Oh, boy. It looks like the injury bug has hit the Island once again. Arthur Staple reported that Michael Grabner would be our for at least 7-10 days with a shoulder injury, and is to be evaluated in a week. That is not very reassuring for Islanders fans, who may not be able to see their third-leading goal-scorer on the ice for an indefinite period of time. Hopefully, the injury only affects Grabs for the 7-10 day period, but the organization must take the proper measures to be prepared for life without Grabner for the next few weeks.
It’s been a strange ride for Grabner over the past couple of games, as he has seen his ice time dip dramatically, including his 9:22 of ice time against the Capitals on Saturday. One has to wonder if he was one of the few players Capuano has been referring to as a “passenger” following recent losses. It’s hard to believe, considering Grabner has scored ten goals on the year without a current home in the Islanders line-up, highlighting his goal-scoring and opportunity-creating abilities. The Islanders will surely miss that.
Now, the Islanders have to fill his spot in the line-up. Jesse Joensuu practiced today for the first time this season, so the return of the Finnish-forward should be imminent. Keep in mind: Jesse is a big-body who was scoring a lot in the SM-liiga before he was injured during the lockout, so he could make an impact on this roster. Other options include Eric Boulton, Keith Aucoin, and the possible Bridgeport call-up. Garth Snow was at Bridgeport tonight, where Nino Niederreiter scored, and Ullstrom potted the game-winner. Perhaps one of them get brought back here.
More importantly for the Isles, though, is that it is about to get real for some of the Islanders sluggish forwards. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Josh Bailey have combined for seven goals through the Islanders first 26 games, which is dismal for a second-line, or should I say “second-line” If you think these guys have been hearing criticism from the Isles’ fans, and have been feeling pressure from the organization already, just wait until they have to go onto the ice without Grabner’s ability.
Yes, these three have been a real problem for the Islanders, who have depended on, but not received the production from these individuals. Luckily for the Islanders, they had Michael Grabner to score a few timely goals. Without Grabs, a spotlight will be put on the Islanders’ underachieving, home-grown second-line.
I know we’ve been furious with the individuals on our second-line, as we have every right to be, but truth is, they haven’t killed us. There’s no arguing that the Islanders have not received the production they had expected from these three players, but it’s also fair to say that their burden has been more of a hindrance than a murder.
As it stands, the Islanders sit three points out of the eighth playoff-spot, and employ the East’s 5th-highest scoring offense through 26 games. This is fact, and this is without the production from Okposo, Nielsen, and Bailey, who have career-highs of 24 goals, 17 goals, and 16 goals, respectively. KO and Frans set their career-highs last season, despite playing on a bottom-five NHL offense.
Currently, Kyle has 2 goals, Frans has 3 goals, and Bailey has 2 goals. Kyle Okposo has 9 points through 26 games, Frans has 13 points through 26 games, and Josh Bailey has 5 points through 16 games.
I have to say, Kyle seems to be coming on, albeit slowly. He appears to be in much better shape than he was in January, as his work ethic and puck pursuit are there, but his production is not. We need Kyle to continue working hard in the corners, but Kyle must know he needs to score goals, and score them now. With Grabner out, Kyle’s 3 goals on the year is instantly underlined again, and Kyle will be expected to score a few more goals when the rest of the team needs them. Kyle has only had one multi-point game this season, which just isn’t enough for the former 50-point scorer.
And sure, Frans is playing around his normal points-pace (currently .5 per game). The only thing that must be mentioned with Frans is that his points haven’t been coming recently. In his first nine games this season, Frans registered 8 assists. In his twelfth game, Frans finally registered a goal, giving him 9 points through 12 games. Since, Frans has tallied 2 goals and 2 assists.
Then there’s Bailey, who has been as consistently inconsistent as he could be. With 2 goals and 3 assists, Bailey has not done much scoring at all for the Islanders. It took him 11 games to score his first in 2013, and he is yet to have a multi-point game in 2013, which is upsetting because you would think there was more in a guy capable of scoring 5 points in one game.
As I mentioned, despite all of this, the Islanders have the 5th-best offense in the Eastern Conference; and, to demonstrate how much good a little bit of added offense can do for this team? How about some records?
The Islanders are 6-2-1 when Frans Nielsen records at least one point in a hockey game this season. The Islanders are 2-2-1 in games where Josh Bailey scores at least one point in a hockey game this season. The Isles are also 2-3-2 when Kyle Okposo scores at least one-point in 2013.
See what I mean by “hindrance,” and not murder? The Isles are getting more points than they aren’t when they get even a little tiny bit of production out of these guys. I stress the “little bit” part because they’ve only had four multi-point games between the four of them, yet each player yields points in over 50% of the games that they produce in.
In comparison, the Islanders saw around the same production in points from Michael Grabner (10-3-13), who has only one multi-point game this season. The Islanders have an 8-2-1 record in those games.
The pressure’s on more than it ever has been for the Islanders’ second-line. Without Grabner, there are no goals outside of the first-line. There should be, but there aren’t.
There cannot be any more excuses because we know the guys who are underachieving are more than capable. This is not an issue like those last season, where this team couldn’t find a goal on most nights, and only found a handful from their bottom-six. The players who weren’t contributing last season are either replaced or finding their own niche on this team. This year, the problem lies with our top secondary producers from last season.
For a few games, Grabner is no longer there to mask the lack of production from the underachievers. He is not going to be there for Capuano to make an example out of. It’s time for the Islanders “other” scorers to get going, or be held accountable. Based on whether they can or cannot, I think we will find out who the true “passengers” on this team really are. Prove us wrong, guys. Show your worth.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants