Uniondale – NY It’s March 12th and the New York Islanders are only 2 points from a playoff spot! Now I know I should have given you a spoiler alert what with starting off the report card with the conclusion and all. But I just couldn’t wait, I just couldn’t get around or past the fact that it’s 3 days from the Ides of March, and we are smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt, and darn it I’m unapologetically excited.
Don’t care, don’t care, so don’t care that it’s a “shortened season”, that “Isles are only this close cause of the lockout.” “La La La I am not listening to Jeffrey!” I am not hearing any of that, all I care about is that it is March 12th, and we are only 2 points out of a playoff spot, cause that is FACT.
Now true, a “report card” from me may not be the most objective, unbiased, neutral piece of grading reality you will find out there. But I don’t think anyone who has a vested interest in the outcome of each contest, who feels happy when they win, and upset when lose can be by definition “objective.”
So rather then try to quell my emotions, and passions for this report card we shall, rather embrace them, and use them as a partner to reach our conclusions, analysis, and predictions.
A lot went through my mind when I first started to ponder this piece. How should I grade? Should it be the player’s performance versus his peers? Should it be the player’s performance versus my expectations of him? Did I leave the iron on? How heavy should the teams record and position weigh on the analysis? Should there be a grading curve?
To first understand a grade we need to have a clear definition of what said “grade” represents, so to be simple, here is the grading system we shall use for this mid term report.
F – Fail you should be fired or in Bridgeport.
D – Disappointment, you are way below everyone’s (including) your own expectations.
C – You’re meeting expectations, you are earning your paycheck.
B – You are performing better then expected, keep it up!
A – We owe you an apology for not having high enough expectations of you, you have shined, and outperformed everyone’s expectations of you. Congrats ! Time for a reevaluation …
Now as a quick note before we press on. I am not a straight up “stats” guy, which is why I chose this method of grading rather then just looking at the stats sheet and simply saying A,B,C. Which is fine to do if a writer chooses.
For me I’m an atmospherical guy, that is to say when I look at this players name I feel… Again not objective, and of course stats will come into play, but we can all bend stats to accentuate any point, we cannot however bend feelings.
The “grades” will be broken down into categories: OrganIzation, Teams, Offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, and individual players, all of course symbiotic of one another.
So without any further delays of game here are the 2012/13 New York Islanders Mid-Term Grades…
The oft maligned dynamic duo of Charles Wang, and Garth Snow, talk about putting the new grading system to the test early and often ! I have to say (as I can hear the radio dial switching from this broadcast) that this half season as an encapsulated entity the organization has done well for it self.
The Lockout ended, and the team was faced with a choice, go very young, and bring up the likes of Nino Niederreiter , Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinheart, and Aaron Ness to name just a few. Or fill in the gaps at the waiver wire, and such.
The OrganIzation showed confidence, stability, a willingness to stay the course, and not rush the younger Isles up to the NHL for a 48 game season. This decision took courage, and showed confidence that no one not, Snow, Capuano, and of course Wang were ever going anywhere. No one made any decisions based upon the feeling that they had to “save” there jobs, and that in the long run will benefit the Islander as we move forward towards our new home in Brooklyn.
Of course, at first starting the season with 2/6 defensemen claimed off waivers the week prior, and Radek Matinek seemingly wandering in off the streets (yet again) didn’t at the time seem ideal. But, I might believe the strategy now, and I applaud the organizational philosophy of “can’t lose”.
If we fail with our waiver wire defense then we will have yet another high pick from which to build our organization. And if we succeed, and are in the hunt come March 15th, then we have managed to stay respectable while not jeopardizing any of our truly young, and gifted core of prospects which are coming and coming up fast.
So based on the results 11-12-3 for 25 pts. 10th in the Prince of Wales most importantly only 2 points out of the 8th spot. Along with the wherewithal not to panic, and realize the youth cannot be risked for a 48 game season, I applaud both our course, and results.
The Islander are 7th in the league in goals for with 77, which is nice averaging 2.91 goals a game. To put this stat in perspective they are 7th, 20 goals behind the league leading Penguins with 97, yet only 23 ahead of the league worst 54 posted by the Predators.
However the Islander possess one of the most formidable top lines in the game, and have recently shown the ability to roll 4 lines on most nights, still searching for some third line help for Michael Grabner I grant you that.
Overall the offense has not been the problem and on most nights has provided the team with enough firepower to win.
Now I know full well that I just stated prior that a good chunk of the defense was almost basically put together overnight as the lockout came to an end. And there have been some very pleasant individual surprises (see mid-term grades part Deux tomorrow), all of which is truth.
However at some point we have to look at over all results. So hide the children cause here they are. The Islanders are an abysmal 29th in the league in goals against with 88, averaging 3.38 goals against a game.
To give a little perspective on how bad this is the 15th worst goals against is the Avalanche with 69. Granted there have been injuries, and players coming late to the season, but every team has issues, and our results are poor and unacceptable.
Should we miss the post season again this year it will truly be looked squarely upon the failure of the defense as a corps to get the job done. Granted this too was a problem last season, and Snow did attempt to address this in the draft. But in hockey we all know drafts are not the quick fix to a teams short comings, and the Isles defense simply comes up VERY short!
Well normally at the mid way point of any hockey season one can evaluate the goaltending tandem it’s team has had. However our 37 year old net minder has certainly been a wolf pack of one thus far this season. Rick DiPietro‘s fire was finally extinguished ( http://eyesonisles.com/2013/03/01/rick-dipietro-the-rhyme-of-the-ancient-islander/ ) as he was banished to Bridgeport, and Kevin Poulin has barely had 4 periods from which to evaluate from. So it’s been all about Evgeni Nabokov.
Of course there are 2 ways to look at the New York Islander goaltending thus far. 1. The afore mentioned 29th worst 88 goals against. Or 2. The 11-12-3 record. As a former 3rd string net minder I feel it best to focus on the positive here.
True the defense has leaked worse then the dykes of New Orleans, but the goaltending has simply done the very most import thing goaltending can do. Given us a chance to win.
For the most part, I can say with confidence that night in and night out the goaltending has given our boys a chance. It has on most occasions kept us in games, and overall not been the problem this season. Has it been unbelievable? No, but it has been steady, and it has been at times stellar.
As far as positions go as whole the Islanders are not that far off from being a perennial playoff team. However the defense as a whole has been so bad, and truly had only 2 players Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald who headed into this season that I wished to see back on the Blue line come 2013/14. You can certainly add Matt Carkner to that list if his back heals up. But that is certainly not enough for a blue line to lead us anywhere, let alone the playoffs.
Couple that with the nice additions of Brian Strait, and Thomas Hickey, and perhaps with the influx of young blood coming up through the system the D as a whole can be revamped. However that’s a lot of “if’s”, and as we stand today the defense is the problem, and defense wins championships or in our case wins a spot to the dance… But I digress
Coming tomorrow special teams, individual player evaluations, coaching, and what to expect in the final “half” of this thank you at least we had a season 2012/13 campaign.
Attempting to capture the Spirit of the Thing…
P.S. Have a Nice Day !!
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Tags: Andrew MacDonald Brian Strait Charles Wang Evgeni Nabokov Garth Snow Isles Jack Capuano John Tavares Matt Carkner Midterm New York Islanders NHL Playoffs Prince Of Wales Rick DiPietro Stanley Cup Playoffs Thomas Hickey Travis Hamonic Wang