Snow was unable to trade Halak due to his poor play lately? Will the next changes to the team fall more freely? The pressure has to be and should be high for Snow, Capuano and the players on the ice to start winning consistently and controlling their own destiny. If there needs to be changes, then they should be done carefully and if they are, could right the ship.  The Penguins were in a free-fall last year and their mid-season coaching change was a key catalyst in vaulting them to a Stanley Cup Championship. Will a team president be the thing that brings a GM or Coaching change and usually, a new direction for the franchise? The Islanders need to keep riding the surge of players like Ladd and Lee and rally around something to unify their goal to improve. There needs to be less “passengers” and more guys ready to consistently outwork whoever they are set to play against. With this kind of mindset, the winning should be more likely to come.

The truth is Jaroslav Halak had a great start to his Islanders stint, and began to fall off. On Twitter, @ReganKingIsles mentioned “There are six teams who have enough space to claim Halak (EDM, OTT, WPG, FLA, NJD, CAR). None of them are going to.” And after noon today, none of them did. Halak was then assigned to the AHL Sound Tigers after nearly 400 games of NHL experience and leading Team Europe to a runner-up finish in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He will have 48 hours to report to Bridgeport.  I am sure Tigers goaltender’s, Christopher Gibson, Eamon McAdam and Stephon Williams aren’t too happy about the demotion either.

Snow had this to say on Halak, "Coming to the rink and being the hardest worker, having a great attitude, that's something that doesn't matter who you are and what position you play and what role you have in the organization, that's what we expect out of everyone in this organization … We expect nothing less form Jaro in that regard." JF Berube should have a big opportunity to show more of what he can do and fight for a role on this year’s team. Snow mentioned that Berube will see an increased work load in the last 47 regular season games for New York according to Cory Wright.

When he is on, Halak is probably close to a top 10 NHL net minder, but he has struggled this season and at the $4.5M per season price, no other team was willing to take the chance. The Islanders needs to feel secure in their goaltending to go out and concentrate on controlling play in all zones, applying pressure and scoring goals. This is especially true when they are worrying about giving up early leads or blowing them late in the game, always having to catch up. So whatever change is coming, it needs to set them on a steady path to improvement and one that could lead to consistency.

It has been a disappointing campaign thus far. 

Let the wave continue and the culture change begin.

Isles Notes:

Kieffer Bellows, Matthew Barzal and Team USA were in Toronto to play against Canada in the World juniors and wins Group B for 1st time in 6 years with a 3-1 win, currently 4-0 in the standings. Next game on Monday vs CZE or SUI.

Adam Pelech has been activated off the IR and loaned to Bridgeport.

The Islanders have reassigned forward Carter Verhaeghe and defenseman Jesse Graham to the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL).

Arthur Staple on Josh Ho-Sang, “Some assumed JHS oversleeping first day of #Isles camp last year was his 1st mistake. Far from it, I was told. Culmination of many mistakes. Been some rumors around NHL that #Isles are shopping Ho-Sang. Not true. Still want him to succeed. Part of the process, as they like to say.”