Who are the New York Islanders?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

In the spirit of sobriety and even-handedness, let us summarize last season in as succinct a style and form as possible:

  • During the 48-game interval, the New York Islanders capitalized on their Eastern Conference rivals’ sluggish start to the season, not to mention that neither Conference saw one another during the year
  • The New York Islanders benefited from good health, while other teams dwindled because of their injuries–all but the Ottawa Senators, one must note
  • The New York Islanders fell off other teams’ radars because their losing tradition was a foregone conclusion, making all teams ripe for the picking come April, when the vast majority of Eastern Conference squads were all but exhausted
  • The tightly-wound 48 game schedule didn’t allow for too much afterthought for any team, meaning: can’t dwell on a winning and/or losing streak
  • The 48-game schedule made every game feel like a playoff matchup, especially in April–Isles benefited from such a scenario more so than others
  • The Islanders had a horrendous start to last year’s season–turning point? Depends on who you ask. Perhaps:
      • The long-term signing of Lubomir Visnovsky
      • The overtime victory against Montreal in which Thomas Hickey scored the winning goal

    Evgeni Nabokov was next to flawless in April

    The Isles special teams was strong

    The team’s no-die attitude quite apparent once the playoffs came around

    All of the aforementioned glossed over the internal issues only a full season can elucidate

    The point in bringing up all the aforementioned ‘facts’ is that the playoff berth has proved more harmful than beneficial to this hockey team (and, to a degree,  its fanbase.)

    The Islanders have always had the issues they have now, just appearing at different intervals during a given season.

    The playoff berth did nothing to alleviate those issues, but rather, swept them under the proverbial rug, fooling even Garth Snow, one can imagine.

    The signing of Cal Clutterbuck was nothing more than to embolden what was once a hard-hitting, scrappy team, helping out the likes of Matt Martin; Clutterbuck was to add another dimension to that fierceness with a beautiful wrist shot in tow.

    The goaltending issues were also glossed over because of Nabokov’s wonderful and equally trailblazing play for the anomaly of a month we all refer to as April 2013.

    At the start of this year, the Islanders were looking like a team with everything but goaltending; now that issue is somewhat resolved and everything else is broken.

    Confusing, right?

    Here’s another one for you: their youth is both a cause for excitement and concern.

    The Islanders currently have an impressive farm system, but as these boys transition into the NHL, most have either been scapegoated (Matt Donovan) and thus sent down, or proven that their maturity isn’t quite up to par for the pros, yet hang around and add to the woes.

    These prospects lack size, even if their speed is somewhat impressive, and some lack NHL IQ  to say the least.  Something only vast amounts of trial-and-error can remedy. Emphasis on V-A-S-T.

    But even that’s a paradox as of late, for there are veterans on the ice passing pucks to opposing players inside their own zone that lead to goals–ask Frans Nielsen.

    The coaching can be blamed for much of what’s gone wrong this season, and what did go wrong last year as well. But that’s only one part of the problem, and a quick fix in the manner of one Peter Laviolette will only, yet again, gloss over the issues.

    Simply put, the Islanders are a team in the gray zone of hockey: not quite rebuilding and not quite transitioning and not quite arriving. Caught, as it were, in the purgatory of the game.

    These are dangerous waters in which to navigate if you’re a GM and frustrating beyond words if you’re a fan.

    For the GM, you can easily blow up this team and trade away youth and veteran players alike, for what appears to be a slim-to-none market talent-wise. Rebuild once again, much to the dismay of all.

    As a fan, you’re reaching for the panic button, or worse calling for the heads (literally) of everyone associated with the team and their venue: from the owner to the lady selling hot-dogs by Gate 16.

    Here’s a summary of this season’s output:

    • The Islanders are playing beyond their capacity, overcompensating because no one is trusting the other man to do his part–last night’s tying goal by Tampa, in which the entire team piled atop one another, is a sign of a mental lapse that has everything to do with players and nothing to do with coaching. If you think about it, you’ll see that much is true
    • The goaltending issues at the start of the season cost the Isles several key winning opportunities that now have come to bite them and bite them harshly
    • Injuries have broken this team’s back in ways from which no team can recuperate without some miracle run that has yet to see precedent
    • The Islanders have succumb to a self-fulfilling prophecy of losing
    • Frustration on their part has led to mistakes from every single player wearing an Islander uniform–every. single. player.
    • There has yet to be a precedent set in the NHL in which a coach with Jack Capuano’s record these past several seasons to still be gainfully employed
    • Trading Matt Moulson did have an effect on this team, but whether or not it’s the reason for the losing can only be answered by the players
    • More youth on this team than last year’s, which, again, is a curse and boon
    • Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey are having an absolutely terrible year

    There is no quick fix.

    The Islanders will literally have to work through these issues for the entire season and perhaps miss out on the playoffs.

    If you believe that last year’s playoff berth hurt them in the manner spoken here, then assuredly you can somewhat buy into the fact that missing them will teach them all a lesson they will never forget come May.

    Whatever the case, no more mincing of words:

    These are not the New York Islanders.

    Let’s hope they show up in time to take their game above .500.

    –RD (RDNHL)