OPINION: Are These Isles a Team of Tin Men?

 

“When you play this game, you need to play with fire. You need to have passion. You need play with determination. You need to play with desperation… When you lace up your skates, the guy across from you, the guy on the left and the right of you, they need to know that you’ve got their back and you’re going to play for one another. That just didn’t happen tonight.”

 

- Jack Capuano, coach of the NY Islanders

 

 

 

 

Good words to hear, especially when the confidence of this team, besides the work ethic, has eroded over the course of many games.

There are two prevailing opinions. One by fans, another by those in hockey on how to proceed.

 

FAN-SIDE: One of the severe issues affecting these Isles is if the lack of players that EXUDE work ethic and commitment, instead those bide their time at Bridgeport. Michael Haley? Gillies?

When the Islanders chose to upgrade the 4th line center position from Konopka and let Haley stew at Bridgeport, they took out an engine and hard edge to this team that has not been replaced by anything much on the stat column. So, if one wants to judge and also give Garth Snow a bit of a learning experience: Sometimes, Garth, LESS is MORE.

By making that change, there seems to be a lot less on ice in terms of passion, grit and determination.

Can it be any clearer when the team is resting some hopes on Nino, and Matt Martin has rightly held on to a spot, that maybe adding some heart and soul might help?

 

THE HOCKEY COUNTER: An argument can be made that a mere 4 minute guy or some 4th liners just do not do the amount of time nor really lead to a goal to make any kind of difference. That the problems for the Isles are really a massive outage by key players on defense: Streit and Andy McDonald. On offense: Okposo, Bailey, Comeau. Even Nielsen needs to bring up the level as a #2 center.

 

Both argument require a change within to change fortunes. 

 

If you think on the counter argument, then you see how there is a large percentage of the team just in a funk. A 4th line or fighter guy will just not fix the many problems….

That might even be more disturbing because it is NOT just a simple case of one or two turning it around. Garth and Capuano need to get to the bottom of what is affecting many players here. And I am not sure the coaching staff has the experience or the tools to deal with it. That is another deepset problem when you have a very raw coach with a raw team, with a GM with no rebuild experience beyond the current project. So any hiccups or speedbumps to the rebuild quickly become mountains to climb as everyone needs to figure things out.

 

Further on the FAN-SIDE of argument is that Blake Comeau’s play has been more than inconsequential. It has been abysmal.  What better message to give to a club to someone who is not even part of the 2006 to present Isles system to be dealt. Yes, maybe you don’t get value, but again… sometimes less  is more.Garth was quick to send Zhitnik out of town for being a lockerroom problem. The Wiz was wizzed over to Montreal rather quickly just last season. Maybe it is high time to remove a malaise and jolt those kids who seem to be floating through a game vs the champs. Could this team be better served to move him even for low value? One wonders, even on the HOCKEY-SIDE argument that this might work as well to send a strong message to the players. It certainly might. But wouldn’t it be far more hockey value to work with him over the stretch to turn his game around, to create better value while helping the team? Yes, also.

The difference between the FAN-SIDE and the HOCKEY-SIDE argument is will this team turn to kneejerk reaction to appease the fans..who DO matter. OR stick to the course, turn it around, also appeasing fans…just a bit further down the line.

The fan reaction is deserved, in either case. This team should have come out working on how they turned a corner last season.

Even for the game lastnight, they should have come out gangbusters, looking to topple the champs. To beat them at their own game. Instead, the Isles sleepwalked through a loss. It was reminiscent of the game before Scott Gordon was fired last season.

There is a lack of passion and going through motions that forgets that this is a game and that this team and players are empowered with the ability to change that course or at least give the other team a bit of a fight. If they cannot get their act together, maybe that system and priority is in question where talent and hockey sense is only half way, and the other is a will to win at ALL and ANY cost. We don’t know what went on in the lockerroom after, nor any meeting after. But you can be sure it did not sit well with any player.

In either argument, Garth and the Isles think-tank must be willing to change gears and figure out the best course of action. Whether they get a different coach: someone cranky and vicious that maybe that the players DO NOT like, so be it. If it requires the team deal some dead-weight and send a powerful message…so be it. If they just need to stay the course and work through this, breaking thru….so be it.

Whatever needs to be done, it better be the right thing because fans are starting to get restless, frustrated and tuning out. That is a very bad thing the team CANNOT afford in the longrun.

With Ullstrom called up, Nino needing to get up to speed post-injury, I’d expect both to be in the ranks. This means Comeau and perhaps even Bailey sits. Ullstrom plays LW and center, which gives the Isles a lot of options. But, Ullstrom is also more of a bottom-six projection. So expect him on the 3rd line to start. I’d expect Okposo to be back in also. This is perfect timing with the Penguins coming up with Sidney Crosby about to return. The Isles should take it personally that the Pens look at the Isles as a soft-patch to get Sid the Kid eased in.

 

 

IF YOU MISSED IT: My talk with a goalie scout about the Isles goalies and prospects! Read it here!

 

 

TIPS, THOUGHTS, READ ANYTHING GOOD, OR PERHAPS YOU WROTE ONE YOURSELF? Let us know in the comments or email me at bd@hockeyindependent.com

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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. John Hoehman says:

    I have been saying it all along. Letting Konopka go was a mistake. The Isles said Reasoner was just as good as a faceoff man with scoring ability. I think leadership and a fourth line player that will stir things up when the team is playing like they did last night is more important than a guy that put in an occasional goal. These guys really looked like they were being pushed around last night. You could really see the anger and disgust in the teams play in Tavares. He was much more physical than usual and that shouldn’t be the case.

  2. Mark Kabayama says:

    Good article. No offense to Matt Martin, but on too many nights he was one of our best forwards.

  3. anthony c says:

    Konopka has more goals and points then snow’s “upgrades” of reasoner, and pandolfo combined. He’s also got more goals then okposo and bailey. Biggest mistake was letting him go. Guy had heart and stuck up for his teammates. Nobody aside from hamonic and martin stick up for their teammates, but neither are as big as konopka. Snow is an idiot.

  4. Isles27 says:

    So Crosby is back against the Isles tonight and the game is on nationally all across North America. Will any of the Isles (except Martin and Hammer)even touch Crosby and risk having to drop the gloves? The Isles still don’t get it they shake things up with the players they currently have and they still end up with a soft team. Unless they get some of their tougher players they have in the minors in the mix things will not change. Over the summer the Isles took 3 windows off their house and replaced it with 3 doors, it doesn’t work. When you get rid of 3 tough gritty players you need to replace them with at least 2 gritty players if not 3.

  5. Lyle Chipperson says:

    Tssss…tin men…tss…they need like oil or sumptin’ to get ‘em going….tsss…