The New York Islanders season continues to unravel. With only five regulation wins in the latter half of December, Long Island’s hockey team has failed to take advantage the momentum that had them push the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins to a hard-fought six games in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which has caused the team’s fan-base to figuratively commit arson on the organization’s front office.
There’s no sugarcoating it. The Islanders have been awful during the 2013-14. There is little reason for optimism in the short-term. There is little hope for this team to turn the ship around fast enough to grab hold of a playoff spot before April – at least with the way the team has played. I say “at least” because I believe the talent for said turnaround is present.
Yes, the team that plays on the ice before us is practically the exact same team that took the Islanders to the playoffs last season. The 2013-14 Islanders are basically the same Islanders that went streaking through the second-half of their lockout-shortened 2013 schedule. While that team from last season wasn’t perfect, the Islanders have made moves over the past six months to improve their roster; but of course, with the Islanders struggling, the disgruntled are questioning the front office’s decision-making.
“The Islanders should have held onto Mark Streit.”
“The Islanders should have kept Brad Boyes.”
“The Islanders should have never traded Matt Moulson”
The list goes on. You know it does. You, the reader, can probably add a few things to this list right now….I can too, because hindsight.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Analyzing a situation is always easier after that situation has already happened or developed, and many of us couch GMs (I will include myself) have instantly declared ourselves “geniuses” for seeing into the future after the future already came and passed.
We forget quickly, but the team on the ice is close to the team we wanted. Minus a starting goalie (Evgeni Nabokov was the best goalie available via unrestricted free agency) and a top-pairing defenseman (because those aren’t picked off trees) the Islanders front office did its job to your satisfaction.
Immediately after the 2013 season ended, there was no defenseman heavily criticized by the Islanders fan-base than Streit, the Islanders power play quarterback and captain. A minus player and defensive liability, Streit was no longer seen as the Norris candidate he once was when he joined the organization. He was seen as expendable – 81% of our voters over the summer wished him gone because 1) Lubomir Visnovsky; and 2) his price tag. Streit was offered a deal by Garth Snow, he rejected, and was sent on his way to Philadelphia. All was fine on Long Island, but then Lubo went down due to a concussion, the team started sinking, and it became the Islanders “fault” for “losing him.” Got it.
Then there was the Islanders need for a top-winger to play with John Tavares (yes, that was one of the “declared” big needs, along with a goalie and top-pairing defenseman). After a pitiful playoff performance (3 assists, all in the same game), and only recording points in four of the team’s final thirteen games of the season, it was widely accepted that Boyes was not a fit next to Tavares. He was released and replaced by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, whose playmaking ability was expected to give that line a boost. It didn’t, so “bring back Boyes.”
And then the Islanders finally made the trade to bring in the top-line winger to play with Tavares. Moving Matt Moulson and two picks for Thomas Vanek, the Islanders acquired a superstar. Some fans were upset. Many were excited. As soon as Vanek didn’t score in his first game as an Islander, the man was booed. He then fell to injury, and the deal was immediately labeled a bad one. The top-line winger that everybody called for has been scorned by a fan-base – most recently accusing him as the reason for the team’s 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay for attempting a slap shot in a shootout. OK, so maybe there wasn’t a desire to move Moulson at the beginning of the season (although some did repeatedly knock him for a multitude of reasons), but the Isles made a move to make their team better (and, in hindsight, this move has had literally zero affect on this team, statistically).
So here we are. We (the fans) hate everything that we wanted and received. The moves that could be made to help this team were made. Even players such as Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey, two key components to the Islanders run to the playoffs, were praised by many signed to long-term deals by Garth this offseason, but I’m sure we were all ready to predict their struggles in a year they were expected to take the next step. Just like the Islanders could have improved secondary scoring after Michael Grabner didn’t reach the score-sheet in two months.
With the moves the Islanders made to assemble the current on-ice product, there, in my opinion, isn’t much else they could have done differently. The team on the ice is, in all practicality, the best one the Islanders could have assembled, taking into consideration the team’s budget, long-term plans, and success from the past season; but again, there’s always hindsight.