The New York Islanders began the 2017-2018 season with a lot of question marks. The biggest being the future of Captain John Tavares. The on-ice results this season left much to be desired.
We all the know the story at this point. The New York Islanders missed the playoffs in 2016-2017 by one point. Sure it took a six-game winning streak to end the season to get that close but hey we thought they’d be heading in the right direction.
Preseason odds put the Isles at an over-under of 88.5 points. Many thought it would be an easy bet, the Islanders would fly past that and be in prime playoff position.
Early on it seemed things were clicking on all cylinders. Through November they had 32 points in 24 games. That would put them on a 109 point pace for the season. 109 points would have been good enough to win the Metropolitan Division (Washington won it with 105).
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The Calender turned to December and the Islanders began to stumble. Eventually, that stumble turned into a free fall and the once seemingly elite Isles finished the year in seventh place in the Division. The only team to finish below the Islanders? The “rebuilding” Rangers. Well hey, at least we finally finished above the Rangers in the Garth Snow era right?
Yes, this season wasn’t all bad. The emergence of Mathew Barzal electrified both Islander and NHL fans. Barzal finished over a point per game with 85. Barzal easily earned the rookie scoring crown as the next closest was Arizona’s Clayton Keller with 65 points.
John Tavares had a tremendous contract year. The Captain had 37 goals and 47 assists to finish with 84 points. Even with all of this offensive contributions, the Islanders were essentially out of the playoff hunt with around 12 games to go.
New York’s offensive prowess should have had them fighting for a Division title and maybe even the President’s Trophy. They scored 264 goals which was good for eighth in the league. Instead, they gave up an outrageous 296 goals. Out of the top twenty scoring teams this season, the Isles are one of two teams with a negative goal differential.
It’s tough to look at these numbers and say we can get better. Yes, the problem was defense and goaltending this year. There is no question about it when average defensive play would have made them a playoff team.
This frustrating season came at the absolute worst time. Your franchise player is an impending free agent and things go so poorly fans come together to put up billboards calling for the General Manager’s job.
The team that preached accountability doesn’t appear to have it. All signs are pointing to both Garth Snow and Doug Weight sticking around. Meanwhile, Tavares has to take a hard look at the direction of this franchise.
We hope Barzal can replicate his numbers next year, but that’s certainly no guarantee. Can the Islanders improve the defense enough to become a contender? One can only hope.
The Islanders need Tavares back. If you want to argue he’ll take up too much cap space and isn’t worth the money, I’ll listen to that argument (I won’t agree but I’ll listen). If you think the Islanders will be just better off without him, well I only hope we don’t have to see what happens if he walks.