The Islanders Need Help, But Hindsight is 20/20 on Long Island

captain hindsightThe 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.

-CT

Topics: HOCKEY, New York Islanders, NHL, Nhl Puck Drop

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  • puckmanjack

    There is not much they could have done differently? Really? Stupid article

    • thebagman45

      How would you have acquired a goalie and a top defenseman?

      • Chris Triantafilis

        Yes, how. Nino was offered for Bernier and for Schneider…top defensemen do not grow on tress. You want a D-man, sure, but the Isles weren’t going to commit assets and years to a 4-6 guy.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      The floor is yours, then. Maybe I should have restated: what could they have done differently outside of a video game?

      But thanks for reading.

      • Harry F

        Great post. I love how people think Snow should have just plucked a top pair Dman for a prospect (but not strome or Reinhart, only secondary prospects and picks). First, teams with really good defensemen are generally playoff teams (playoff teams dont trade cornerstones) and second, those great defenders were draft developed (2008 draft guys, ranger dmen, etc). Big issue, and I dont think its hindsight so much, is that there should have been some kind of veteran Dman picked up, like how colorado did. Not quite a 6mill player, but something in the 3mill range, which is a clear step up from someone like Carkner. Its the budget issue, as always, not coaching or management. To expect rookie Dmen like Ness, Dehaan, Donovan and even Hickey (not technically a rookie, but close) to be game changers right away just isnt fair. Top guys like Hedman and Larsson havent been quick studies. Fortunately there are legitimate, big, Dmen (Pedan, Mayfield, Reinhart Puolock, big big body in leduc, pelech, somerby) in the pipeline, just have to cross our fingers that they will be solid.

        • Chris Triantafilis

          Thanks for reading, Harry. As much as Isles could have picked up a vet D-man (not top-pairing), I think it really came down to years..as in, Isles don’t want to invest years into older defensemen when they have their own coming up soon. Rebuild isn’t over. D-men have yet to arrive, but hopefully, they bring the size, steadiness and toughness that we have been clamoring for.

  • thebagman45

    Broadly, I agree with you. Most fans didn’t think this would be a terrible season going in. and yet they claim now that Snow blew it in the off-season.

    That said, I (and lots of others) never bought into the notion that we needed a “top winger” to play with Tavares. The first line was never the problem. I was also confused at the time that they didn’t bring back Boyes, who was very good on that line and could’ve been had on the cheap. That said, Bouchard appeared to be an upgrade, and he certainly has played better than to deserve a demotion to the AHL.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      And I agree….I thought a top winger was the least of the team’s worries, although I did think one was necessary; however, I never envisioned the Isles acquiring one at the cost of Matt Moulson. I wasn’t opposed to Boyes leaving…and when they replaced him with Bocuhard, I figured Bouchard would have an opportunity to compete alongside JT, which he didn’t.

      Going into the season, expectations may have been higher for some than others. Some said the Isles wouldn’t make the playoffs. Nobody saw this, however.

      • Harry F

        and also, ya, snow traded big assets for vanek, but if he held onto those assets, its not like there is a defensemen available right now who we would be able to acquire for Moulson and those picks. The supply of Dmen is just not there. I was a big proponent of trying to get Jay Bouwmester (spelling?) when his value was down in CAL, at least personally, I’m happy to see he’s doing well and that I wasnt crazy for thinking he would be good.

        • Chris Triantafilis

          Well, that’s the thing, Harry. That same package wasn’t translating into another defenseman. Bouwmeester would have been a good fit here.

          • Harry F

            all of the arm chair experts seem to think that it would have. It’s just funny.

  • Nolan Fox

    Every GM makes mistakes, look at Ken Holland and his Weiss signing. You have to give the Isles credit for what they do with their budget. My only complaint, would be that Cal and PM never had a shot at Tavares’ line with Mouslon, and Okoposo didn’t get a chance to help out that 2nd line (before Mouslon was moved). A lot of articles in the summer debated between Cal and PM for that right wing, and it just never happened. Injuries on the back end have ALWAYS been an issue with the Isles. I would have liked to have seen them sign a couple low cost back end vets like Florida did just to deepen the pool (especially when Cappy likes vets). I think our outcome would have been better than the Panthers, just because our supporting cast is better. So 20/20, I would say the moves that have been made were all made with good reason, it’s maybe a few small moves that haven’t been made that are hurting us now.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      I agree with you, Nolan.

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  • fnfelon

    Yes, most fans, myself included were perhaps too giddy after last years run, however management is paid to effectively evaluate talent and not have a complete collapse of the assets Management for the most part tied up on long term contracts last year. Accountability is non-existent in this Franchise; from the League demanding Wang run the Franchise like most other Franchises and not skirt cap rules to pay the least amount possible for the miserable product it showcases to the fans.To the inept and inexperienced Management and Coaching staff, if you can reasonably called what Wang pays a staff, who were hired by the buffoon who owns this once showcase Franchise. It is the fans that are the aggrieved party in this charade; perpetrated by a criminal who should be in an FCI along with his ex- partner. Blame should be laid at the feet of Wang and not the loyal fans for expecting better and who have been abused for far too long by this inept buffoon.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      The players who played well last season, and then were depended on this season, have faltered. It’s unfortunate. I believe the talent is there, but the offense – the team’s staple – hasn’t been good enough to overcome other issues, which they were able to do last season.

  • justin

    I’m not going to bash the idea and practice of locking up guys like Grabner, Hamonic and Bailey l/t. Although I always believed that Bailey did not deserve the l/t contract just yet. Snow took a gamble on that one that Bailey would be able to consistently play to his talent level (and to the level he flashed at the end of last season) and not regress to the mean which is invisiBailiey. that gamble is not paying off.

    More then anything, I am angry at Isles management/ownership for selling the fans and season ticket holders on a rebuild and selling the same to the kids on the team – many of whom have signed cap-friendly l/t term deals all in the name of building a consistent contender – but are unable to fulfill their end of the bargain by bringing in quality players to fill the holes, or investing in organizational development/coaching/scouting etc,,If it seemed the org was doing any of those things I do not think the fan’s reaction to this on-ice catastrophe would be quite so harsh. But what it seems is happening is a house of cards collapsing on it’s self and a strategy to spend as little money as possible being finally exposed. We were sold a rebuild but what we really got was a scam by a man whose been doing that his whole life.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      I think the rebuild was what has been going on – still is…I think the team (ownership included) expected the team to take the next step. Watching Bailey and Grabner destroy the team’s top-six plans has been tough to watch. The defense, as bad as it is, would have been “passable,” as it was last season, if the offense hadn’t struggled the way it has. Would they have been a top team in the NHL? No, but certainly in the playoff hunt. The Islanders offense was supposed to be a top-5 unit in the NHL. It has taken a turn, and the Islanders have gotten killed for it.

      • justin

        i agree with what you’re saying but I think the elephant in the room is that this is a rebuild and an org whose MO is to spend as little as possible. so yeah, it’s a “rebuild”. but the parameters of those rebuild include spending as little money as possible. so really it’s more a “scam”.

        • justin

          EVERY decision made by this team is made through that lens. Which is why guys like hickey and strait get multi-year contracts and why a team in “rebuild” mode has the smallest scouting and player development department in the NHL.

          • justin

            it is also why there was no salt on the ground in parking lot after the game on Tuesday and why there are divots in the ice where guys like Kevin Poulin can bust their knees on…

          • justin

            an org run on the cheap like this will NEVER win but will always have a ton of excuses as to why not to divert from the simple truth.

          • Harry F

            the garden has the worse ice in the game, are every one of their ruts a reflection of the organization? How is anything a “scam”? It’s one thing to try to lose, another to try to win on the joke that is our player budget. If you think this team isnt trying to win with what they have, then you’re not paying attention. Problem is, they dont have any money. We just have to hope brookyn will push this team to a mid revenue team as least.

          • justin

            the ice thing was an anecdote and it was a pretty weak one- I’ll grant you that. But, my point was that the cheapness of this organization pervades to all levels and ends up affecting the team on the ices ability to win. if you don’t choose to see it that way then that is your prerogative. but you can’t argue with facts like payroll, amount of hockey and training/medical employees on payroll as compared to other NHL teams, practice facility etc… and yes, this is a scam. No one accused the team of trying to lose so don’t put words in my mouth. But we were sold a five year rebuild. This is year six and the team is playing the same way it played in year one. I will feel free to make a connection b/t the investment the owner fails to make in the product and the results on the ice. If you don’t want to so be it. But, I am spending my money on year 2 of a 3 year season ticket plan and paying NHL prices to do so. I want an NHL product. And who are you to say what money Charles Wang has or doesn’t have. This is what he chooses to spend. It’s funny, the guys always seems to have his hand out claiming poor seeing what he can shake loose (lease renegotiation gift from Suozzi, payments from Barclays that may or may not have already started etc.) again, it’s your choice to make an assumption that this org just can’t afford anything but the scraps at the bottom of the barrel but I choose to expect more from an NHL franchise after years of being asked to accept less.

          • justin

            bottom line – do you really still believe Charles Wang when he claims poor? Why b/c he said so? Why does he deserve the benefit at this point? Do you think the story will ever change with him? c’mon guy…

          • Chris Triantafilis

            I don’t think he’s poor…but as a business owner, you don’t invest heavily into something that’s going to lose you money. Fact is, on Long Island, the Islanders will lose money, winning or losing.

          • justin

            Over the last few years he has had the lease renegotiated in order to be able to receive revenues from all Coliseum events and started receiving revenue sharing from the league. We also know that the team receives a rich payment from dolan cablevision every year as well as new payments from the league for the ridiculous canada national broadcast deal. This is not to mention the fixed payment he may or may not be already receiving from Ratner.
            The MO for Charles and his investment level in the on-ice product and operations is a business CHOICE, not a fait accomplis like he has you broadcasting as a fact. I’d go as far to say that you are being irresponsible as a credentialed media by claiming that as fact when all it is a repetition of what Charles Wang claims to be truth. I would say it is a fact that Charles Wang is a con man and a fraud and it would have more basis in truth then what you are saying.

          • Harry F

            trust me, i’m right with you on the money issue. and my fiance and i have season tickets as well. When i say the team doesnt have money, i mean hockey ops. the word “scam” implies fraud to me, like they are actively trying to lose or milk money out of something (like the mets cutting payroll while receiving tons of MLB media and SNY money to earn back what they lost with Madoff, thats a scam to me).

            It’s baffling and simply ugly that they haven’t supported Tavares with anything, when you see teams in small markets like tampa and Pitt (in the first year or 2 of crosby, before hockey exploded there) spend to support their young stars. It’s clear revenue is an issue, and I thought the new CBA was going to provide a team like the Islanders revenue sharing for a period of time, but who knows how that ended up.

        • Chris Triantafilis

          I don’t know if “scam” is the right word, but the team is certainly a bit further away than most were led on to believe. Two things come to mind when analyzing the “rebuild” and budget:
          1) The Isles are doing their best to keep their own players. There IS a problem attracting free agents, so the goal is to extend the homegrown guys to long-term, good value deals (which they have – doesn’t look that way because Grabs/Bails, etc are putting up crap numbers, but when they were signed to deals, should have been bargain).
          2) I say the rebuild isn’t over because, while majority of offense is close/has played a few NHL games, defense has barely broken into the AHL. It can’t “be over” or “restart” until we see Reinahrt, Pulock, and the other big D-men that this team is trying to build.

          They certainly spend as little as possible – from a businessman’s perspective, it makes sense because the team was losing a ton of money. I think they put their money in the right guys at good value, but this season hasn’t worked out. While some long-term moves were gambles, it was hard to say “we’ll let Josh go” after he was on pace for 25 goals, 55 points over an 82-game season.

  • Sam Tantleff

    100% true except I still believe that Garth could have easily gotten a top pair d-man to help this team before it sunk, because many like Gardiner, Gleason, and possibly Tyler Myers (if BUF eats some salary) are available. I also think Isles need a good coach to bring them to the next level which we all forgot about when the isles made the playoffs, but was still a problem. I want a coach like Lavy who is a proven winner, and look at PIT, injuries can be overcome w/ good coaching. Time to fire cappy and get a d-man before the season is over. Also, Poulin is so underrated and is the reason this team has won a game in the last month.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      I agree with the names you bring up – still do – however those aren’t top-pairing defensemen.

      I also agree with your thoughts on coaching. I think there was a time and place for Capauno, but I think the Isles need a new voice.

      • Harry F

        Not to nitpick and be annoying, but Gardiner gets benched because he is awful at defense (they’ve talked about making him a winger), Myers is a disaster, even at 3 million a year, and Gleason could possibly work, but you have to ask why would Carolina, fighting for playoff position, trade an alleged “top 4″ dman? Lavliolette would be interesting, but coaching doesn’t make OK players great. Philly had a lot of really good/quasi star players underperforming, which says something about the coach that got fired. Evn a guy like Lindy Ruff was seen as a pariah toward the end of his days in Buffalo. And with Pitt, it begins and ends with Crosby. (and when crosby was out, Malkin had a hart season, so it wasnt like they were devoid of players)

  • fnfelon

    Chris, I just want you to ask Garth if you have access to him; should I be looking forward to the Isles drafting Ekblat or Griffin’s little brother? It seems like another wasted year.

  • Brian Levkovich

    Firstly, this team hasn’t won a single playoff series since 1993. Secondly, it does not take seven years to rebuild – or however long it’s been. Thirdly, it sure doesn’t help that Wang refuses to spend any of his precious money. We can make excuse after excuse for the front office of this team, but if we look at the big picture, the plain fact is that the Isles have have been a pretty bad team – in fact, a terrible team – for a long time now. That can’t simply be bad luck. At some point, the front office needs to step up and turn them into a winner. As a fan of this team for awhile now, I’m fed up with how this organization has been run for the past 20 years. No other organization in hockey is considered such a laughingstock. I’m not sure why I should believe otherwise given the recent history of this team.

    • Chris Triantafilis

      It usually DOES take seven years to rebuild (give or take), however, the window for this particular rebuild is closing. Of course, things need to improve. It has been tough. The Islanders haven’t had the worst decade, though….but they have often “plateaued” at best.

  • Cockbag willie benson

    rebuild the rebuild again for 20 years

  • Cockbag willie benson

    we will get another top 5 pick this year and trade it off for another superstar like calclutterbuck ! woohoo

    • Chris Triantafilis

      You do realize Nino Niederreiter killed all of his value as a member of the Islanders, right? He whined his way off? Serious question.

      • Cockbag willie benson

        He felt he was not getting a fair shot and he asked for a trade, thats fine . but cal clutterbuck was not a fair trade. we are comparing HOCKEY SKILL no primodonna b.s behind closed doors

        • Chris Triantafilis

          In terms of skill, no it was not a “fair trade.” The trade went beyond that, and you have to acknowledge that Nino’s crying dropped his trade value. Not his player value, but his trade value. The Islanders had little leverage on what they could back for him.

          • Cockbag willie benson

            i agree

  • Peter McEntee

    CHRIS YOU’RE WRONG EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE FIRED AND TRADED GOODBYE