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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

KoC Season in Review - Shortcomings & Progress: Your 2016-17 New York Islanders, Part 2

Part 1 of my Season Review feature focused on the forwards and Isles power play.

In Part 2, I will focus on team defense and the penalty kill. With the ups and downs of the season, the Isles had more issues than just their PP and struggles offensively. And while the boost Doug Weight brought to the complete team game was evident, they had a lot of injuries on their blue line and still had trouble at different parts of the season holding on in a few tight games. Whether it was letting an opponent answer back quickly after scoring, surrendering late goals in the period or even late in the game, it seemed like New York struggled at the worst possible times to hold the lead. They left quite a few valuable points on the table, and it cost them big time. As mentioned previously, “The Isles went 15-10-12 in one-goal games, winning only 14 of the 36 games (.405).  That .405 percentage in 1-goal games won is the second lowest in the NHL – the Leafs are 14-8-15 (.378) in 1-goal games,” – Hornick. So how did our New York Islanders compare to the rest of the NHL?

Defensively as a whole, the Islanders were 10th in the NHL in goals for and managed a respectable 8th place position in goals against during the regular season. While I can’t defend their frequency of penalties taken or the types and timing of the infractions surrendered by the team, I can speak about Greg Cronin’s Penalty Kill. Their PK had its struggles, but was often more of a benefit, than a detriment. Especially when Capuano moved John Tavares to the PK after the team faltered late in the year. The Isles finished 11th in the NHL (7th in the east) with an 81.9% penalty kill rate, including an impressive kill to 27 of their last 30 PK’s on the season. They were better than half the teams who made the post season. Teams like Montreal, the Rangers, Ottawa and Pittsburgh all finished as far as 11 spots behind the Isles on man-down percentages.  Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, Johnny Boychuk, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin all had a shorthanded goal on the season. Of that group, Boychuk, Tavares and Kulemin all had 2 shorthanded points with Ladd, Nelson and Chimera having 1.

Eric Hornick points out, “The Isles finished the season 30-0-5 in games they led after two periods.”

“It's the first time since 2003-04 (26-0-0) that the Isles have earned a point in every game they led after 40 minutes.”

“The Isles played their final 11 regular-season games in a span of 19 days. The Isles went 8-3-0 in this stretch (2-2-0 at home and 6-1-0 on the road), with seven of the games decided by empty net or less.”

The defense had a major role in the successes (and a few shortcomings) on the season. But the greatest failure was on the team as a whole not making the playoffs. We all know what that is about. Despite the negatives, the Isles had some decent statistics to show they did some things well this season. The trick is building on those positives and addressing the negatives as they get set to head into a busy off-season and into next year. That starts with the players on the roster. Let’s take-a-look at the Isles blueliners and goaltenders from the 2016-17 season.

Nick Leddy (11 & 35 for 46 pts in 66 games) was the best on the defensive side of things for the Islanders this season. He established a new career high in goals (11) and points (46) and matched a career high in assists (35) while leading in average ice-time with 22:43 (Boychuk 20:43 & Hamonic 20:27). Leddy even had a GWG on the season and led all defensemen in shooting percentage with 8.0% and finished 4th on the team with points per game (0.57). Leddy was also 4th on the team (4 & 21 for 25 pts in 40 games) in scoring since Doug Weight took over as head coach just behind Tavares, Lee and Bailey. Rumor has it that Nick Leddy was one of the vets Weight called in to his office to speak about what was expected of him and clearly, he responded.

Johnny Boychuk was 6 & 17 for 23 points in 81 games, with 2 GWG. Isles were 9-4-1 when Boychuk led in ice time and he finished +11 on the year. Calvin deHaan is prone to a mistake now-and-then, but has been improving steadily over the last few seasons. This season, de Haan established a career high in goals (5), assists (20) and points (25) and a finished the season with a +15 rating.

Boychuk (24.8), Leddy (23.6) and deHaan (22.8) were all ranked #2, 3 & 4 just behind John Tavares in shifts per games played and factored heavily into the performance of this team at its best.

Travis Hamonic (3 & 11 for 14 pts in 49 games) had a tough year, but still managed to rise up when called upon. His -21 rating, mostly piled up at the start of the season showed that Hamonic will want to make more of an impact next season. The contributions of Travis Hamonic in the community are well known over his career with the Islanders. This season would be no different. Arthur Staple reported that Travis Hamonic (and Wayne Simmonds) were named finalists for the NHL Foundation Award

Per Staple, "The whole point of this program is to reach out to as many people as possible and let everybody know that whatever sense of grief you're going through, you're not going through it alone and it's definitely okay to talk about it," Hamonic said. “The NHL Foundation Player Award is awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) player ‘who applies the core values of (ice) hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community’. The winner is given a grant of US$ 25,000 to help causes that the winner supports.”

Dennis Seidenberg joined the Islanders after impressing in the world championships for Team Germany with Thomas Greiss. Seidenberg was bought out by the Bruins last summer, so he was motivated to find a new place to play. His ties with Johnny Boychuk in Boston gave the Isles an inside shot on signing the Stanley Cup blue liner. Seidenberg did more than fill in this season. He won another contract for 2017-18 based on this seasons performance. The 35-year-old D-Man recently agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.25M one-way extension. Seidenberg had an impressive team leading +25 and finished with 5 & 17 for 23 points in 73 games and was among the best Isles D in several key stats. Per Eric Hornick, “He (Seidenberg) joins Adrian Aucoin +29 and Kenny Jonsson +25 (both in 2003-04) as the only Islanders to finish a season with a rating of +25 or better since 1994-95.”

Thomas Hickey must be one of the biggest unsung players on the Islanders, if not the NHL. Hickey is a solid, multi-faceted defenseman who does whatever is asked of him. And then does a little more. Hickey was 4 & 16 for 20 points in 76 games, including 2 GWG and a team high 2 goals in OT.

Adam Pelech (3 & 7 for 10 points in 44 games) and Scott Mayfield (2 & 7 for 9 points in 25 games) were solid after getting their shots with the big club this season. I continued to write about how these two young defensemen deserved a shot and looked comfortable and played well for the Islanders, even in crucial situations along the way. They certainly seem to be making the most of their chances. We will see what the summer brings and what kind of impact they will make moving forward. 

And when you think about blue line prospects, some fans weren’t too happy about the news of Seidenberg re-signing, despite his performance last season based on the desire to finally see Ryan Pulock get his serious shot. It’s no secret that Pulock (called up for only 1 game last season) and an ever, impressive Devon Toews are high on their list to see in action with the Islanders. Pulock is known as a solid defenseman with offensive upside and a strong PP game. Toews was named to this season’s AHL all-rookie team for defense and even won the competition for fastest skater.

The three-headed goaltending situation for the Islanders was a bit complicated again this season. The off season saw Halak and Greiss lead Team Germany to the finals of the IIHF world championships, so optimism was definitely in the air. Jaroslav Halak started to lose a little bit of his consistency and saw some time out of the line up with injury, eventually giving way to Thomas Greiss. Alan Walsh, Halak and Berube’s agent, complained about his client’s lack of playing time because of the Isles 3-goalie system and criticized them on social media. Snow was not happy. Greiss played well and the team wanted to send a bit of a message. Garth Snow then sent Halak down and placed the inexperienced JF Berube to serve as Greiss’ back up. He said he didn’t want to lose Berube off waivers (like the way he was attained) and chose to keep him up as a 3rd goalie.

No other team wanted to claim the struggling goal tender with Halak's $4.5M salary through next season, so he reported to Bridgeport as requested. Greiss continued to play well for the Islanders, got an extension, and looked good in the process. But eventually, he just seemed to play too much without a break and his game suffered as a result. During this time, Berube continued to sit on the bench, not play and did not look sharp when he was finally called upon in relief or as a starter for that night. That all resulted in the Islanders losing games when Greiss was scheduled to have a night off. On the plus side, Halak took the opportunity with Bridgeport to buckle down and play hard enough to pull the Sound Tigers back into a playoff race and post a 17-7-3 record in the process. When he was called back up, he played the Islanders out of the regular season and looked very good doing it. He went 12-9-5 in 28 games with a .915Sv% and a 2.80 gaa in an abbreviated workload.

“Jaroslav Halak went 6-1-0 after his recall from Bridgeport (and 6-0-0 as a starter).  He has played to a 1.58 GAA and 94.9 save percentage in those seven games.” – Hornick.

Most Wins Since March 24, Jaroslav Halak 6 (tied with TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy)

In the categories of lowest Goals Against Average and SV% Since March 24 (minimum 3 starts), Halak was 3rd with a 1.58 gaa (Rask & Gibson) and 3rd with a .949Sv% (Rask & Gibson).

Thomas Greiss (26-18-5 in 51 games with a .913Sv% and a 2.69 gaa) had another strong season with New York. “He established new career highs in games (51), minutes (2813) and wins (26) and finished 26-18-5 on the season. Greiss appeared in a career high 51 games, and set career highs for both wins (26) and shutouts (3).” Greiss was clearly miss-managed as the season wound down, due to the unpolished performances by Berube. He played too many games and the team gave up valuable points in the process.

Garth Snow refused to send JF Berube down for fear of losing him to the waiver wire. As a result, the young goaltender practiced, never got enough game action, and when he was finally called upon, he struggled to find a rhythm. Was he even given a fair shot to succeed seeing so little in the way of PT? Rumors have Berube (3-2-2 with an .889 save percentage and 3.42 GAA) expecting to test free agency and not wanting a repeat of the last 2 seasons. He commented about his development suffering and unwilling to repeat the process with New York again next season unless he played a bigger role on the team. That seems very unlikely. So, will he have any trade value prior to the drafts scheduled in June based on his numbers?

Are the Islanders sold on a Halak-Greiss combination going into next year? The promising prospects the Isles have in the system would probably not serve any better than Berube did this season, even if they could be brought to the NHL. Ilya Sorokin is signed through next season in the KHL & Linus Soderstrom is playing in Europe. Both are high on the list in the Isles future plans, but still unproven in the North American game. Eamon McAdam (15-8-0) looks like a good AHL goaltender on the rise and Stephon Williams (6-13-1) struggled last season. The veteran of the group, Christopher Gibson (6-0-0) played just 7 games with the Tigers this season according to the BST stat page.

The summer will be an interesting one. The impending off-season “deadline” contract talks with John Tavares will lead into both an expansion and entry draft. Those factors coupled with the ever-stressful free agency period tainted once again by the team’s arena uncertainty will certainly be a factor. And with the Las Vegas Golden Knights opening shop this summer, it may be a unique and possibly trade heavy off season for everyone with a lot of big names being shopped around.

What or who is on your Isles wish list for next season?

Isles Notes:

4/23 Per John Shannon, “Islander owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are in Toronto. Meetings and getting first hand look at MLSE and Air Canada Centre.” Its another attempt to see how a state-of-the-art and built-for-hockey arena is laid out with plans for Belmont park in the air.

Islanders plan to submit bid for arena at Belmont Park per Gary Bettman.

Per Jim Baumbach, “So the court's decision will determine how quickly the parking lot will be available to the Wilpons. And how viable it is for the Isles. A decision isn't expected for months. But that lines up with Belmont RFP decision and also opt out negotiations. So we will see.”

Per Chris Botta, “Someone Isles ownership should speak with: close Weight pal and Penguins AGM Bill Guerin. Smart hockey man, strong leader.”

“Ledecky taking a full year to observe pays off. Dean Lombardi available. Must be given complete hockey authority with Islanders.”

“Peter Luukko, former Flyers prez/current Panthers chairman, strong candidate to run the Islanders and take lead on arena deal. Luukko is co-chairman of Oak View Group (Leiweke, Azoff, MSG) looking to run Islanders arena. Another reason Luukko makes sense for NYI.”

Former Islander, Kyle Okposo update:  Okposo showing major signs of improvement.

Sound Tigers Notes:

The Sound Tigers will play their 2017-18 Home Opener on Saturday, October 21st.

Mathew Barzal and Linus Soderstrom continue their playoff runs

Hockey Notes:


New York Islanders

The assumption here is that the Devils would be at all willing to move Kovalchuk to a divisional opponent. That’s never a given. However, as noted, New Jersey desperately needs to bolster their backend and New York would be able to provide an NHL-quality defender. That could make all the difference here.
Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Travis Hamonic probably aren’t going anywhere, but Thomas Hickey or Calvin De Haan could be trade options for the Islanders if they’re after Kovalchuk. And if the Islanders need to sweeten the pot — and clear up more cap space — there are a few young forwards who could be thrown into the mix to make this deal more than a one-for-one swap.

While things improved for the Islanders once Doug Weight took over, it sure would be nice if John Tavares could have a sniper on his wing all season that can provide the offensive punch that was lost when Kyle Okposo left town. With his shot alone, Kovalchuk still possesses 30-goal potential. And after the Islanders had the third-worst power play in the league, it couldn’t hurt to add someone with Kovalchuk’s offensive acumen.”

The 2017 NHL Expansion Draft (Las Vegas Golden Knights) will be held on June 18-20 and the formal selections announced on 6/21 during the NHL awards in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.

The NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 23–24, 2017 at the United center in Chicago.

Team USA wins U18 Worlds.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

KoC Season in Review - Shortcomings & Progress: Your 2016-17 New York Islanders, Part 1

We all know that our New York Islanders (41-29-0-12) finished 18th in the NHL and 10th in the east. They ultimately fell short (94 pts) of a playoff spot in the east by only 1 point after making it over the past two seasons and three of the last four. I asked Islanders statistician, Eric Hornick for his impression on the campaign, “This was a strange season. Many fans thought it was over by Thanksgiving but it wasn't. Too many points got away early on late goals and by mid-January Cappy was sent away. The Isles under Dougie had more points than any team in the NHL other than Washington, went 8-3-0 in their final 11 (including six straight wins) and still came up a point short. OH, what might have been?”

Looking back on the 2016-17 campaign, we saw an impressive surge at the end of the season that coincided with the departure of Jack Capuano on January 17th and the naming Doug Weight as interim Head Coach. The interim tag has now been removed and the 2017-18 squad will be his team. “You look back at seven or eight games in the beginning of the season, last two minutes, last three minutes where we lost some points, and it pains you," Weight said. “It's going to be healthier for us as a franchise and an organization to move forward as quick as we can and figure things out." When asked about the finish to the season, Weight said, "I'm very proud with how we finished. I'm disappointed that we didn't get any help when we needed it, but I'm disappointed that we needed it." John Tavares felt Weight brought a lot to the team, sparked the finish they had and motivated everyone to respond to the challenge it took to improve as much as they did. He said that Weight had the respect of the team and I would say, that’s the most important baseline you want in players to coach relationship.

I am again looking forward to some of the prospects and younger players merging with some of the talented vets and hopefully, a free agent upgrade heading into camp for next season, but the reality of the team’s future, although still promising is one of flux and frustrating uncertainty. First and foremost, the final season of John Tavares’ contract will be in effect and although things seem like they could work out, especially with the elevation of Weight as head coach, Tavares will probably want his patience to be rewarded with a little more than he had this season. Especially in the way of organizational and team stability. B.D. Gallof mentions, “Tavares recently moved from Manhasset to Garden City. Expectation really seems to be team/player (and agent) get it done this summer.” Tavares was quoted as saying, "I've always been treated really well here, I've stated that all the time. But we'll have conversations with management.” Per Brian Compton, “Tavares says he hopes to sign extension this summer. Hasn't thought about whether he'd negotiate during season if no deal.” Garth Snow stated that his aim is to re-sign Tavares by the end of June as well as a “plan for expansion draft and roster improvements." A lot of work needs to be done between now and July.” Per Shannon Hogan. John Tavares is 26 years old, last year of 6-year contract at $5.5M per.

It was widely reported that the organization is looking for an established, well respected team president to call more of the shots usually handled by GM and president, Garth Snow, to possibly help change the reputation of the team’s front office to its detractors. “Malkin and Ledecky have continued to talk to potential team president candidates over the past few weeks. Pat Brisson, John Tavares’ high-powered agent, remains a strong draw for the Isles owners despite Brisson’s denials of interest in such a job,” per Arthur Staple. The truth is that Snow has certainly made a few mistakes and questionable moves, but he has made some progress for the organization at the draft, managing the salary cap and in a few strong free agent signings. I appreciate the argument that some are sick of waiting, dealing with the nuances of his tenure and just want him gone, but I don’t see that happening, at least right now. Especially after Staple reported, “Snow has four playoff appearances in 11 seasons as GM. According to numerous sources around the league, he also has a contract with at least five more seasons on it, a parting gift of sorts from loyal former owner Charles Wang when he turned control of the team over to Malkin and Ledecky.”

The ever-resurfacing rumors of where will the Islanders be playing in the future have not gone away. Stories of the team re-upping their commitment to play in a complaint ladened and non-hockey friendly Barclays Center, a move to a new site around Citi-Field in Queens or even a possible relocation to a custom-built facility in Nassau’s Belmont Park is possible. The later has been supported by NHL insider, Bob McKenzie. “Just to clarify geography, Belmont Park, Elmont, NY. Also, should stress again nothing done officially but appears headed in that direction.” There is even an active movement by politicians and Barclays Brass to call the Islanders back to the refurbished, but much smaller and still not quite right Coliseum “home” in Nassau county. NHL Commissioner stated on WFAN that Islanders ownership is committed to keeping the team in New York, but doesn’t think a return to the Coliseum is the answer.

In this installment of my recap, I’ll be looking back on the O-Zone of the team, their contributions and milestones of the past season. I’ll also be mentioning a few details of their inappropriately named, power play. On the plus side, The Islanders finished 2016-17 with five players reaching the 20-goal mark. Lee, Tavares, Nelson, Ladd & Chimera all hit the mark.

Let’s start with John Tavares, Captain of the New York Islanders since the 2013-14 season.  He was first on the team in points with 66 (28 & 38) in 77 games. Per Eric Hornick, “John Tavares has 235 career goals, tying him with Bobby Nystrom for eighth place on the club's all-time list.” JT’s season was cut short by a strange hamstring injury after stumbling and trying to make a play behind the Devils net on 3/31. If the Isles made the playoffs, Tavares had hoped to be back by game 3 or 4 of 1st round. Per Kevin Maher, “Did Barclays ice cause Tavares' hamstring injury? Tavares, "I don’t think you'll ever really know. But once I dug my heel in is when I felt the pop." His first goal now is to get healthy, decompress and then consider the possibility of a contract extension with New York. Tavares said resigning is a “more complicated process than people realize,” and re-affirmed how much he likes it with the Islanders and living in the community. Tavares showed even more flexibility defensively as a player this year with his strong presence on the PK towards the end of the season. He was disappointed they let playoff chances for season “slip away,” although he was proud of team’s effort, especially in the last 6 games of the season and joked that he should have gotten hurt earlier in the stretch run. On JT’s hamstring injury, "You see a guy’s heel dig in like that, it doesn’t happen other places," Clutterbuck said, referring to the conditions at Barclays Center.”

Line mates with JT for much of this year, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey had great seasons. Lee finished 1st on the team and 10th in the NHL in goals with 34 (career high). With his 18 assists, Lee posted a career high 52 points in 81 games and showed he is a bonafide NHL power forward and a nightmare to opposing goaltenders in front of the net. Per Hornick, “Anders Lee scored 33 goals in his last 63 games (since November 23rd).  Only Auston Matthews (34) scored more in that span.” Josh Bailey was a set up machine, leading the Islanders with 43 assists (career high). When you add in his 13 goals in 82 games, Bailey finished the year with 56 points (career high). Bailey scored his 200th assist and recorded his 100th goal and 300th point earlier this season per Hornick. Not bad for a player who rarely gets a break from some fans.

Brock Nelson was 20 & 25 (career high) for 45 points (career high) in 81 games. Those are good numbers and Nelson had some strong games, but also seemed to struggle for much of the season to me, especially on the defensive side of things, evident by his -6 rating. Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd were the high-end profile signings for the Islanders in the off season, but started the year very slowly. They looked like horrible fits and made fans wonder if they would even come close to what was expected of them. As the season went on and as the coaching change happened, both Chimera and Ladd caught fire. They made a difference in several big games, with Jason Chimera netting 20 (career high) & 13 for 33 in 82 games and Andrew Ladd tallying 23 (at least 23 goals for 4th straight Ssn) & 8 for 31 in 78 games.

Ryan Strome showed some flashes of his A game, but finished with 13 & 17 for 30 points. Numbers that were lower than are expected from him. That coupled with the fact that he found himself on the negative side of the comments section of Newsday a few times with quotes like this. “He had a chance to shoot there and he didn’t. That’s human error; you can live with that," Weight said. "I was more upset with the track [defensively]. It’s a play you’ve got to make, get to the middle, protect that good ice. Stromie knows. He sat a couple shifts and went out for the power play, and we should’ve had one there.” Under Weight, Strome had 7 goals and 16 points in 30 games until a wrist injury that took him out of the mix for the end of the season.

Anthony Beauvillier on the other hand seemed bound for Bridgeport, but made the team out of camp. Then he made quite an impression to everyone else. John Tavares credited him with significant growth as a player and person this season. Beauvillier was 9 & 15 for 24 points and looked good on some important shifts for New York. And while we are at it, let’s talk about the exciting prospect named Josh Ho-Sang. Once a former disciplinary question mark, Ho-Sang was called up on March 2nd and never looked back. The 21 year old was 4 & 6 for 10 points in 21 games and made entering the offensive zone look effortless at times. His vision on the ice and play-making chops should make fans optimistic that he indeed was a risk worth taking. “Ho-Sang tallied 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 48 games with Bridgeport. Overall, Ho-Sang ranked second among AHL rookies in assists and tied for sixth in points at the time of his recall in late February. The 6’0, 172-pound winger notched 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last six games in the AHL.” Ho-Sang said on the call-up, "It was a lot of fun to be a part of this. There are parts I need to work on, I'm going to focus on getting stronger & winning."

Casey Cizikas (8 & 17 for 25 pts in 59 games), Cal Clutterbuck (5 & 15 for 20 pts in 66 games) and Nikolay Kulemin (12 & 11 for 23 pts in 72 games) anchored the revamped 4th line. The Isles missed Martin more than I thought they would, but the line did its job without him. Cizikas and Clutterbuck battled injury and Kulemin (shoulder injury) just played his game. As a line, their individual efforts made a difference, even when another was struggling and each player had an impact on the team game regularly. Clutterbuck was quoted as saying he had nagging groin strain on the season, but doesn't feel he will need surgery this summer. Cizikas missed time most recently, with a finger injury.

Alan Quine (5 & 13 for 18 pts, -2 in 61 games) and Shane Prince (5 & 13 for 18 pts and a -9 in just 50 games) fell short of expectations for me this year. Quine was an AHL favorite of mine and had some good games, but seemed to struggle more than expected. Shane Price looked like the diamond in the rough to many after being acquired in the waning moments of a dead-line day trade last year, especially after scoring 5 pts in 20 games and 4 pts in 11 playoff games. But his lack luster play this season coupled with mounting injuries prevented him from making the impact fans and media may have expected. With the Likes of Barzal & Dal Colle or even Connor Jones, the bottom 6 could get very tight next season. Stephen Gionta (1 & 5 for 6 pts in 26 games at a +9) signed on as a two-way contracted player and spent much of the season with Bridgeport. When Gionta was called up, he played his ass off and was gritty and fun to watch. He may have made a case for another contract this summer with New York for reliable team depth.

The greatest bane of the Islanders season was certainly Coach Weight’s unreliable power play. At 14.9%, the Isles ranked last in the east on the season, and 28th in the league. Only Vancouver and Colorado were worse. Two teams who finished among the bottom 3 (along with the Devils) in wins on the season. It was a limiting factor in maintaining leads and coming back in key games that could have made the difference in a very tight playoff race that New York ultimately failed to make. Per Eric Hornick, The Isles went 15-10-12 in one-goal games, winning only 14 of the 36 (.405).  That .405 percentage in 1-goal games won is the second lowest in the NHL – the Leafs are 14-8-15 (.378) in 1-goal games.  (The Isles were 21-6-10 in one-goal games last season.) Hornick also mentions, “The Isles are 18-7-6 when they score at least one power play goal and 23-22-6 when they do not.” Those are telling stats and the reason for who knows of how many lost points. In my opinion, the organization must focus on hiring an assistant PP specialist to help this team fix one of its most glaring deficiencies. The question is who?

It’s not going to be possible to pry Kevin Dineen form a stable and successful Blackhawks’ gig, but how about former Islander, Travis Green? Green is currently the head coach of the AHL Utica Comets and one of the most talked about minor-league coaches mentioned for an NHL role. Darren Dreger mentioned that the Vancouver Canucks have a short list of coaching candidates, but sense is Travis Green remains the front runner.

Todd Reirden is the associate coach of the Capitals and a noted PP specialist. If the Caps disappoint again this year, who knows what could happen. And it kills me to say this because I genuinely hate him, but Kirk Muller is an associate coach for Montreal and is known for his defensive and PP vision. Would he even take the job? I feel dirty for even mentioning it.

Who do you think would fit the bill?


Isles Notes:

"Calvin de Haan will play for Team Canada at the World Championships in Cologne and Paris. Congrats @cal_dehaan! #IIHFWorlds #Isles"

The @NYIslanders recalled forward Connor Jones after John Tavares was injured.

“Jones, 26, played 56 games with the Sound Tigers this season, recording 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) and a plus-8 rating. The third-year pro also made his NHL debut on Apr. 2 at Buffalo and posted a plus-1 rating and two penalty minutes in four games with the Islanders. He notched 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 51 games with Bridgeport last year. In addition, he appeared in three Calder Cup Playoff games with the Sound Tigers in 2015-16.”

Isles Prospects, Mathew Barzal advances to third round, Linus Soderstrom in SHL Final.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New York Islanders Miss The Point

Our New York Islanders finished with a 41-29-0-12 record this season. The accumulated 94 pts accounted to just 3 wins away from last year, but still missed playoffs by 1 point, just behind Toronto. It’s a tribute to the team when you think how far they came from since the middle of January. They were last in the east and looked to be without hope of any kind. A coaching change and some renewed enthusiasm sparked them to make a strong, though ultimately unsuccessful post-season push.

I wrote about how important it was for the Isles to beat the Rangers and Penguins towards the end of March. I felt it would show how they could rise to the challenge of a playoff push. Well, they beat the Rangers and Penguins and things were looking up. The Boston Bruins were next. A team they were tied with in the standings and if they could win, it would be one of those “4 point” games and a huge boost to reach their initial goal. Unfortunately, they lost that game, and the next two games, against Nashville 3-1 and to Philadelphia in an ugly 6-3 blowout. I wanted Ryan Pulock called up to add a spark to defense and help their horribly unreliable power play. I wanted Jaroslav Halak recalled from Bridgeport. Halak was 17-7-3 with the Sound Tigers at the time and looked refocused and ready to help the Isles waffling defense keep and maintain leads. JF Berube had struggled in the backup role and Thomas Greiss was playing too many games as a result. I also wanted a much better offensive effort, especially on special teams. Josh Ho-Sang was making a difference since his call up, but they needed more.

Things were looking hopeless and the team looked as if they couldn’t get out of their own way. The loses, failures, shortcomings on the ice had fans pulling their hair out and demanding that things change in a hurry. The injuries were mounting. Strome (broken wrist), Cizikas (finger), Hamonic (thumb), Tavares (hamstring) and Prince (leg) were all out at the worst possible time, and that time was running out. It was clearly necessary for guys to step up, and they did. Some of the standouts include Anders Lee (52 pts), Josh Bailey (56), Josh Ho-Sang (10 in 21 games), Anthony Beauvillier (24) were difference-makers along with major contributions from Andrew Ladd (31) and Jason Chimera (33). Dennis Seidenberg (22 & +25), Scott Mayfield (9) and Adam Pelech (10) made a mostly unexpected difference on the blue line for some (not me, ;). It was a great effort, that was fun to watch, but ultimately just wasn’t enough.

The Islanders saw the Maple Leafs eliminate them after game 81 with a last-minute win over the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a shame that this Isles team won’t be able to ride that season-long 6 game winning streak into the post season. Guys would start coming off injured reserve and once he was called back up, Jaroslav Halak looked to be entering his top 10 goaltender groove along with the strong play offered by Thomas Greiss. Just imagine Josh Ho-Sang on the play off stage. Well, we will have to imagine, because despite all the near heroics and getting bounced by 1 point, they still got bounced. They fell short and they didn’t get the job done. Several players and the now interim head coach have spoken about how that bad taste will stay with them all summer. Hopefully, they truly are close to taking that elusive next step I keep talking about. Ownership has a lot to think about. A new president of hockey operations, the status of Snow, who the head coach will be and who should get a shot at making the roster and who should go, along with the entry draft and expansion draft. These are all good questions that I will attempt to address in my season recap, coming soon.

UPDATE: 4/12 Per Arthur Staple, "#Isles have named Doug Weight head coach." Interim tag has been removed. This may be the first step in keeping JT happy. He was mentored by Weight & has publicly stated that he would like Weight to remain as head coach.

And to add a little more craziness to the mix, expect a lot more of things like this to go down in the coming weeks …

Chris Botta, “I understand all replies. Of course, Snow should go. But I doubt it. At worst, owners will give him a pseudo-demotion. 11 years.”

Per E.J. Hradek, “Great run by Lombardi/Sutter in LA. Two Cups. Time for a change? Probably. Both could be major upgrades for several other franchises.”

Per James Mirtle, “The next organization to keep an eye on is the Islanders. Could be big changes there.”

Keep the faith Isles fans. Seriously.

Isles Notes:

4/9 Anders Lee was named the 2016-17 winner of the Bob Nystrom Award, given to the Islanders who best embodies leadership, hustle and dedication. 

4/5 Former Islander, Kyle Okposo was hospitalized and in intensive care (4/5) for an undisclosed ailment and was released a couple of days after (4/7). Okposo’s return is “hopeful.”

4/3 Mangano can see path for “Isles return to Colisieum.” 

Ho-Sang on Lemieux’s “blessing” to wear 66, “Josh Ho-Sang on Mario's comments: "I’m very grateful that he [said what he said]. It definitely takes a lot of heat off of me."

Per Eric Hornick, “Isles won 7 of last 8 from #NYR, matching their BEST- EVER REGULAR SEASON STREAK against the Blueshirts (1977-78).”

Sound Tigers – Prospect Notes:

4/10, “Josh Ho-Sang, Adam Pelech and Connor Jones have been reassigned by the @NYIslanders to Bridgeport.” 

4/5 “Congratulations to @DevonToews6 on being named to @TheAHL All-Rookie Team!”

4/3 “Parker Wotherspoon (D) has been reassigned to Bridgeport from @TCAmericans."

3/29 “Tanner Fritz has agreed to a two-way deal w/ the @NYIslanders that begins in 2017-18." 

3/24 “Brant Harris (RW) has been released from his PTO. He will rejoin the @FL_Everblades.”

The #SoundTigers have signed John Stevens & Matt Gaudreau to ATOs. 

3/23  BST's Trio of Moves.

3/23 Per WHL, “Congrats to @SeattleTbirds @Barzal_97, 2016-17 Western Conference Player of the Year! #WHLAwards

Per Arthur Staple, “Barzal finished the reg. season 10-69-79 in 41 games. Wotherspoon was 10-56-66 in 69 games, 4th among WHL defensemen.”

“As for G Linus Soderstrom, who just finished a standout year in the SHL, #Isles may sign him and allow him to remain in Sweden next year.”

“For those who have asked: Sounds like #Isles G prospect Ilya Sorokin will remain in KHL next season. Has one year left on deal.”

NHL Notes:

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on 2018 Olympics: "Assume we're not going."

Rumors have mentioned players like Ovechkin, Scheifele, McKinnon and Duchene intend to play at the upcoming World Championship.

@NHLCentralScout will release final rankings for the 2017 #NHLDraft on Tues., April 11, at 10 a.m. ET on