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

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.”

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our New York Islanders: More Naughty Than Nice

Our New York Islanders took a positive two game winning streak into the Christmas break, but some feel they still deserved coal in their stockings.

They have gone 2 & 5 in their last 7 games, sitting 14th in the east and last in the Metro. Although they have improved over the last few games, especially in a 5-1 win vs the Sabres in Okposo’s return to Brooklyn, the Isles continue to struggle on the road (3-7-2), on special teams (27th at 14.3% on PP and 24th on the once dominant PK, now at 79.1%) and holding on to leads, especially late in the game. None of this is new and it’s a recurring, frustrating pattern for the team as they approach the half-way point of the season.  Coach Capuano still has hope, “When teams lose it, they start quitting, there's no emotion. That hasn't happened with this group." While they haven’t quit, we keep hearing about “passengers” and “guys struggling,” but the only changes we have seen aside from the occasional call-up was off-season depth pick-up, Brian Gionta (Per Staple, ‘Gionta's two-way deal is for a prorated portion of $575K/$200K’) being signed to a two-way deal after playing in Bridgeport. @garick16 mentions, "Ironically Steve Bernier would've been a much better call up at 9-5-14 in 18 games.” 

When I polled my readers on twitter, most believe that the new ownership needs to replace the GM first, then the coaching staff while others want to trade veterans like Hamonic and a few top prospects like Ho-Sang and Barzal to get a much needed winger to play with Tavares.

Follower @OneCrazyD mentions, “GM drafts using analytics(possession), hires coach w/no analytical skillset, strategy O dump n chase D collapse block shots … GM at fault for letting coach reduce players skillset with horrid strategies & the coach cant adjust BOTH need to go.”  So does the new ownership of the Islanders continue to stay with the plan, do they just add another executive to the management in the President’s seat to shake things up from the top?  Do they consider making some intermediate or big roster changes?

Credit the team with working on their problematic slow start tendencies. Eric Hornic mentions a few stats that we should consider. The Isles have scored first for the 12th time in their last 14 games. It’s also been nice to see Ryan Strome make some noise for the third time in 5 games and Anthony Beauvillier scored for the second time in his last three and John Tavares returned to the score sheet for the first time in six games.  Even more importantly, “The Isles have scored at least four goals in consecutive games for the first time this season; their nine goals over the last two games matches a season high.”

The other side of the blue line is having a tough time in some areas of the game. Goaltending is mostly suspect and defensively, the Isles are reeling a bit.  Jaroslav Halak has struggled. He is 5-8 with a 3.13gaa & a .907Sv%. But Thomas Greiss has won two in-a-row and is (2.48gaa & .922Sv%) with an 8-5-0 record (6 & 2 in his last 8) has allowed two goals or less in five of those six wins. JF Berube hasn’t gotten a big enough sample size to judge his season so far. An OT loss and tough team effort in front of him against Ottawa has kept him from getting a win, but he has looked comfortable and made some big saves.  As a defensive unit, the Isles “have been tied in the third period in nine of their 14 regulation losses (and 15 of their 20 overall losses) but have allowed the lead goal in the final 3 minutes of regulation five times.”

That’s a losing plan for a coach that says his squad hasn’t quit. I am not sure how long they will be permitted to underachieve despite the talent and efforts of many throughout the organization. We all want to cheer on this team, but we also expect something to cheer about from top, down.

Isles Notes:

The Isles have the Capitals at home tomorrow night at 7pm, at the Wild on Thursday, 12/29 and finish 2016 in Winnipeg against the Jets at 7pm on the 31st.

Casey Cizikas is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. Cizikas is an impact player with 4 goals, 13 points, +7 and 71 hits to his credit in 29 games this season.

Isles prospect, Kieffer Bellows makes team USA for WJC. 

Could the islanders really come back to Long Island?

Former Islander, D Marc-Andre Bergeron signs professional tryout contract (PTO) with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL.  

Sound Tigers Notes:

Per hornick, “The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are spending the Christmas break with a 16-11-0-0 record, despite a 4-game losing streak.

Bracken Kearns continues to lead the Sound Tigers in scoring (8-14-22), while Steve Bernier leads the team in goals with nine.  Toews leads the team with 16 assists and is second on the team in points (4-16-20); fellow rookie Eamon McAdam leads the team with 7 wins (7-1-0).

Toews leads all AHL rookie defensemen with those 16 assists, and is tied for the AHL rookie defenseman lead with 20 points.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

Islanders Commit To Clutterbuck

Garth Snow has signed alternate captain, fan favorite, clutch, goal scoring PK’er, Cal Clutterbuck to a 5-year contract extension worth $3.5M AAV, broken-down as follows: 2017-18: $5M 2018-19: $4M 2019-20: $3.5M 2020-21: $2.5M 2021-22: $2.5M per @CapFriendly. The 29-year-old Clutterbuck has 2 & 7 for 9 points in 25 games and has usually been a factor for the successes in the wins New York has put together this season. He was coming off a career best (goals, 15 & points, 23) last year and like Casey Cizikas, has proven himself as more than a 4th line player to the Islanders. The front loaded contract is a safety net for Snow and the Isles to allow a more trade friendly scenario if the relationship sours. It’s a lot of money for another likeable agitator, but Clutterbuck is more than that. Again, much like Cizikas, Clutterbuck brings a dynamic to the team that they struggle to replace without them.

And I am not saying the Islanders shouldn’t focus on adding better, top end complementation to the aid of John Tavares, but let’s be real and consider what the big picture looks like. Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera have been contributing slowly, but not anywhere as near expected. When you have a proven commodity like the Isles do in Cizikas and Clutterbuck who can and have changed the fortune of countless games, you try and retain them. It’s easy to bash the team and the GM for the same shortcomings that befall them, and you should. Winning is the goal and they haven’t been able to figure out how to ice a consistent winner with veteran add-ons and promising prospects, but you should also consider the ire generated from “letting go” of players like Okposo, Nielsen and Martin. Losing Nielsen was crushing, but he left to go somewhere else with better money on the table at home and although Okposo and Martin may have scored goals or brought it each and every shift, they weren’t worth the prices they were asking. Especially from a team that needs to plan on how they will be able to keep a free agent in John Tavares, even if he signs on again for a home-town discount.

Eric Hornick points out, “With Clutterbuck extended until 2021-22, every #isles F is now under contract for next yr. (Seidenberg and Greiss are only pending UFAs).”

Our New York Islanders defeated the St. Louis Blues on Thursday by a 3-2 score and are now better than an NHL .500 for the first time all season. They are 11-10-5 and sit 14th in the Eastern conference. Troubles are plenty, but the team has definitely done some damage over the last few games by beating Pens, Caps and their rival Rangers on Tuesday in a physical and energetic fashion. Special teams have been a problem for New York with consistency. Their PP is struggling once again and is tied for the last in the league (FLA at 13.5%). Interestingly enough, they are 3-4-3 when they score at least one power play goal and 8-6-2 when they do not (Hornick). Their improving PK is 13th in the league at 83.3%. “The Isles have not allowed a power play goal in their last 8 games, stopping all 19 opponent opportunities.” They must also do a better job of building leads and holding on late in the game. What else is new, right?

They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and a few players have begun to catch fire. John Tavares has extended his point scoring streak to 4 games and Josh Bailey had a 6 game point scoring streak end last night. Anders Lee has scored 7 goals in his last 8 games and has scored 10 points on the season so far. Eric Hornick tells us that the Isles have scored at least three goals (excluding shootout winners) in five straight games. And we know there is something to that magic number of 3 (10-1-2) that he always talks about. They are also 7-1-3 when they score first and are 4-9-2 when they allow the opening goal.  Offense is the key, especially when the defense contributes the way it does, so the recent offensive push is what they need to continue their climb from the eastern conference, slump-induced basement.

Isles Notes:

Per @TheHockeyNews, “John Tavares scores after making one of the most unique moves ever.”

Per Eric Hornick, “The Isles are 18-1-3 all-time at Barclays Center against Western Conference opponents.”

Are the Islanders looking for a new President? Yes. With an infusion of new brass blood just like the Lightning did by hiring Steve Yzerman, the Islanders will be looking into some big name alumni and NHL icons. Pat LaFontaine, Brad Richards and Kevin Gilmore have been names I’ve read, rumored to be on the team’s list of prospective candidates.

Jaro Halak is 5-6-5, 2.88gaa and a .912Sv% on the season. Thomas Greiss is 6-4-0, 2.42gaa and a .919Sv%. JF Berube has dressed as the back-up for 9 straight. Per Hornick, “Berube would be UFA if he does not play at least 30 minutes in 22 games this season.”

The islanders are at the Blue Jackets on Saturday at 7pm.

Attention Isles Fans:

Blue And Orange Army Hardcore is running their 4th annual Toys for Tots, toy drive right now at Islanders Home Games through December 18th. They are collecting new, unwrapped toys outside section 228/229 to benefit the Marine Charity.

Be sure to see Craig, Sharon, Fess or Tbone for more information.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Islanders Making Waves & BST Star Wars Night

Our New York Islanders are now 27th in the league, last in the Metropolitan division and the Eastern conference with 22 pts and a 9-10-4 record. The Isles have collected points in 4 OT or SO loses and those have made somewhat of a difference at this point, keeping them close enough to be dangerous. And while a lot has gone wrong, (goal scoring struggles, holding leads, lack of physicality on the check, missing PP with an up and down PK) afew good things have been happening amidst the things continue to plague the team. They have definitely started to trend towards the positive, like a 3 game winning streak which included an OT win vs Calgary, a comeback win vs the Stanley Cup Champion Pens (scored twice in 3 seconds tying NHL record) and a blowout 3rd period, good for a 3-0 shutout of the Caps last night. It was Jaroslav Halak’s (4-6-4, 2.86gaa & .911 Sv%) 40th career shutout. Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera have started to contribute more on the score-sheet and the team’s recent flurry of scoring big goals, very late in games (twice in last 3) is a trend we would love to see continue.

The recent surge could give ownership a reason to stay behind GM, Garth Snow and Head Coach, Jack Capuano despite bad press throughout the NHL media pool and even fan petitions to encourage change behind the bench. The Islanders are playing better offensively and making a difference on the fore and back check, and that is translating on the ice. Eric Hornick mentioned that the Islanders have scored 1st in the last 4 games (3-1) and have won 3 straight for the first time this season, putting them 1 game out from an NHL .500 record. He has also pointed out for quite some time that the Isles magic number is 3. When they score 3 goals, they win games. They are 8-1-1 when doing so this season (37-4-2 last season) and can dictate the flow of a game, bringing more consistent play instead of struggling to stay in the mix.

While rumors abound on the team looking to find a top winger to play with franchise player and Captain, John Tavares, recent line tweaking has yielded some results. The Nelson-Tavares, Bailey line and opened some space and started to give the Islanders a little more bite. With Tavares, Nelson and Bailey all leading the team in points (18,15 & 14), it was definitely worth a try. Defensively, the Isles are enjoying an impact from their D joining the rush and playing well as a unit. They have contributed 47 points and Scott Mayfield has 2 of those points in 2 games played. Ryan Pullock and Adam Pelech look comfortable on the ice and the team has several players that have value on the trade market. They are a tight-knit group that spoke up on behalf of their coach, so we will have to wait and see what happens in the next few games as chemistry may continue to develop.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are enjoying a 13-6-0 record and will play Binghamton on Saturday night at 7pm. Eric Hornick, “Bracken Kearns continues to lead the Sound Tigers in scoring (6-11-17), while Steve Bernier leads the team in goals with eight goals.  Toews is tied for the AHL rookie assist lead with those 12 helpers. Christopher Gibson, who hasn't played since an injury November 5th, remains the team leader in victories (6-0-0) while McAdam is now 5-0-0.”

On Saturday, December 3rd, the Islanders major AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers will host a Star Wars night to benefit the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation. The team will be raising money and auctioning off special Star Wars themed jerseys for this great cause. The Sound Tigers have asked different organizations to support them on the night and my wife and I felt a duty to respond. A few members of my international Star Wars charity group will be there, in costume with me to help bring some spirit and smiles to the night. I’ll be the one dressed as a 181st Tie Pilot, please stop by and say hello!

Isles Notes:

Sunday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings will be the first time the Islanders see Frans Nielsen as a member of the opposition, since leaving the team as a free agent this summer.

12/1 Seidenberg off IR, Pelech (upper) on IR.

Per Eric Hornick, “JF Berube dressed as the back-up goalie for the sixth straight game.” Berube has yet to play for the Islanders this season. Thomas Greiss is 5-4-0 with a 2.47gaa and a .919Sv%.

Per Brendan Burke, “PK this season: First 6 games: 95.4% Next 8 games: 61.5% Last 8 games: 91.7% I offer no reason nor explanation, just numbers.”

Per IPB, “The Islanders are said to have a team value of $385 million, which is good for the 18th spot in the NHL, according to Forbes.

Forbes calculated the value of the team to have increased 18 percent from last year. 
New team owners, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, paid $485 million to become majority owners, replacing Charles Wang, who is now a minority investor in the team.” 

Per Daniel Friedman, “@forbes also suggests team will leave Barclays after 2017-18 season.”

Thomas Hickey scored another O.T. game winner against Calgary on Monday to give the Islanders a 2-1 win. Per Eric Hornick, “Thomas Hickey became the first defenseman in Islander history to score four regular season overtime goals.”
D, Adam Pelech left Monday night's 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames with an upper-body injury. Scott Mayfield in for Pelech against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, 11/30.

On 11/28 IN 1979: Billy Smith of the @NYIslanders became first goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal.   

11/23 The Islanders beat the Ducks in a bizarre 14 round shoot out. Thomas hickey scores a controversial goal in 12 round to keep NY alive until Nick Leddy scored the winning goal.

Sound Tigers Notes:

11/29 The @NYIslanders have activated Ryan Pulock (D) off the team's IR list and loaned him to the #SoundTigers.
Per Brian Compton, “Pulock needs a couple of games to get back into game shape. Injury kept him off the ice for a bit.”

11/16 D, Jesse Graham and goaltender Eamon McAdam have been reassigned to the team by the New York Islanders from the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL). In addition, goaltender Josh Robinson has been released from his PTO and returned to Missouri.

NHL Notes:

NBC to televise 2017 Honda @NHL All Star Game - orig. scheduled for @NBCSN, first time on net TV since '04.