The month of October was defined more by deficiencies than strengths for the New York Islanders, as their current 4-5-3 record has all but dissipated the promise and excitement inspired by last season’s playoff run in the eyes of some.
Search parties are on the lookout for the identity that helped the Isles emerge from the dregs of NHL obscurity just a few months ago, giving opponents like the Pittsburgh Penguins cause for concern, and a dispersed and downtrodden, yet hopeful fanbase reason to cheer.
But with the recent trade of Matt Moulson to the Buffalo Sabres–a beloved, core player responsible for this team’s success these past few years–the Islanders find themselves amid the grey matter that is the transition period, caught, as it were, between a rebuild and a competitor; murky waters for both GM and club alike, where nothing is certain except uncertainties, and no one is above reproach.
How long the transition last depends solely on the players, and GM Snow will do whatever’s within his means to rekindle that spark and fire that led him and all others in believing that a winning tradition is within a hair’s breadth
All the valuable lessons learned this past April and May of last season seemed to have been negated somehow, and many of the Isles recent contests have displayed individual achievements over a strong, collective effort.
The sum of parts these past 12 games equals a struggling and, as of Tuesday, dwindling team with too much talent and skill in their reservoir to be so imbalanced.
But imbalance, for the most part, is how this team enters the month of November, one game under .500 and without so much as a two-game winning streak of which to hang one’s hat.
But regardless of the difficulties, Frans Nielsen has emerged as the key Islander player responsible for the little success this October.
The “Great Dane” has demonstrated maturity, poise, and persistence when others have failed to follow suit, or whose similar efforts thwarted by adversary or self-doubt alike.
Frans Nielsen is finding ways to bolster his play and those on his line, something many have seen captain John Tavares do in recent years, although, as of late, Tavares is unable to find chemistry with anyone other than those who join him on a double-shift.
Again, credit Nielsen’s brilliant start to the season, for the Islanders were able to stay within a reasonable niche in the standings at month’s end.
Currently, Frans Nielsen is the team points leader with 15 (7G, 8A), which is astounding when considering that the Danish native scored only 6G through 48 games the season prior.
But assists are what matter here, and Nielsen’s sheet below shows a steady increase in that department, even with last season’s truncated schedule.
Most importantly, however, Nielsen has improved the play of both Pierre-Marc Bouchard (1G, 3A, 4pts) and Josh Bailey (4G, 4A, 8pts), especially when coach Jack Capuano decided to make them the second line after the terrible loss against Nashville back on 12 Oct. And lest we forget, Michael Grabner shared line duties with Nielsen as well, and currently stands at 2G, 6A, 8pts.
Since the creation of the Bouchard-Nielsen-Bailey line, all three players have contributed to the Isles score sheet during key games (Bouchard with his first goal against the Penguins), and show improved awareness away from the play; Bailey especially, as his confidence with the puck has often resulted in some wonderful, if not always successful, creative playmaking.
If the aforementioned is somewhat unclear to you, or if all of it feels like conjecture, ask yourself the following:
- Kyle Okposo has 4G, 8A and sits third on the list in team points with 12. Is he having a better year than Bailey, or as close a year as Nielsen?
- Does Kyle Okposo pass the infamous “eye” test for you?
- Would Okposo do better and be better alongside Frans? (Hint: go back a few months to find the answer.)
If you answered NO to bullet one, then what is it about Bailey, for example, that makes him the better player at the moment? If he’s only edging out Okposo in your mind, then give the edge to Nielsen and the chemistry he’s fostered in his linemate.
Frans Nielsen had two back-to-back multiple point performances (1G, 2A in each), and two late-game tying goals that gave his team an opportunity to steal/salvage a point. Regardless of the outcome, Nielsen has played with an energy that bespeaks his current numbers, even outshining his captain during crucial moments.
The Isles 2nd-line centerman has also scored a goal in every situation, with his short-handed one coming this past Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, in a team performance that left everyone connected with the organization shaking their heads in dismay.
Durable on the PK, necessary on the PP, Nielsen is as versatile as they come, and is the most important Islander to date, second to John Tavares, and to the chagrin of some, but not all, Evgeni Nabokov.
If Isles fans and the Islanders themselves want someone to lead them to shore, then Frans Nielsen’s steadfast play is that beacon for sure.
**Congratulations to Frans Nielsen for his outstanding work.**
The Dane’s Stats
|Scoring Stats||Goals||Ice Time|
EOI Staff Chime In
Andy Graziano, Editor:
There has been no more consistent Islander during the month of October than Nielsen. He is doing everything well in all three zones and seems to have really understood what last seasons playoff run meant and what it now takes to compete on a nightly basis.
Michael Willhoft, Senior Staff Writer:
Nielsen is deserving of the title ‘Islander of the Month’ for one reason. Actually, 15 reasons. As in, 15 points (7G, 8A) this month, which lead the team. Sure, his 27% shooting percentage will regress, but right now he’s the best Isles player on the ice
Jon Zella, Staff Writer:
Though he would be better as a third line center, he has embraced his role thus far leading the second wave of scoring for the Islanders. Good two-way player with offensive upside.
Reagan King, Staff Writer:
Frans Nielsen is hands down the number one choice for Isle of the Month. He’s off to a tremendous start and would say he has been the single best play on the team through one month of play.
Eric Bordin, Staff Writer:
It’s long been said that Frans Nielsen is perhaps the most complete player the Islanders have. His performance during the first few weeks of the season certainly backs up that theory.
Peter McEntee, Staff Writer:
Frans is the islander of the month. Solid two way player who has added superb offensive contributions.
Joe Powers, Staff Writer:
Nielsen’s his usual solid self, plus is currently among the league’s leading scorers. How often are we going to be able to say that? By all means make him this month’s selection.
Shane Blackburn, Podcast Director & Staff Writer:
I agree on Nielsen as the Islander of the month. He has consistently been the Islanders’ best forward, offensively and defensively, night in and night out. Look for Frans to continue this style of play and to keep making everyone around him better.
Chris Triantafilis, Staff Writer:
For what Frans Nielsen hasn’t done in the shootout this season, he has made up for (and more) with his offensive numbers on the ice. Nielsen has already surpassed his goals total from last season, and is shooting close to 30% in 2013-14.
Mike Ristano, Staff Writer:
If you look at the first twelve games of the season, Frans has already surpassed his goal total from a year ago. If he keeps up this pace he will play a huge part in helping the Islanders get to where they need to be, and that’s back in the playoffs. Nielsen is absolutely deserving of the award!!!