When we were younger, if we knew we were going to get a bad report card, we’d run home and try to intercept the mail so that our parents didn’t see it. If we were Bailey, Okposo, Reasoner, Aucoin, MacDonald, or Hamonic, we’d give the mailman the Bronx Tale treatment. Like every other blogger in the world, here is our quarterly discussion of what’s good (not a lot), what’s bad (plenty), and the ugly (Martinek’s face, for starters).
Here’s a warm up question- which player has the most assists: early season scoring dynamo Keith Aucoin, offensive defenseman and top 5 first round draft pick in 2007 Thomas Hickey, or 37 year old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov? See the end of the article for the answer.
John Tavares – Stepped up in his career yet again to become an over a point a game player. Driving the train that is this season. Problem is, too many passengers. National hockey media – all three guys- are starting to notice that this guy is an elite player. Sadly, the jokes turned from DP’s contract to when is JT91 getting the hell out of here?
Matt Moulson – For a moment there, we were thinking that he may score thirty goals this season too. He’s on pace for over 20! Also, over a point a game player, just like JT91. How many times do you need to finish a season top twenty in scoring before you get some recognition? It’s starting to get hard to ignore that this guy is becoming a top left winger in the NHL. He even scores goals when assisted by guys NOT named Tavares!
Michael Grabner – Grabner is third on the team with 10 goals. In limited ice time. Without a defined line. Playing with players of Marty Reasoner’s caliber. Why hasn’t this team figured out the problem here? People think Grabner is a one trick pony that makes his own offense. Believe what you will, but what happens if you find this guy a center he can click with? Here’s the answer- 40 goals. Outside of Tavares and Moulson, the best goal scorer on this team. Streaky, but that’s because Capuano has made him a one man show for 8 minutes a game. If he only could finish breakaways he’d be the leading goal scorer in the NHL.
Lubomir Visnovsky – Lubo is one slick defenseman. That’s an oil joke! Lube-o! Ha! Yeah, we know. What’s to say about the best defenseman ever to play with John Tavares in the NHL that wasn’t on the all star team? The guy is what we all hoped Mark Streit would have become. Lubo pinches nearly perfectly, shoots a laser beam (that’s underutilized by Capuano’s “system”), passes well, and is a savvy enough veteran to know that his job is to make Tavares’ job easier. Yes he didn’t want to be here and fans killed him for that, but could you blame the guy? This place is a shitstorm on good days. But ask those same fans now if they’d bring him back, and the unanimous answer would be “yes.” And if you think Lubo hates being here, watch the replay of the lone Thomas Hickey point this season. Look at the look of joy – or was it pride?- on Lubo’s face after Hickey nets the game winner. On the down side, Lubo does have occasional lapses in his defense, as do all offensive defensemen, but they are WAY less frequent than the other dmen on this team, as evidenced by him being the only healthy defenseman with a plus to his credit. Imagine we had a young puck moving defenseman who put up points that Lubo could mentor and compliment? Man, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a Cam Fowler or Erik Karlsson? Right, too bad that when those options were available Snow dradfted Nino Niederreiter and Josh Bailey.
Casey Cizikas – Teams should not brag that their 4th line center is their second best center on the team. But these are the Islanders, and they’re not usual. Cizikas has continued growing his professional game at the NHL level and, a season after outperforming El Nino on the 4th line, he has given the reformed 4th line both definition and direction. Though small in stature, Cizikas plays with big heart. He is a tireless worker, and has no fear going into the Capuano labeled “dirty areas” to get a cycle going. His play along the boards reminds us of Patrick Flatley. He has managed to create a cohesive unit out of Matt Martin’s rough play and Colin McDonald’s jack of all trade mentality, and gotten important minutes providing stability after Islander goals- which is usually 45 seconds before an opponent scores.
The rest of the defense – a collective minus 4000. Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic look exposed and overwhelmed. Mark Streit looks like he should be a third pairing guy – even more evident when you watch Viz play the same style, but better. Finley makes us wonder what Matt Donovan did to upset Snow and Wang. Hickey seems to be growing with experience, but we wonder why Aaron Ness wasn’t given that shot. Actually, we don’t wonder- Snow hates being exposed for his poor drafting.
Marty Reasoner – One goal as an Islander. Ever. WTF. Glad we scratch guys like David Ullstrom so we can watch the magic that is…Marty Reasoner. Luckily this experiment ends in 23 games. What an waste. The man himself said it best when he said “I was surprised when I got the call so soon into free agency.” There was a reason he was surprised. Who would want that crap on their team? No one. We know= Snow shopped him everywhere and found no takers.
Kyle Okposo – Kyle is taking the hockey term “period” literally this season – he’s scoring once a month. 9 points on the season – 3 in one game- and he was a first line starter this year. Who doesn’t score next to JT91?? In games he often looks disinterested. We’re not sure if it’s lockout hangover, or conditioning, or his annual “slow start,” but we do know that this core member of the “second half all stars” is in the second half, so lets see if he finds to “all star” form, or if he just continues playing like hot garbage.
Jack Capuano – The only forgiveness this guy gets is a bad roster. Beyond that, quite possibly the worst coach in the NHL. A blogger from Toronto did our work for us when he noticed that Capuano manages his lines at home and on the road in the same way. Capuano doesn’t try to create favorable matchups, you hardly see one line dominating an opponent, and Capuano frequently rolls out Reasoner in games where they’re down by one in the last period. Usually we like to kick our dog but hate it when you do. This time we give a pass because last season Toronto was miserable. Change a GM, change a coach, and now they’re winning. GET THE HINT, CHARLES.
Garth Snow – The guy looked at this roster at the end of last season and addressed it by adding an injury prone defenseman who got injured, a quartet of waiver wire pickups accounting for one good game at forward and two good weeks at defense, a guy that was washed up in Buffalo that when paired with Tavares is going to pot about ten goals (or one less than the guy he replaced currently has), and a defenseman who felt that he was not even supposed to be here today. Nice vision. When asked by Howie Rose if he’d like a Clark Gillies to put next to Tavares, instead of the obvious answer -yes- he mumbled “who wouldn’t” and spoke in vagaries about how the team would determine what moves he made. Who built the team, stupid? When is the vision yours, and when isn’t it? That’s the lack of accountability that we’re talking about in many of our posts. Oh, and nice quote with the DiPietro incident. Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick.
Evgeni Nabokov – Seems to have lost the ability to steal games, which was a positive factor in many of our wins last season. A fantastic source of honest thoughts in interviews – the guy asked a reporter if he was a spy!- and Kevin Poulin has no idea how lucky he is to have this guy as a mentor instead of DP. Still, game is on the downside. Anything longer than a one year extension is crazy, and even that may not be warranted.
Doug Weight – We love the fire from behind the bench. The man knows how to work a water bottle, too. Weight needs to find a way to adapt strategies in order to produce consistency from this power play. They’ll go 4 for 5 in one game, and then 0 for 20 over the next few. Maybe he needs to watch films of teams with successful power plays that use more than just the “get the puck to one guy” strategy. Does he know Lubo has a killer shot from the point? Someone should clue him in.
Brian Strait – What an ugly end to his “breakout” season. Aside from Lubo, the only player on D sporting a plus. Snow may have been too hasty on the contract, but that’s not Strait’s fault. Lets just hope lingering leg issues do not plague him for the next three years. Also, what a thick neck- the guys’ traps make his head look like its mountain climbing!
Brad Boyes – 5 g, 13a, -10. On pace for 10 goals and 32 points, a slight improvement over last years totals of 8g 15 a in 65 games. Not exactly the dynamic right winger JT91 could use, but you get what you pay for.
Rick DiPietro – We almost felt bad for the guy. He obviously wanted to be the next generation’s Mr. Islander. The only island his game belongs on is full of misfit toys. And then the suicide quote? Man, anyone who knows DP knows he’d never off himself. How could he talk about himself if he were dead? On the positive, if he had actually driven off the Throggs Neck Bridge, we have Tim Thomas to cover the lost cap hit. Flexibility!
Contracts – There is talk of a Mark Streit extension coming. Streit even mentioned it at the latest season ticket holders meet and greet. Streit wants $10 mil for 3 years – a pay cut from present. Based on his play cut – the decline in his performance- $3.33 per seems awful high as his points go down and his minus goes up. To make it worse, Hamonic is due a new deal. So if they resign Streit and Hamonic, they’re keeping 1/3 of this awful defense to join Carkner, MacDonald and Streit, who also are under contract. 5/6ths of this year’s defense is next year’s defense. Add Griffin Reinhart (or Seth Jones) to the mix, and there you go, the defense of the 2013-2014 Islanders being 1 guy different than the current mess. More of the same.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share comments below. And the answer to our opening question- Nabokov. Sad, isn’t it?
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely