New York Islanders Defensive Structure Failure Needs Fixing

Head coach Doug Weight of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Head coach Doug Weight of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

At the start of the season, New York Islanders coach Doug Weight instilled a new defensive structure for the team. And it’s not working out in the slightest.

After the New York Islanders failed to progress to the playoffs in 2016-17 new permanent head coach Doug Weight set out to create a new defensive strategy for his team.

His goal was two-fold. Doug Weight wanted to clear sightlines for his goaltenders and reduce the chances (however slim) of a puck being redirected into the Isles net. Secondly, he wanted to reduce puck possession for the opposition with aggressive play at the point.

It was all perfectly summed up by then Newsday writer Arthur Staple:

Weight and his staff have been coaching the Islanders’ defensemen to clear sight lines for the goaltenders rather than try to be a second netminder. Weight also wants his forwards to be aggressive at the points rather than keeping a tighter defensive structure. It’s all in the name of reducing errant deflections and screened shots, while also trying to reduce puck possession for opposing teams in the defensive zone.

It Ain’t Workin’ Doug

We know the New York Islanders give up a ton of shots against. In fact, they’re ranked 31st in the league for that stat line with 36.0 shots against per game. But why are they so porous? Why do they give up so many shots?

Alex Novet of the Athletic took a good swing at what the Islanders have been doing defensively so far this season. The entire article is absolutely eye-opening. It’s a great piece and I suggest you read it

the team must better disrupt passing lanes and prevent opponents from moving the puck around the zone before getting a shot. This includes attacking opposing puck carriers even into less dangerous areas like the corners.

Now, remember what Staple wrote at the start of the season. Weight’s goal from the start with this new strategy was to shepherd attackers into less dangerous areas. Looking at some of the number’s Novet puts forward we see that the Islanders have been slightly better than the rest of the league in terms of shots from the “home plate” area in front of the net.

It’s just they’re worse in every other measurable category. Shots from one-times, shots from low-to-high danger areas, behind the net and off of stretch passes. Across each, the Islanders are worse than the league average. Somehow the Islanders have managed to turn the less dangerous in the dangerous.

What bothers me with all this is that Doug Weight hasn’t seemed to be able to adapt to the reality around him. This isn’t a new reality. The fact that the New York Islanders have been letting up a ton of shots against isn’t new. Yet for some reason, Doug Weight hasn’t done anything to change the Islanders strategy.

Next: Getting To Know Chris Wagner

There’s a coaching issue with this team. Whether it’s just the inexperience of this coaching group at the NHL level, or Doug Weight just being too stubborn for his own good? Either way