Maybe the New York Islanders are just going through a slump. This writer is 99% sure the problem isn’t Doug Weight’s motivational skills. Goaltending has been an issue all year. Defensive play has taken a step (or two) back.
The real issues with the New York Islanders lie within the realms of the above-mentioned subjects, as well as special teams play. A shake-up is probably in order and it could come in a number of different ways. Just please, please, don’t make any changes to the lines.
The first line is producing on levels unseen in this franchise since the late 1970’s.
are the first Islanders teammates to have 40 points each before Christmas since
in 1978-79, as per last night’s Islanders broadcast.
The JT Effect
It seems as if anyone who plays with JT puts up big-time numbers, especially in the assists category. Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Moulson were all able to sign decent free-agent contracts after leaving the Islanders. These deals were earned because of their stats when playing alongside a once-a-decade player who makes everyone around him better. John Tavares is the LeBron James of the NHL.
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Josh Bailey and Anders Lee are certainly making the most of their time in one of the most coveted spots in the NHL next to Tavares.
Anders Lee has been making steady progress during his three-plus seasons as an Isles fixture. He’s averaged 43 points per year over the past three seasons and he’s already up to 36 points this year thanks largely in part to his 21 goals over the first 35 games played.
Josh Bailey is simply on another planet right now. After a pedestrian first eight seasons in Blue & Orange, Bailey is finally producing in the way we all hoped he could. His 45 points through 35 games played are not just a byproduct of playing next to Tavares. His emergence is a testament to keeping his head down and putting in the work to become a better player, in this writer’s opinion.
The Second Line
Andrew Ladd has been resurrected under Coach Doug Weight. Since Weight took over for Jack Capuano in the middle of last season Ladd has been a changed player. Even though his point totals have seen somewhat of a drop-off so far this year, his leadership is obvious and it seems his rugged style of play is rubbing off on some of the younger guys.
That brings us to Mathew Barzal. This future superstar reminds me of a Pavel Bure-Sergei Fedorov hybrid. His speed and stickhandling are something to behold and even for his small stature, he seems to position himself in the right spot more often than not. His heart and passion for the game are on full display every night.
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Trading Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle could be one of Garth Snow’s top five moves as Islanders GM. Eberle’s energy combined with his nose for the net makes him a spark plug when the Isles need him the most. Come Spring, we’re gonna see just what Jordan Eberle has to offer and I think we’ll be quite pleased.
Chemistry Plays, Big Time
With the offense clearly holding this year’s edition of the New York Islanders together, breaking up either of the top two lines would be a risky move, at best. The third and fourth lines have got the job done, with Casey Cizikas and Brock Nelson looking solid thus far. Cal Clutterbuck and Jason Chimera provide equal parts leadership and badassery. Again, the chemistry amongst these lines is not the problem.
Moves certainly need to be made on the personnel front in order to propel the New York Islanders into the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders goaltenders’ current sub-.900 goals against average just will not cut it. A big-time netminder would better their chances, surely.
As for the defense, this writer would like to see Erik Karlsson with the silhouette of Long Island on his chest underneath my Christmas tree, but that’s for Garthy the Snowman to decide, not us.