With the announcement of the “newcomers” that made the team, we felt that we needed to address the whys and hows of such, as well as the questions that are popping up as the new season approaches.
By their standards, the Islanders certainly had a successful season last year. Ideally, this year should show more improvement. But will that happen? Garth Snow’s summer of complacency is looking worse for wear all of a sudden. Take for instance the contract spurning Mark Streit. Snow tried to bring back the exact same team that was a first round loser- not a wise recipe for success- but Streit actually wanted a RAISE and instead was moved to Philadelphia. Snow announced for Islander fans back in June that the job was going to Matt Donovan. We’re fine with that as Donovan is has led the AHL in defensive scoring and was an all star there- what’s left to learn? But announcing it in June to realize it in September isn’t exactly the definition of the competitive camp Snow claims to have run.
The injury to Cal Clutterbuck opened up a forward spot. Brock Nelson- who was drafted in the same year and round as Nino Neiderreiter- found himself the recipient of such fortunes. Understand that Nelson DID NOT earn a roster spot- he inherited one. Without a skate to Clutterbuck’s leg, Nelson is at Bridgeport this year. Again, no competition.
Lastly, the waiving of Joe “Roadcone” Finley was long overdue. That the job goes to – get this- 19 year old Griffin Reinhart is SPECTACULAR. First off, Islander fans have been griping that rushing Josh Bailey and Nino to the NHL ruined them. Well, rush away with this 19 year old. We want to hear those same fans bashing Snow just as hard as they defend leaving Ryan Strome- 3 points a game in junior- into ANOTHER minor league year. At Strome’s age, Patrick Kane was hoisting the Stanly Cup. Think Strome can’t help this team? But please folks, be consistent and bash Snow for rushing Reinhart to the NHL. After all, defensemen take more time to mature, right? Someone tell that to Seth Jones, who was picked one spot ahead of Reinhart’s in this past year’s draft, as he laces up for opening night in Nashville. So again folks, please tell us that Snow is ruining Reinhart with this decision and that defensemen need time to develop. Then maybe you can refer to our story that shows the myth of the underdeveloped defenseman.
The next question is the first line. Apparently Pierre Marc Bouchard didn’t earn his keep next to John Tavares (nor did Strome, who outscored most Islanders in the preseason). Moving Bouchard to the third line really doesn’t suit his style of play, and already looks like ANOTHER bad Garth Snow signing as he lives on the cheap. Word is that Kyle Okposo is actually going for take two next to Tavares. The question is- which Kyle Okposo is playing this season?
Kyle had a disappointing regular season last year, only to turn back into the relentless two-way forward we all want him to be during the playoffs. Offensively, he took a major step backwards. Okposo’s shooting percentage was way down, and four goals is just not going to cut it for a top line forward. Some fans point out that the Islanders offense was seventh in the leagues, so we can obviously win without Okposo contributing. The team going well does not excuse Okposo’s output. For this team to take the next step, players will need to identify who they are. No one needs to do this more than Kyle Okposo. Over the past three seasons, Okposo was a wing on different point producing lines with varying consistency in his game. This needs to be fixed, as he is a lynch pin in this teams success.
Another question – will the mileage that Evgeny Nabokov and Lubomir Visnovksy have accumulated hurt this team? Most teams have aging veterans. Most teams do not look to these aging veterans to play sixty-five games in goal and put up fifty plus points on the blue line. It is not to say that Nabokov and Lubo cannot do what is asked of them, however, relying on them to do so can be harmful to this team. Now, we understand that twenty – something number one defenseman and goaltenders are not often available. Not that this holds true for P.K Subban, Shea Weber, Jonathan Bernier, or Corey Schneider, all of whom have been available in the last 15 months. However, you sometimes have to make do with what you have. The Islander decided to resign Nabokov and hope Kevin Poulin can spell him when needed. The islanders then decided that Tomas Hickey is the best option to pair with Visnovsky. This season will let us know if the Islanders made the right call of staying the course with these two aging vets, and complementing them with substandard thus far players.
An important question – will Matt Moulson return to his 30 goal form? Will his unresolved contract status affect his play? Matt Moulson has proven enough to write off last season’s decrease in goal scoring production. He can be expected to return to his normal 30 goal pace, and for this team to win, he must get there. It will be interesting to see if his contract status affects his play and the Islanders season as we approach the trade deadline in March. After all, if 14 goals from Josh Bailey is worth $3.3 million, what do you pay an annual 30 goal scorer?
A common question – will Michael Grabner be properly used? The only player who score bigger goals than John Tavares is Michael Grabner. The only player who has not be given a shot in all situations with various linemates is Michael Grabner. He is the most misused Islander. His speed makes up for what he lacks in a two way game and he is exactly what you want from a scoring second line wing, a consistent 25-35 goal scorer. Yet he does this on the third line. Maybe he will need to score on more of his regular chances to gain the coaching staffs trust, but it will be interesting to see how Grabner is utilized this year.
Will Garth Snow make a trade to secure the playoffs? Nah. Will he salary dump at deadline? What do you think.
Can the coaching staff get the second power play unit to do something….anything?
You can’t win without special teams and we know you can’t win with just special teams. If the Tavares unit doesn’t score the Islanders power play is atrocious. It’s not like any secondary scoring was available this offseason. I mean the likes of Derek Stepan, Bobby Ryan, Mikhail Grabovsky, or Mike Ribeiro surely were not options. The second unit will have some mix of either Kyle Okposo, Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Peter Regin and Travis Hamonic. Someone is going to have to figure out how to finish those opportunities when there is one less opponent on the ice. Though we understand that the Isles power play, thanks to JT91, Mark Streit and Lubo has been effective, we feel coaching staff does a piss poor job with it. They score because Tavares and Moulson are good even strength, so when they play up one player on the power play they are fantastic. Why mess with a good thing? If your lines are good enough even strength then keep them together on the power play when there is more space. Don’t put Nielsen on the point, don’t put Okposo on unit one. Hopefully Waterbottle Weight can get his troops to move their feet and not stand still and watch the puck, otherwise the special teams will not be special at all. Also, Grabner- Neilsen on the penalty kill seems to work. You may want to look into that again.
Will Cal Clutterbuck, Marc-Pierre Bouchard and Peter Regin stay healthy and be contributors? So far, not so good. Whether this trio were the best options, or whether or not they were even good options, is irrelevant. They are here. They will be expected to play big minutes. So far Clutterbuck is on IR, and reports from spectators say Bouchard looks less than stellar. Regin is being overshadowed by Brock Nelson, and rightfully so. Will Garth pull the plugs on his offseason blunders, if the tables tilt that way? Will Strome be nipping at their offensively underwhelming heels? Or, will we have another Brian Rolston and Marty Reasoner situation all season?
Will any prospects contribute this season?
While we feel that Brock Nelson should be here, obviously Garth Snow doesn’t have the same expectations for his draft picks. Brock looks like a solid option to be in a place to get some quality minutes early on. But, what happens when Clutterbuck comes off of IR? Even with Reinhart making the team – does your game develop if you’re the 7th or 8th defenseman?
Is this the season that Josh Bailey puts up numbers in month that doesn’t rhyme with Smarch? The second half all-star is primed for a breakout season. After all he put up the exact same points he always puts up and got rewarded with a 5 year contract. Josh may also be getting a shot with John Tavares, but unlike during the playoffs, Matt Moulson will also be there. If this is so, this will be Josh bailey’s only shot to overachieve and put up points in both half’s of the season.
If this team misses the playoffs, what happens? This teams should be fighting for a playoff spot. If all goes well and players actually progress as individuals and as a team, they could be fighting for the 5th or 6th spot. But, what if they miss the playoffs? We say heads should roll, starting with Snow and Caupano. Get a real coach and system in place with a head of steam heading into Brooklyn! Because generally, that is what happens in all sports when a team regresses. In Islanders Land- the land of no accountability- who knows? We would expect more of the same and another dismal offseason and awful quotes. We shall see. Hopefully we won’t have to answer this question.
Most important question going into the season: What beer to drink on opening night? We like to drink. No question about it. We also are firm believer of quantity AND quality. Many of the Islander mania regulars have seen our cooler at tailgates. There is no Budweiser, Coors, Corona, or Miller. You can like what you like, or can do what the Islanders don’t do and aim for the best. For opening night we have St. Bernardus Abt 12, Gulden Draak, Abita 25th Anniversary, Pannepot 2011, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin and a few randoms. This is for three people, and one game. If we win, we turn to some single malts and high end Irish Whiskey. If we lose we still turn to scotch and whiskey but just to erase the awful memory and anticipation of a game the very next day, and more of the same. Here’s hoping that we drink merrily in a convincing win, but expecting to watch something terrible happen to the Boys of Simple Jack. Either way- Cheers!
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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