It’s hard to believe that we have reached the mid season point already. I can remember writing my predictions for the season before its start like it was yesterday. however, here we are, and it’s time to “grade” the Islanders as they stand thus far.
At this juncture, a 15-20-6 record for 36 points is not exactly how I pictured things would be for the New York Islanders. Frankly, I expected them to be a bit over the .500 mark with about 10 more points in the standings. Things have not exactly gone as I had imagined and my “predictions” for the season are swiftly showing the signs of me having to wipe quite a bit of egg from my face.
In any event, here first is my general grades for the team and then my “marks” for the individuals on the roster at the 41 game point in the season will follow.Offense; C minus.
Scoring has come from the top line by a considerable margin. Of course, one wants goals from the #1 line, but too many of the other forwards just have not stepped up and gotten the job done.
Defense; C minus
Perhaps, a little generous, but I believe that most of the problems on the back line have come from the physical ability of the guys and not the system. The defense is slow, sloppy and non-physical at times, which are ingredients for pucks ending up in ones own net all too often. Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, to me, rate as the “better” of the back liners thus far.
To be honest, goaltending has not really been the problem for the Islanders. Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov have pretty impressive stats. It’s just a reflection of the luck of the Islanders that 2 of the 3 starting goaltenders from training camp our out because of injuries, but the particular guy who has had to carry the team throughout various stretches has gotten the job done most nights.
Specialty Teams; B plus
The Power Play has been improving and the penalty killing has not been bad. Some nights, it could be better, but the problem for the Isles has been the 5 on 5 play all too often.
Players; (Note that I do not include anyone who has played under 10 games thus far)
#2, Mark Streit; C minus
With 41 games played, Streit has totaled 2 goals and 20 assists. In addition, his -17 rating stands out rather noticeably as well. Coming off having missed a full season, one can attribute his stats to that, but he frankly has not played up to the level he is capable of doing so at this point in the season. The Isles basically need more scoring and better defense from him.
#3, Travis Hamonic; A minus
Travis is starting to contribute more an more on the offensive side of his game. He has 10 points in 41 games with a goal and 9 assists. However, he has, more importantly, been one of the best D-men on the team this season, playing a physical and solid game night in and night out. He is only a -3, which is certainly not a bad +/- on a team that is 5 games under .500 and has a not so impressive goal differential.
#4, Mark Eaton; D plus
Injuries have limited Eaton to 26 games, and he is a -6 with 2 assists. At times, his lack of speed has hurt the Islanders, and, as I have said, is a part of the overall weakness the Islanders have on the defense.
#10, Mike Mottau; D
Injuries and healthy scratches from the lineup have caused him to play in just 28 games, and in those games, he has just 2 assists and is a -9. He, unfortunately, typifies the weakness the Islanders have in mobility on the blue line, and like Steve Staios, his mistakes tend to stand out in my memories. Mottau needs to step up his game and provide a steady, veteran presence on the back line that has not been present in his game this season.
#11, Brian Rolston; D plus
In 34 games, Rolston has 4 goals and 4 assists. He was an off season signing that was hoped would replace Doug Weight as the veteran presence. To me, I simply expected more from him and only in a few cases can I recall him being noticeable in games. The Islanders simply need more from him, especially with his impressive shot on the offense.
#12, Josh Bailey; C
Josh still yet has to find his offense. In 41 games, he only has scored 3 goals, and has 8 assists and a -9 rating. Nevertheless, he has improved his game quite a bit over the last month or so, and has been creating chances for himself and his line mates. The Isles, though, need more from him in order to be successful as a team.
#15, PA Parenteau; B plus
Quietly having a very impressive season, he has 7 goals and 28 assist for 35 points in 41 games. He has proven to be a fantastic passer and puck handler, and my only “knock” on him would be the lack of goals. He has the ability to net 20 plus, and he needs to pick up that facet of his game the rest of the way through.
#16, Marty Reasoner; D
A total of 5 assists in 35 games is all he has contributed this season. Without a doubt, Reasoner’s face-off ability is his strong point, but his -16 also stands out to me. Frankly, this is a guy who the Islanders need quite a bit more from both defensively and offensively.
#17, Matt Martin; A
Some might think an A grade is too strong for Martin. However, I don’t. Yes, he has just 5 goals and 5 assists in 41 games with a -10 rating for the Isles, but this is a guy who has been steadily developing into his role as a power forward. The offense will continue to come, but he leads the league in hits and stands up for his teammates EVERY night. He has, in his own way, been a force out on the ice as well, and deserves the increase in ice time he received by being moved up to the 3rd line.
#20, Evgeni Nabokov; B
Everyone knows the Nabokov story, and I was not a fan of Nabbie in the beginning. However, in 19 games played, he is 6-11 with a 2.64 GAA, and has plainly played extremely well at times. Has he given up the bad goal now and then? Yes, but he has gotten the job done most nights, and hasn’t deserve to lose more than a few of the 11 games for which he took the loss.
#21, Kyle Okposo; B minus
Without a doubt, after an early benching for 3 games, Kyle has turned his season around. He has gotten his goal and assist totals up to 10 each in 38 games, and, particularly playing on the top line with JT and Moulson, he has certainly looked like the “Okie” of old. He needs to keep it up the last half of the season, and fix his -14 rating as well.
#24, Steve Staios; C
Unfortunately, to me, some of his mistakes he has made tend to stand out in my mind, but, at the same time, he has also made some good physical plays and key shot blocks. A -12 is not a great stat, but as a walk on who earned a spot in camp, the Islanders have had a “what you see is what you get” result from Staios.
#25, Nino Niederreiter; B minus
It’s really difficult to judge Nino’s play, since he has been in 18 games with injuries keeping him out. He has scored only 1 goal and is a -11 in those games. As I have said here a few times, I think Nino needs more ice time to help his confidence and facilitate development. If not that, an assignment to the Port. I think he has a great upside, and his size is certainly an asset for this team.
#26, Matt moulson; A
Here is a guy who SHOULD have been an All Star. In 41 games, he has scored 20 goals, and has 17 assists and a +6 rating. Yeah, Keith Jones, a 3rd line winger on any other team in the NHL, I know. How many other teams would have signed a potential 40 goal scorer long term?
#27, Milan Jurcina, C
If he could just hit the net with his cannon of a shot, he’d have a ton of goals. Thus far, in 32 games played, he has 2 goals and 3 assists, but his -18 rating really is troubling to me. Additionally, for a guy his size, he does not always play “big”. I just don’t think he is standing out anywhere as much as he did last season.
#29, Jay Pandolfo; C
Pandolfo has 1 goal in 24 games with a -7 rating. A knee injury caused him to miss a substantial amount of time, but his contributions have come most notably on the penalty kill. A few more goals and a bit more of an offensive presence would be nice, but he is another of the “what you see is what you get” signings Garth Snow made over the summer.
#35, Al Montoya; A minus
Big Cubano has played in 17 games, and has a 6-5-3 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .917 Save Percentage. To me, of the 3 goaltenders who started with the Islanders this season, Montoya has been the most impressive. Unfortunately, a concussion has caused him to miss the last few weeks, but he has been an acquisition that has proven to be extremely valuable to the Islanders. He could even be the #1 goaltender for this team by season’s end.
#39, Rick DiPietro; C minus
Unfortunately, once again, injuries have been the story for DP this season. He has only appeared in 8 games this season, and has a 3-2-3 record with a 3.73 GAA. Of the 3 starting goaltenders, he really has been the least impressive. I was hoping that he would rebound from his injuries and get in 40 games this season, but this seems highly doubtful at the moment.
#36, Tim Wallace; C plus
In 17 games since his call up from Bridgeport, Wallace has gotten a single assist and is a -2. He is a physical winger, and has fit in as a pretty decent fourth liner. Like Reasoner, it would be nice to see a bit more offense from him the second half of the season.
#40, Michael Grabner, B minus
A groin injury probably effected his game for a 3 week stretch in December, but, overall, Grabner has not played like he did the last half of last season. His 11 goals and 7 assists in 40 games is just not what those totals should be. The Islanders need him to step up more and bury the chances he has recently been getting. Other teams have caught onto his speed as his weapon, so it’s time for him to create other ways of using that ability.
#41, David Ullstrom; B
It’s hard to judge a guy who has played in only 14 of the 41 games this season, but he had 2 goals and 2 assists and was a +1. He also plays a physical game, and looked pretty impressive before a concussion caused him to miss games and, subsequently, is back in Bridgeport. However, I think we will see him again back with the Islanders by season’s end, and there will be good things to come from him.
#42, Dylan Reese; B
“Reese’s Pieces” has been the odd man out, being called up from the Port on emergency loans only. Consequently, he has only played in 9 games, totaling 1 goal and 1 assist with a -3 rating. Reese possesses a bit more speed than Eaton or Mottau, and, to me, deserves a closer look. He has certainly gotten the job done when he has been called up.
#47, Andrew MacDonald; B
A-Mac is starting to come around. He had a slow start that can be attributed to his hip injury and surgery at the end of last season, and he also missed 7 games with a leg injury this season. He has 3 goals and 3 assists in 34 games with a -5 rating. I feel that both Travis Hamonic and he have been the best pairing on defense for the Islanders, and have continued to get better and better with each game.
#51, Frans Nielsen; B minus
I still believe Frans to be among the most underrated centers in the NHL. He has 7 goals and 13 assists in 41 games, which is not “terrible”. However, as a 2nd line center, the Islanders need more production from him, and his -6 rating is not exactly “Nielsen-like” either.
#91, John Tavares; A
he is our sole All Star this season. I’ve written a great deal of praise about JT’s play this season and 15 goals, 25 assists for 40 points in 41 games is only part of the story. Tavares has become a true force on the ice, and has developed into being among the top centers in the NHL. He, to me, has been the most entertaining and exciting Islander to watch this season.
Overall, I think the Islanders have fallen quite a bit short of the improvements I expected to see. Though they did not have the horrible start like last season, inconsistency in their play has simply cost them games, and either giving up early goals in games or being unable to hold leads has been major parts of their problems. Making the playoffs seems quite slim right now, but I still believe that if they step up their play and can bring 60 minute efforts more consistently, they can still give the 8 spot a good run by April. In my opinion, this is going to take improvements in the play of several players, and a combination of more balanced scoring and a more reliable defense.
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