Ten Takeaways from The Islanders Season
A ton went wrong, and not a lot went right.
After 82 games, the Islanders fell one point short. An extra win anywhere on the schedule and the Isles would be in the playoffs, but instead their season ended early and they’ll be on the golf course before the week’s end. The season was tumultuous, and if nothing else, a learning experience for the team and its fans.
Here’s what we know after this season:
- Garth Snow should be picking up unemployment checks next season. He handled just about everything wrong this year. He mismanaged the coaching staff, turned the goaltending situation into a circus, waited too long to recall Josh Ho-Sang, never gave Ryan Pulock a shot, and opened the season by waiving P.A. Parenteau. His failures cost the Islanders a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
- Snow’s off-season signings, though, should be seen as positives. Forget the game-to-game impressions, if we knew at the start of the season that Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd would be good for 20 and 23 goals respectively, every fan would have signed up. Ladd lit the lamp 19 times in his last 50 games, and both chipped in well offensively. Ladd’s eight assists makes his point total look abysmal, but he was often relegated to the bottom six despite his play.
- No, the Isles should not miss Matt Martin. Of the three Isles off-season losses (Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Martin), many still believe that Martin’s departure was the most harmful. Martin had just five goals and nine points this season, while making $2.5 million. The Isles are already paying non-contributors enough, Martin leaving was addition by subtraction.
- Anders Lee is legit. After a disappointing 15 goal season in 2015–16, Lee took the league by storm in the second half of the year, ending with 34 goals, good for 10th in the NHL. 33 of the goals came in his final 65 games, and his improvement in nearly every aspect of the game put to bed any question if he could be a top-six winger. I criticized him for being a one trick pony in the past, useless beyond tip in goals, but he improved his skating and shooting to become a well rounded scorer.
- Doug Weight deserves to keep at least one of his jobs in the organization. Whether he stays on as head coach or as assistant general manager, Weight has earned every bit of his future with this team. He revitalized a dead season, and with an extra month at the helm could have steered this team to the playoffs.
- Josh Ho-Sang has a bright future. This kid was easily the most exciting player in every game down the stretch. With the puck on his stick, he’s already magic at just 21 years old. His game is still rough around the edges, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic forward on the roster (other than John Tavares).
- The defense is worse than we thought. Travis Hamonic had the worst season of his career, and is plagued by injuries, while neither Thomas Hickey nor Calvin de Haan ended the year with particularly positive sentiments. Leddy, and for the most part Boychuk, can still play at a high level, but the blue line lacks almost any depth.
- Josh Bailey needs to be protected in the expansion draft. Bailey shattered his career high in points with 56, and had his best career season. The scoring was there, and Bailey looked better than he has before. It’s easy to dismiss him as a product of Tavares, but if nothing else the Isles need to realize that he’s too valuable to let go to Vegas. There were questions around whether or not Brock Nelson or Ryan Strome deserved a protected spot more, but its obvious that the Isles need to hold on to Bailey.
- John Tavares has become a two-way forward. Not long ago, the captain was a massive defensive liability. I still have nightmares about his abysmal stick checking in Game 3 against the Lightning that allowed Nikita Kucherov to tie the game with under a minute left. But this season, Tavares was more reliable in his own zone and the neutral zone, ending as one of the best in the league at zone exits and dumps. Tavares’ defensive advanced metrics are nearly on par with Patrice Bergeron, a three-time Selke Trophy winner.
- The Islanders can still only move laterally next year. Due to cap restrictions and an already full roster, it seems like the Isles have little room to immediately improve heading into next season. A full season of Ho-Sang and potential playing time for Ryan Pulock are obviously upgrades, but it still seems like the Isles are a long way off from competing for anything more than a wild card spot.