The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Islanders Mid-Season Review
Instead of doing a weekly review of this terrible week of New York Islanders hockey, I’m going to break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of the first half of the season. Forgive me for doing this two games after their actual halfway point, but they are currently on their league mandated bye week so I figured it was a good time to fire this blog up.
The Islanders currently sit one point out of a wild card spot with 46 points. They are also tied for last in the Metro Division, which tells you all you need to know about how brutal the team has been and how tough their division is. They’re currently on a 3-6-1 slide, winning just one of their last five games. However, there is hope and they are in striking distance of getting back into the playoff race and turning their season around. Let’s take a look at the season so far.
The First Line
First of all, I’d like to congratulate John Tavares and Josh Bailey for making the All-Star team for the East this year. For Bailey, it’s been a long time coming, as he went from the most-maligned player on #islestwitter to the most productive player on the team with 38 assists and 50 points, just one behind John Tavares. Overall, the first line has been one of the best in league, with the trio leading the team in points and combining for 141 points so far. They look as polished as ever, and Doug Weight’s idea to move Josh Bailey to the first line has paid dividends over and over.
The biggest move of the Islanders season so far has been an off-ice move. They finally found a home on Long Island, which has been ten years in the making. New owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky found a loophole in Nassau County’s quest to block the Islanders’ bid to get back home, finding a state-owned patch of land in Belmont Park to build their new stadium. This helps immensely in a few ways. Firstly, we don’t need to worry about them moving to Kansas City or Quebec, as the lease is 49 years and iron-clad. Their long-running feud with Barclays Center has subsided, and both entities are actually working on a proper exit strategy, with a possibility of Nassau Coliseum being a temporary home while Belmont is being built. It also clears up the arena situation for Tavares, who obviously wanted some kind of closure as to where he would play the rest of his career if he were to re-sign with the Islanders long term. It’s a big step in bringing legitimacy to the Islanders as they’ve been sort of a lame duck franchise in their three years in Brooklyn.
Nick Leddy (His First Quarter)
I specify Leddy’s first quarter as he’s played terrible as of late, but the first quarter of his season was excellent. At one point he was even considered to be a Norris Trophy darkhorse. Leddy is a stalwart defenseman oozing with potential. He is one of the best skaters in the league and can guide the Islanders to a rebound second half with his offensive prowess and hopefully better defense.
Nick Leddy (His Second Quarter)
As good as Leddy was in the first quarter, he’s been just as bad in the second. The statistics aren’t exactly important because Leddy has been playing with a revolving door of D partners as Johnny Boychuk has been hurt as of late, but he has just two points in eight games and is a -10 over that stretch. He is constantly out of position, not picking up the man in front of the net, and sometimes he tries to do too much in the offensive zone and gets caught.
Josh Ho-Sang went from boy wonder at the end of last season to a healthy scratch in Bridgeport. The much-maligned young winger also seems to be doing a little more than he needs to to be successful. Instead of letting the game come to him, he tries to razzle-dazzle his way to highlight reel goals that more often than not lead to turnovers and most of the time goals. Ho-Sang was sent down to Bridgeport for a second time a few weeks ago, and I’m hoping it doesn’t ruin his psyche, like constant scratches and benchings led to Nino Niederreiter’s demise as an Islander. I see H0-Sang turning it around, but it’s officially a TBD on whether or not we’ll see him again this year.
The Bottom Six
I’ll specify in the ugly exactly who I’m pointing out, but the secondary scoring minus the second line has been essentially non-existent as of late. Cal Clutterbuck has heated up with four goals in as many games, but the rest of the team has slogged through the season with little effort. Casey Cizikas has been excellent on the penalty kill and faceoffs, but his enhanced role hasn’t exactly been all smooth sailing. The Islanders are at their best when they have all four lines rolling, and unlike two years ago when Matt Martin, Cizikis and Clutterbuck were lighting up the NHL with their energy line, there’s very little energy on the bottom two lines.
Brock Nelson has been the worst player on the Islanders, and it isn’t even close. In addition to being an absolute nightmare possession wise, he has just nine goals and disappears for stretches at a time. For a streaky player, even his good streaks aren’t all that good. He needs to learn to contribute in other ways than just scoring goals. He is too talented to be meandering around the ice for games at a time without much purpose or fire. He’s on the trading block now so hopefully this will inspire some consistent play.
Jason Chimera is another complete disappointment for the Islanders. With just two goals in 43 games, Chimera has been alright at times but can’t seem to find the net. He seems to be tightening his stick just a little too tight, as he’s had plenty of opportunities. Maybe a break for the veteran is exactly what he needs to spark his game and take it to a new level. Like I said before, the Islanders need the third/fourth line to be contributing if they expect to make the playoffs.
Essentially All The Defense/Goaltending
The defense and goaltending this year has been absolutely horrendous, regardless of how competitive the team is. They’ve given up a league leading 157 goals so far, by far the most in the league. Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield are two young defensemen trying to find their game in the NHL, and have done a serviceable job. Ryan Pulock has looked good of late, as has youngster Sebastian Aho. Thomas Hickey and Dennis Seidenberg have been terrible. Playing these two consistently, even with the injuries to Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan, is not a good sign for the Islanders’ depth on D.
The goaltending has been even worse. Jaro Halak has looked great as of late, but he still only has a .904 save percentage and a 3.24 GAA. Thomas Greiss has been almost unplayable, with an ungodly .882 save percentage and a 3.89 GAA. Every time either of these two are in net, they’re facing the most shots in the league and have proven absolutely nothing so far this year. The Islanders need some kind of consistent goaltending to go anywhere this season.
While there is a lot of bad and ugly, the Islanders are still in the thick of things and the season is not over. The emergence of Mathew Barzal has been a godsend, as the rookie has set the league on fire. They are still one of the more high-power offenses in the league, and even if they get average defense and goalie play they’ll be in a much better spot. The sky is not falling, but it feels like it is after such a great start. Hopefully they can turn it around.