Greiss, among the final seven players added to Europe's roster, is the fifth Islander to be selected for the tournament, joining John Tavares (Canada), Frans Nielsen (Europe), Jaroslav Halak (Europe) and Nikolay Kulemin (Russia).
Greiss finished the 2015-16 season with a 23-11-4 record, compiling a .925 save percentage - third best in the NHL. After the postseason ended, Greiss backstopped Team Germany in the World Championships.
The first round of the tournament is set to begin Sept. 17.
The Tampa Bay Lighting fell at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night, putting an end to Tampa's quest to avenge their Stanley Cup loss from a season ago. And just like when they knocked the Islanders out two-and-a-half weeks ago, the Lightning are now forced to look at the very real possibility that their club will look very different come next season. The chief reason: the impending free agency of their captain Steven Stamkos.
The number one overall pick in 2008, Stamkos will be the biggest and hottest ticket in the NHL on July 1, and Islanders fans are already salivating at the possibility of signing the All Star.
Stamkos, who has 312 goals and 562 points in 569 career games, returned to the Tampa lineup on Thursday after a blood clot issue kept him out for nearly two months, and the clean bill of health only seemed to make the possibility that much more intriguing.
What's more, there's some reality to it besides fans ready for a splash just fantasy booking this offseason. Elliotte Friedman stoked the fire when he told Sportsnet 960 The Fan in Calgary that he thinks the Islanders could make actually make a run at the Lightning's franchise player.
"The Islanders, the biggest question I have, Garth Snow has said it's not going to change anything, but they have new owners as of July 1 […] It doesn't look like they're signing [Kyle] Okposo, there hasn't been a lot of talk with [Frans] Nielsen. I wonder if they would ever be a Stamkos team," Friedman said when asked about a possible New York pursuit of Stamkos. "They would look at themselves and say new ownership, lots of cap room, him and Tavares are tight. I'm curious to see if there is any chance if they're a team that ends up being in the bidding for this."
There's a lot to digest about all of this. First, the cap implications. Art Staple broke them down nicely in Newsday, saying a Stamkos deal would put a ton of pressure on Snow.
"If Snow drops a seven-year, $70-million deal on Stamkos, he'll need to do the same or better for John Tavares in two years. Unless the cap goes up significantly, that would leave roughly $32 million of cap space tied up in four players in 2018-19 (Tavares, Stamkos, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk). Make it roughly $37 million if the Isles bring back Nielsen," he wrote. "That's about 40 percent of the cap on five players. Five essential ones, mind you, but still only five. Snow would have to turn into a Stan Bowman-type wizard with the Hawks to make a roster work around those figures."
That's a tough task, but if the Isles can make a run to the Cup in the next few years, many would sign for being in the position of making tough decisions four-to-five seasons down the road.
The second is Stamkos' health. Yes, he returned, but is the blood clot issue fully behind him? It's not something to be taken lightly. Blood clots many end Chris Bosh's NBA career prematurely, and there are a litany of NHL players who have seen their own career cut short by the issue as well. Each player is different, and Stamkos' procedure to repair a clot in his right collarbone area ( a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) and the ensuing recovery has been deemed a success by multiple hematologists. It's possible he never has an issue again, but before the Islanders cash strap themselves for years, it's something to at least think about.
Finally, where does he play? The wing with JT? Does he center a second line to give the Isles the best one-two centerman punch in hockey. And what kind of effect does it have on the rest of the club? All questions that Isles fans wouldn't mind seeing answers, I'm sure.
So there's a ton of legwork and preparation that needs to be done to make this pipe dream a reality. But like Staple has written, the Islanders are probably the best team that can afford Stamkos, and you'd think his relationship with Tavares would certainly play a factor. Go ahead and dream, Islanders fans. It's not that far-fetched.
I heard it caught Bocchini's eye -- he formerly worked under the name Rich Brennan on WWE television -- so I reached out to him last week. We got to talking about broadcasting, wrestling, hockey, and his history with it all.
First, some background on Rich. The bulk of his experience resides in the hockey world, and it may surprise many to know he has an Islanders connection. Bocchini, who grew up in Rhode Island, started his career in 1998 in the AHL with the then-Worcester IceCats as an intern who also did some play-by-play and color commentary for the team. After a three-year stint with the club, he moved on to the UHL's Knoxville Speed, where he worked both in the booth and in the team's public relations department.
Then, in 2001-02, he got injected with some Islanders blood. He had a one-year stint in Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers for the Islanders' AHL affiliates' inaugural season -- the campaign where the team reached its lone Calder Cup Final. Stops back in Worcester (02-05), Rio Grande Valley in the CHL (05-10), and the AHL's then-Houston Aeros (10-12) followed before he was brought in to WWE. To hear some of his hockey calls, check out his website here.
Brian Erni: I guess you were pretty surprised when you read my post last week.
Rich Bocchini: I really was, and quite frankly, I'm so humbled that you even thought of me. The last few weeks [since his WWE release] have been a whirlwind to say the least, and it was fantastic to read.
BE: I mentioned that you have experience calling hockey, and honestly, I was surprised to learn you did Sound Tigers games back in 2001-02. I didn't even realize that.
RB: That's crazy, though I have to say, when I was with Bridgeport, I was so green and immature. But hockey and doing play-by-play for this game has always been my primary passion. It's funny, we were in Dallas for Wrestlemania week a few months back, and a friend on the Stars broadcast team left me a press pass. Without even thinking about it, I found myself in the press box, folding the roster in half the long way, and calling the game to myself.
BE: So it's safe to say that making a transition back to sports from sports entertainment would be second nature for you?
RB: I think so. What people don't realize is that once you work in this business in WWE, fans perceive you as a "wrestling guy." But WWE was probably the most unlikely career detour I could have ever imagined. I'm thankful for the opportunities I had there, especially because I grew up a wrestling fan and realized an offbeat dream, but hockey is where I cut my teeth and paid a lot of my dues.
BE: Let's talk about that. You worked in a bunch of organizations, both as a play-by-play man and in PR, right?
RB: I did. I spent a long time honing my craft in the minors and riding the buses, and it allowed me to see the game both from a broadcaster's vantage and a promotional standpoint as well. I went from being a very immature, very green kid to really understanding what it takes to be a pro, both at and away from the rink. I gained an understanding for what it means to really work on your craft and devote yourself to the process. And having that extra experience, from an intern to a PR guy, I've done a little bit of everything in the game, including hanging equipment in lockers at 3:00 in the morning.
BE: When a bunch of my friends and followers who watch wrestling saw my post, they all said it would be a perfect fit, because we have seen and heard what you can do. And for a lot of us that follow the business closely, we know how hard calling wrestling can be because of how it's produced. But as you can probably imagine, some people who don't follow the product scoffed and said, "Oh, what does a wrestling guy know about sports?"
RB: Absolutely, I can understand that. I think WWE still gets a bad rap from the sports world, especially from those who aren't fans, and that affects how some people perceive what we do as broadcasters there. But if you look at the size of their production and the production values they're able to achieve, it's on par with any big league sports property. Guys like Todd Grisham and Jonathan Coachman are proof that you can make the move from WWE to more "serious" content.
BE: So what's more difficult? Calling a match, where the outcome is predetermined, or calling a game, where things happen in front of you organically?
RB: To me, wrestling is probably more difficult, because when you're calling a match, you're not just calling the action in the ring, but making sure the story is progressing in the direction it's supposed to. That can be a challenge. The idea is that it's leading somewhere in the storyline. And you're serving so many masters. In sports, everything unfolds organically. It's just about calling the game that's in front of you.
But they're both about conveying emotion. Whether you're calling a game-winning goal or a championship match, the idea is to capture the emotion of the moment to the audience, and let that shine through in your words. In that way, it's not different at all.
BE: What are your impression of this Islanders team? The organization has come a long way since 01-02 when you were in Bridgeport.
RB: It's certainly a team on the rise, and I think they have a great young core. I love that fourth line, so much so that I had Casey Cizikas on my fantasy team this year. They hit everything in sight. John Tavares is an absolute superstar. It's an exciting time for Islanders fans, and I'm glad, because they've been through a lot and they deserve it.
BE: The WWE has a working relationship with Barclays Center, so you've been there a lot. What are your impressions of the building?
RB: It's a first class facility, for sure. When we were there for NXT Takeover: Brooklyn last August, the place was sold out and incredibly loud. Unfortunately, with the way our schedule worked in WWE and how much travel we had, I haven't been able to get there for a hockey game yet. I know the layout is a little different, but I'm sure Islanders fans get as loud as they can and make it feel like home.
So far, since the New York Islanders were eliminated in five games at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the NHL playoffs, we have presented to you the state of the team as they head into what could be a defining offseason. General manager Garth Snow has a number of large decisions looming with restricted, unrestricted and Bridgeport level free agents. Those columns can be found here:
In addition to dealing with his own assets, Snow is almost certainly going to be shopping among other team's player listings to see if he can improve this team in areas that are lacking. The restricted market doesn't play much of a role, as the process of signing another's contractual property to an offer sheet does not go over too well at the dessert table when the next GM meetings are held. In addition, the more expensive restricted free agents cost an arm and a leg in compensation should the team losing the player choose not to match.
So, let's play some couch general manager and try to look at what the Islanders salary cap situation could look like come July 1 when the free agent season officially opens, and, for the record, Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky assume majority control of the franchise.
If the salary cap does indeed increase, to Gary Bettman's projections, by three million dollars, it would place the upper limit at $74.400 million. The Islanders currently have $53.436 million allocated to player salary (per nhlnumbers.com), leaving them $20.964 million under the new proposed cap ceiling. Here is how their free agent situation could potentially play out:
Casey Cizikas - old cap hit $1.000, new cap hit $2.250
Shane Prince - old cap hit $0.700, new cap hit $0.800
Ryan Strome - old cap hit $1.713, new cap hit $1.713
Matt Martin - old cap hit $1.000, new cap hit $2.000
Frans Nielsen - old cap hit $2.750, new cap hit $4.250
J.F. Berube - old cap hit $0.563, new cap hit $0.600
Factor in Ryan Pulock's cap hit of $0.863 and that leaves the Islanders and Snow with $8.488 million to use in free agency but losing Kyle Okposo, Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait.
Further moves New York could make to position themselves as more prominent players in the market is to exercise a buyout of Mikhail Grabovski, which takes his current $5.000 million cap hit down to $1.833 million and trade Jaroslav Halak for a mid-round pick and roll the dice with Thomas Greiss and Berube, saving another $4.500 million. That would boost available spending power to $16.154 million.
With that being said, the obvious needs are a true top line player to assist captain John Tavares in this organizations ascension, two depth forwards and a depth defenseman. What's out there that fits what the Islanders are looking for, both in character and players that fit the system head coach Jack Capuano likes to play? Let's take a look as of May 24th. Of course, some of these players can sign with their original team from now until July 1, officially taking them off the market. Age presented first followed by dollar amount representing 2015-16 cap hit.
Steven Stamkos: 26 : $7.500 - The top prize on everyone's list. Will have many suitors and should be able to pick and choose his destination. The blood clot issue should not be a concern moving forward once he's off the blood thinners as it's not the recurrent type like what felled Pascal Dupuis. What a pair he and Tavares would make together and what a nightmare for opposing coaches when they play separately. If Isles maneuver even close to suggested above, the money is there for a huge offer.
David Backes: 32 : $4.500 - I have loved Backes his entire career and think he would be fantastic on the Isles as a third liner when (as I predict) Nielsen comes back. Lots of hard miles on his body and term could be the sticking point here. Will wear down quickly into mid-30s.
Loui Eriksson: 30 : $4.250 - Eriksson has always been somewhat undervalued for his production. Key here is how much you go for an excellent possession player who averages 24 goals per season in his NHL career. Coming off second 30 goal season in contract year.
David Perron: 28 : $3.812 - Perron is highly skilled but sometimes incredibly frustrating as consistency is huge issue. Had two 20 goal seasons in St. Louis and one in Edmonton. At 28, already has been with four teams. Can Tavares get most out of him if he accepts similar pay?
Milan Lucic: 28 : $3.250 - Big and bruising Lucic is, arguably, the second biggest free agent as of this writing. Loves Los Angeles and will give them first dibs. Outstanding in possession (55%) and averages 20 goals per season in his career. Oh, and 231 hits also. Would be the modern day Clark Gillies.
Jamie McGinn: 27 : $2.950 - McGinn could be a very valuable third line player who plays with an edge and has a nose for the net - the kind of guy who succeeds in the playoffs when games slow to a halt. Could be headed back to Buffalo, however, to continue mentoring Jack Eichel, who he grew close to before being dealt to Anaheim. Sabres have already expressed interest.
Andrew Ladd: 30 : $2.816 - Not many teams were willing to pony up for Ladd at the deadline in what turned out to be a very expensive rental. Smart of Snow to hold firm and take his chance now. Could be dynamic next to Tavares and brings tons of playoff experience on his resume. Would be much cheaper than Backes at similar production.
Jason Chimera: 37 : $2.000 - Potential replacement for Martin, should he leave, on a one year deal. Can still fly like the wind and kill penalties effectively. Coming up on 1,000 NHL games.
Mikkel Boedker: 26 : $3.750- Slightly overvalued if you take a look at statistics but has never really had the chance to play with anyone as talented as he could with New York. Very durable (five games missed last five years) but certainly does not come without risk.
Troy Brouwer: 30 : $3.667 -Has averaged almost 17 minutes ATOI in career. Would be upgrade over Josh Bailey/Nikolay Kulemin on second line. Or you put him with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas to form an unmatchable unit.
Chris Stewart: 28 : $1.700 - Has not been able to get back on track since breaking out for 28 goals in Colorado back in 2009-10. Could be inexpensive role player however on bottom two units.
Kris Russell: 29 : $2.600 - A smallish defenseman (5'10) but is an expert shot blocker and has some offensive upside. Might play too many minutes to accept a diminished 5/6/7 role on the Islanders however.
Matt Bartkowski: 28 : $1.750 - Decent size (6'1), likes to play the body (384 hits last 191 games) and found his offensive game in third full NHL season (6-12-18 in 80 games) after moving from Boston to Vancouver. Also won't break the bank.
Another avenue for the Islanders would be the trade market, which is almost impossible to predict. Taking Travis Hamonic, who has now chosen to rescind his request to be moved and wishes to stay in Brooklyn, out of the discussions takes a huge asset away from what New York thought they would originally have as leverage. But with a stocked talent pool awaiting their chance at NHL stardom, Snow could choose that route and move younger talent for more experience in an already established player.
With parts one and two, in which we took a look at the New York Islanders' restricted and unrestricted free agency picture, out of the way, we move on to the next phase in offseason preperation -- the system.
With mostly all eyes focused on the big club with the existing potential for a roster shakeup prior to training camp in September, one must not forget the importance of a quality feeder system -- where your stars of tomorrow get the training, tutelage and experience they need to succeed.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were founded in 2001 and have a lease at Webster Bank Arena in Connecticut that runs through 2021. While there have been rumors that they will be the perfect tenant for the 'soon to be or never' refurbished Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, there has been no substance yet to those claims.
Brent Thompson has led the Sound Tigers on two different occasions, first in 2011-12 coming over from the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, where he won a championship. He then moved under Jack Capuano for two years before returning to where he felt most comfortable, behind the bench, grooming the kids. He led Bridgeport to a 12-win turnaround this season, although they were knocked out of the Calder Cup playoffs in the first round, getting swept by the league's best team, the Toronto Marlies.
Garth Snow still has contracts to resolve at the minor league level to allow Thompson the best chance at success in the 2016-17 AHL season.
Restricted Free Agents: Kevin Czuczman, Christopher Gibson, Scott Mayfield, Tom Nilsson, Kirill Petrov, Alan Quine, Johan Sundstrom, Justin Vaive, James Wright.
Czuczman could be a very useful AHL player and also had a 13-game cup of coffee at the NHL level in 2013-14. He played with much more 'snarl' this year with the Tigers. Nilsson and Sundstrom are back home in Sweden but the Islanders still own their contractual rights. It will be interesting to see if Snow qualifies them. We all know that Gibson, Quine, Mayfield and Wright will almost certainly be qualified.
Unrestricted Free Agents: Marc-Andre Cliché, Ben Holmstrom, Bracken Kearns, Joe Whitney, Justin Florek, Mike Halmo, Louis LeBlanc.
Cliché was acquired for Taylor Beck at the deadline and it doesn't appear he will progress past the AHL level. Kearns led the Sound Tigers in scoring (23-30-53) and Whitney was almost a point per game player, battling injuries (14-19-33 in 36 games). Halmo scored a ridiculous 22 goals and is the heart, soul and muscle of the Tigers, which is very much needed in the rougher AHL. At least half of this group is expected back in the fold under Thompson.
Players promoted to the NHL who might never go back down: Thompson also lost some quality on the Sound Tigers last season as Ryan Pulock played 51 games before being recalled to Brooklyn and Quine appeared in 56. While Pulock is almost certain to begin the season as a member of the big club, it remains to be seen if Quine has seen his last time in the minors. He played well and made an impact in the playoffs, scoring an overtime winner in Game 5 of the opening round.
New Additions: Thompson, despite losing Pulock and possibly Quine and having Scott Mayfield on a yo-yo, will gain some valuable additions this season as well, especially on the offensive front. Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang have completed their four year tours of the CHL and are ready to make the jump to the AHL. Matthew Barzal is another year away unless he has a tremendous camp and manages to find a spot on the big club. Anthony Beauvillier will also likely go back to juniors for his fourth full CHL season and it will be very interesting to see the impact Parker Wotherspoon can have at this level after coming over from Tri-City for a six game stint.
These are not Mike Milbury's Islanders. The system is stocked and teeming with talent, especially on the offensive side of the puck. It's now up to Thompson and his staff to develop it properly before the handoff occurs, possibly as early as 2017-18 for most.
Look for Part 4, coming later this week, which will focus on free agent and trade options for the Islanders. Our summer report card series begins on June 1 with the captain, John Tavares.
This summer, coming to general manager Garth Snow's office near you, the long awaited sequel to the blockbuster hit "The Departed." Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin star in…"The Unrestricted."
Now that we have gotten that poor attempt at humor out of the way, Snow does face some challenges, maybe for the first time in his tenure, in deciding what to do with three very core members of the Islanders organization -- three players who have never worn another sweater in their careers and bring different attributes to the table.
With the unrestricted free agent market looking average yet again outside of superstar Steven Stamkos, Nielsen and Okposo especially will be highly coveted by rival general managers looking to improve their clubs over the summer. Snow will be talking to Nielsen's agent soon and opening up dialogue. As far as Okposo and Martin go, there has been no contact to date and, specifically in Okposo's case, an uphill battle awaits to keep them in the fold.
Yesterday, we opened up our free agent primer by taking a look at the restricted crop. Today, it's the group that will be tougher to get signed -- players who are looking to secure long-term financial stability for themselves and their families, some for the last time.
In the NHL, between 2005 and 2008, the age of unrestricted free agency declined from 31 to 27. As of 2008, any player who is at least 27 years old or has at least seven years of service as an NHL player, and whose contract has expired, will become an unrestricted free agent. On July 1 of each year the free agency period begins, and unrestricted free agents are free to negotiate and sign contracts with any team. Under the old collective agreement, which expired in 2004, draft picks were awarded as compensation when a team lost an unrestricted free agent; however, under the current CBA teams losing unrestricted free agents do not receive any compensation.
In addition, any player at least 22 years of age who has not been selected in the NHL Draft can sign with any team as a free agent.
Any player who is not entry-level, but does not meet the qualifications of unrestricted free agency becomes a restricted free agent when his contract expires.
Kyle Okposo, W, 28 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $2.800M, Salary: $4.500M
529 GP - 139 G - 230 A - 369 PTS - 310 PIM - 1346 Shots - 18:33 ATOI
The streaky Okposo goes through stretches where you can see why the Islanders thought they were getting a premier 30 goal per season, bruising winger when they drafted him seventh overall in 2006. The other times, he is invisible, often over-stickhandling himself out of prime opportunities. But he has topped 60 points in two of the last three seasons (and had 51 in 60 GP prior to his eye injury in 2015). That's not easy to do in today's tight-checking game.
John Tavares made a plea at exit interviews about how much he values and relies upon Okposo. But can Snow afford to pay him top dollar, given the inconsistencies in his play?
Frans Nielsen, C, 32 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $2.750M, Salary: $3.500M
606 GP - 119 G - 230 A - 349 PTS - 112 PIM - 1157 Shots - 16:55 ATOI - 48.1 FO
If there is an Islanders player who might be irreplaceable, it's Nielsen, who is far and away the best defensive forward on the club. Three straight seasons of over 50 percent possession numbers (and six of nine), despite playing against the top forward opposition. Throw in the fact he has raised his offensive game to where he can now be depended upon for 45-50 points and you have a player who you need to posses on your roster to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He's shown a strong desire to be back, and given that Snow will open up offseason conversations with his agent shows the feeling is likely mutual. Nielsen has the most shootout goals of any player in NHL history and has received Selke trophy votes for six consecutive seasons.
Matt Martin, W, 27 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $1.000M, Salary: $1.300M
438 GP - 42 G - 46 A - 88 PTS - 680 PIM - 563 Shots - 11:28 ATOI - 2023 Hits
You know what you are going to get with Martin every shift. Maximum effort and a willingness to crash with any member of the opposition, no matter how big or strong. He's part of a fourth line that has developed incredible chemistry and is trusted greatly by head coach Jack Capuano, who likes to employ them right after goals allowed to quickly turn momentum back in New York's favor.
Martin has shown improvement in his skating and turned in career-highs this year in goals (10) and points (19). Another GM might think of him as third line material and offer more than Snow is willing to, however, leading to a true coin flip as to whether he returns.
Steve Bernier, W, 31 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $0.750M, Salary: $0.750M
633 GP - 105 G - 125 A - 230 PTS - 300 PIM - 988 Shots - 13:15 ATOI
Bernier played well in the playoffs when inserted into the lineup, but he realistically has no shot at coming back for 2016/17. The offensive pipeline needs to be cleared for the arrival of blue chip prospects. He'll find work elsewhere as grinding forward.
Eric Boulton, W, 39 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $0.675M, Salary: $0.750M
654 GP - 31 G - 48 A - 79 PTS - 1421 PIM - 452 Shots - 6:44 ATOI
Beloved in the clubhouse, Boulton was kept around as a cheerleader this season. He keeps the room loose with his sense of humor. But that's not enough to spend almost 700K in cap space on. He's been a very loyal foot soldier and could find work within the organization.
Brian Strait, D, 28 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $0.775M, Salary: $0.925M
182 GP - 6 G - 21 A - 27 PTS - 91 PIM - 159 Shots - 16:57 ATOI
Strait caught a lot of flak from the fanbase, but let's be honest: He was brought in as a sixth/seventh defenseman and did that job to the best of his ability. He allowed the Islanders, for good or bad, to give Ryan Pulock more seasoning in Bridgeport before calling the youngster up for good later in the season. At only 28, he'll get a contract from another club.
Marek Zidlicky, D, 39 years old, 2015/16 Cap hit: $2.840M, Salary: $1.500M
836 GP - 89 G - 328 A - 417 PTS - 680 PIM - 1285 Shots - 20:52 ATOI
Zidlicky expectedly wore down as the season progressed. When presented a break later in the year due to an upper body injury, he looked refreshed and played well in playoffs, setting up Alan Quine's game five OT winner in Florida. With Pulock, Pelech and Mayfield around, he will likely retire.
Part 3 -- In the system and Part 4 -- Outside options, coming next week here at SNY.TV Islanders Point Blank.
Jack Capuano put all speculation about his job security to rest by overseeing the Islanders' first playoff series win in almost two-and-a-half decades. And from the sound of it, it seems like he could be behind the bench for a very long time.
"Capuano has the trust of [Garth] Snow and his players, especially his core ones, and that goes a long way," Newsday's Art Staple wrote in his offseason evaluation of the coaching staff. "He is very much a hands-off coach when it comes to things beyond systems and reinforcing work habits, and the players mostly prefer being left to themselves when it comes to accountability and trust, two of the coach's key points."
Capuano is second all-time in franchise history in games coached (441) and wins (210). He joined Al Arbour as the only Islanders coaches to take the team to the playoffs three times.
Because of the nature of the game, there is so much we don't see when it comes to how a hockey coach operates. The moves to second guess aren't as abundant or obvious, so you almost have to rely on the overall vibe a team gives off to get a sense of how their head coach operates. This glimpse into Capuano's style is interesting, and I think it's reflected in the energy around the team.
Staple's big critique of Capuano is the Islanders' 2015-16 possession metrics, and that's right on the money. It's difficult to sustain success in this league when you're a bottom-half possession team (19th in 15-16), and the Isles will need to get back to their 2014-15 level in that department. How Capuano works toward that, in addition to how the development of his three key young forwards progress- Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee - could dictate how far the Isles can go in 2016-17.
After the New York Islanders' season ended with a five-game elimination at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the NHL playoffs and the exit interviews were completed, mostly all players and management took a moment to take stock in the 2015-16 season, catch their breath and get reacquainted with their families.
But for some, the offseason will not be as quiet. I'm talking about the free agent class of 2016. General manager Garth Snow, maybe for the first time in his entire tenure, has some tough decisions to make on a number of key players. And, lest we forget, the players themselves have a say in the process also, with many factors to be considered, such as how they value the future of the franchise in comparison to their quality of on-ice play with current teammates and finally, last but not least, their earning power.
Today, we start our preview of the work ahead and let you play general manager for a moment by casting your vote on what you would do if you were gainfully employed by the organization to make such decisions.
Part 1 will be the restricted group, followed by Part 2's look at the unrestricted class. Part 3 will cover who Snow has to look at from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers roster, as keeping a well-stocked and properly maintained farm team is a very important aspect of the organization.
The current team must extend a "qualifying offer" to a restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that player. Qualifying offers are for one year contracts. The minimum salary for the qualifying offer depends on the player's prior year salary.
Players who earned less than $660,000 in the previous season must be offered 110 percent of last season's salary. Players making up to $1 million must be offered 105 percent. Players making over $1 million must be offered 100 percent.
If the qualifying offer is not made, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
If the player rejects a qualifying offer, he remains a restricted free agent.
If the player does not sign before December 1, he is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
Casey Cizikas, C, 25 years old, 15/16 cap hit: $1.000M, Salary: $1.200M
290 GP - 29 G - 54 A - 83 PTS - 105 PIM - 310 shots - 12:26 ATOI - 49.6 FO
Cizikas has never worn another sweater, joining the team as a 20-year-old rookie in 2011-12, and elevating his play to the point where he is now a proud member of the 'best fourth line in hockey'. Some could even argue that he would be able to easily slide up a spot and center a third line anywhere else in the league.
He has improved his offensive output every year in the league, going from 4-15-16-18 points to this season's career high of 30. He has never been a super possession player, finishing under 50 percent in each season (this year, 48.07 percent). But his work ethic and penalty killing is crucial to the line and the overall team philosophy. Cizikas would run through a wall for a win -- the type of attitude the Islanders could use more of.
Shane Prince, C/W, 23 years old, 15/16 cap hit: $0.700M, Salary: $0.700M
64 GP - 6 G - 12 A - 18 PTS - 10 PIM - 90 shots - 11:12 ATOI
Prince showed a scoring touch in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators, notching 49 goals in 141 games over two seasons, but was never really given his cup of tea in the NHL with Ottawa. When he was acquired at the buzzer of the trade deadline, he was immediately given a role by Jack Capuano and saw a two minute increase in ice time per game.
After three goals in 20 games, he was very effective in the playoffs, adding another three in his first 11 games of experience and not looking out of place when briefly skating with captain John Tavares. Prince plays the game the Islanders like to employ -- speed, speed and more speed. If he continues to work on his shot, there could very well be a place for him moving forward.
Ryan Strome, C/W, 22 years old, 15/16 cap hit: $1.713M, Salary: $0.833M
189 GP - 32 G - 64 A - 96 PTS - 83 PIM - 400 shots - 15:27 ATOI - 44.8 FO
It was a rough year for the young Islanders forward and honestly, unexpected. Coming off a strong 50-point season in 2014-15, he seemed to come to camp not as motivated as the coaching staff would like. After some brief conversations and a November trip to Bridgeport, Strome still could not find his game, plummeting to eight goals and 28 points.
He has said all the right things since the season ended and although his possession numbers were down, they were still above 50 percent for the third straight year. There is no question he possesses the talent to bounce back. Does he possess the attitude to match? He may again line up with Tavares to see if that reignites the fire.
Jean-Francois Berube, G, 24 years old, 15/16 cap hit: $0.563M, Salary: $0.575M
Berube was magnificent in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs, going 37-9-4 with 2.18 and .913 while leading them to the Calder Cup championship. But with Jonathan Quick not going anywhere anytime soon, the Kings tried to slip Berube through waivers. Snow pounced, putting in his claim on October 6, just prior to the start of the season.
Unfortunately, he could only get into seven games with New York all season, going 3-2-1 with 2.71 and .914. But with the uncertainty surrounding Jaroslav Halak, who has now gone for sports hernia surgery after tearing his groin in March, he could find himself the full-time backup next season. He clearly wants and needs clarification on his future in Brooklyn.
I vividly remember the day Howie took over as the Isles' play-by-play man. My dad, of course, identified him as a Rangers defector (something Islanders fans have wrestled with for years), and he told me, "I think you're going to like this guy. He's good." Boy, was that the understatement of a lifetime.
In the years that followed, Howie grew to be the voice I grew to rely on. I had the privilege of listening to him call Mets and Islanders games, as 12 months out of the year, there he was: the soundtrack of the professional sports franchises nearest and dearest to my heart.
I had the good fortune of meeting him a few times a teenager. Let me tell you: there are times when meeting someone who grew to be an idol of sorts to you ends up being a big letdown, simply because of how much you built them up. Not Howie. I sheepishly told him about my aspirations in sports journalism and broadcasting, and he couldn't have been more encouraging. Not only is he at the top of his profession, Howie Rose is a fantastic human being. He's one of the good ones, folks, and to a generation of fans, he's all they'll think about when asked about the voice of this franchise.
So before we move on and wonder who will have the arduous task of filling Howie's shoes, let's pause to say thanks. For 21 years of memories, some seasons of which he was the only thing this organization had going for it. From that amazing "Bates in on goal, he shoots, he scoooooooores" call of the penalty shot in 2002, to ranting about "housebound agoraphobes" when John Tavares got slighted on a top-25 under 25 list. To me, there will never quite be anyone as good as him.
But we must move on, and as we do, here's some early suggestions on who could possibly fill the canyon-sized void left on Wednesday:
Jiggs McDonald: I assume Jiggs isn't up the full-time schedule, but I'm sure we'll get a little more from the voice of the dynasty as 2016-17 progresses. If Jiggs did have one final season in him, he could be a great stopgap while the Isles find their man. Even if they wanted to go with someone less experienced, Jiggs could be a mentor of sorts, helping the voice-in-waiting navigate the first year on the job.
Chris King: Kinger has seen it all during his 18 years as the radio voice of the team, and it would be a logical step for him to make the move to a different medium. King has done preseason broadcasts recently, and I think the biggest knock of him would be that he calls a game very much like a radio man, not letting the visual speak for itself enough. That's the hardest part between TV and radio, and I'm sure King could make the adjustment if he was set to do 82 games on the tube.
Rich Bocchini: Here is a name absolutely no one will recognize, but he'd get a serious look from me. If you're a wrestling fan, you may know him as "Rich Brennan," his stage name during his time with WWE. Bocchini did play-by-play for WWE's extremely popular developmental brand NXT, and one of their cable shows on USA Network Smackdown, as well as some backstage interviews on RAW. His play-by-play is extremely strong, and Bocchini has hockey experience as well. As it just so happens, Bocchini was released by WWE two weeks ago due to a logjam of play-by-play men on the roster, making him a free agent.
Bob Wischusen: Being the radio voice of the Jets may make this one not feasible, but Wischusen is part of the MSG umbrella, filling in on Knicks and Rangers broadcasts on the radio side, and maybe he wants to cut his teeth full time on an up-and-coming hockey franchise? Wischusen is excellent. Longtime WFAN listeners will remember his work for the station, and Jets fans know just how good he can be building drama in a big moment.
Got a name? Throw it out there. And for the, like, three people on Twitter that suggested it, let's assume the Isles aren't going to call me (though, hey, never say never.)
Rose, who has announced Islanders games on TV since 1995, said his schedule has become a challenge and tiresome, as he has also called Mets games on both radio and TV during his time with the Islanders.
"It's the textbook definition of mixed emotions," Rose said, according to Newsday's Neil Best. "That's exactly what it is. I don't know that I've ever been more conflicted about a decision I have had to make in my life. But I'm confident I made really the only one I could make at this point in time in my career and life."
Although he will step down from his position calling Islanders games, Rose will continue to announce Mets games on WOR.
I'm shocked and, honestly, a little devastated. Howie is the reason I grew up wanting to be a broadcaster. I always call him my Bob Murphy, and I was so blessed to be able to listen to him call games for both of my favorite teams for so many years.
I understand Howie's decision, and I'm truly happy for him that he'll be able to spend more time at home. He's given us so much as fans, and he deserves to lighten his workload. I'm sure all of that travel has taken a toll. But selfishly, I'll miss his voice being the soundtrack of Islanders game more than I can properly articulate at this time.
Thank you for the memories, Howie. It truly will not be the same without you.
Staple is unsure whether Halak has had the surgery yet. Whenever the goaltender does go under the knife, the surgery entails a six-to-eight week recovery period.
Halak set an Islanders franchise record with 38 victories in the 2014-2015 season. However injuries held him to only 36 starts this past season, which opened the door for backup Thomas Greiss. Greiss took advantage of this opportunity, and potentially earned himself the starting goalie role for the Islanders next season.
Halak went 18-13-4 this season, with a 2.30 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Heading into the offseason, Halak is seen by many as a possibile trading chip for New York.
I mentioned early this week that health is always a determining factor with Halak, and now this news breaks. That makes sorting out the goalie situation even harder, because Garth has to figure out what he wants to do at the position, and it's near-impossible to get fair value for a guy that is going to be coming off two ailments.
Assuming Halak hasn't had the surgery, he still has plenty of time to be fully recovered by the time training camp opens. But it could hamper his conditioning, which will be something worth keeping an eye on if he is in fact still on the Isles roster come September.
On March 8 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Islanders were about to hold onto a 2-1 divisional victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on a third period goal by Anders Lee. You remember, the one where he famously flipped Kris Letang in front of the net before deflecting Nick Leddy's shot past Marc-Andre Fleury.
With a little less than five minutes remaining, goaltender Jaroslav Halak made a sliding save, injuring his groin in the process before being helped to the dressing room. Thomas Greiss entered the game in relief and made three saves to nail down the victory before going back to his backup status. But wait….he didn't. And he might not again.
After the game, head coach Jack Capuano announced Halak would miss six to eight weeks with what ultimately was a torn groin muscle, putting him out for assuredly the first round of the playoffs and likely a little longer. Some wondered recently if that was the final time Halak would ever don an Islanders jersey, as speculation surfaced that there was a noticeable rift between the goaltender and team management via a Twitter Q&A with Newsday beat writer Arthur Staple (which was unofficially confirmed with Halak's comments at season ending exit interviews).
Moving forward with a month and a half remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot far from locked up, many wondered if Greiss, whose previous career high in games played was 25 in 2013-14 with the Phoenix Coyotes, would be able to shoulder the burden of being a number one goaltender for the first time in his entire NHL career. All things considered, Greiss didn't just pass, or squeak by…he excelled in the role on many nights.
He would end up third in the entire league in save percentage over 41 total games, finishing with a .925 mark, trailing only Brian Elliot and Ben Bishop among eligible participants. His 2.36 goals against average was 17th and he finished with a record of 23-11-4. In the time since replacing Halak and becoming the unchallenged starter, he only had one horrible start, allowing six goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 25. If you take that game out as an outlier, in addition to the one period he played versus the Philadelphia Flyers in the season finale, his numbers leading the Islanders to the playoffs were 2.04, .925.
In the locker room, Greiss kept true to the one thing his teammates and coaches raved about. His cool, calm demeanor and positive attitude along with always saying the right things in an upbeat and relaxed tone. 'It's just one game. Onto the next one', he would say and 'I'm just here to stay prepared and play the very best I can for my teammates'.
In the first round of the NHL playoffs, a mysterious and cold world to Islanders teams of the past, he would lead them out of the darkness for the first time in 23 years, defeating the Florida Panthers almost single-handedly, four games to two. With the team being outplayed badly for the majority of the six games, Greiss would finish with a 1.81 GAA and .944 save percentage, making the save of the season in game five on an overtime penalty shot by Aleksander Barkov.
It's tough to saddle him with all the blame in the second round series against the Lightning, when he would slide to numbers of 3.45, .890 against a Tampa team who had a plethora of high quality scoring chances and were more driven and determined to advance than New York. All things being equal, New York is not even in the second round, losing two coin-flip overtime games in Brooklyn, without Greiss. That isn't opinion, it's a statistical based fact.
You would think after playing 52 games and logging countless practice hours that Greiss would go home with his wife Brittney and their newly adopted puppy and sit by the pool with a beverage while taking advantage of some well-earned and extremely deserved R&R. Nope. The day after exit interviews in Syosset, Greiss was on his way to Russia to join up with the German national team for the World Championships.
What he has done there is continue his strong 2015-16 season between the pipes, posting a record of 3-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .910 save percentage as the Germans are in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011 after a preliminary record of 4-2-1. He upset team USA 3-2, socking North American teammate Brock Nelson in the head with his blocker during a crease scramble and added an assist in their last game, a 4-2 win over Hungary.
"Everything is OK. Against Belarus I made a mistake. This was an accident, and I've moved on. The main thing is that we won (against USA). We have a simple objective in every game…to win."
With Halak's status very much uncertain as we head into June, the crease could belong to Greiss next season. It is then we will find out if his 2015-16 was an aberration or the culmination of years of hard work and patience. Given his laid back, but confident demeanor, work ethic and the respect he has earned among his teammates and coaches, I'm going with option number two.
After the emergence of Thomas Greiss in the playoffs, the Islanders have some decisions to make on their goaltenders.
Greiss, Jaroslav Halak and J-F Berube are all set to be on the roster for next season, but if they had it their way, the goalies seem to prefer that the logjam get sorted out this summer.
"It wasn't an ideal situation for any of the goalies," Berube said of this past season. "It's kind of hard to get your work in with three. It ended up pretty well, we tried to make the best of it. There was nothing that was going to change so we had to work with it and work together."
Halak, 31, signed a four-year deal with the Islanders prior to the 2014-15 season, and has two years and $9.75 million remaining on his contract. Greiss, 30, who signed a two-year pact last summer, has a year left for $2 million. Berube, 24, is a restricted free agent.
I think conventional wisdom says the Isles will move Halak, since he's a year older than Greiss and is owed more money. But that being said, could there be a case for moving Greiss coming off his incredible end to the season? His value has never been higher, and his affordable deal could be very attractive for a team looking to sure up their goaltending that may be cash-strapped.
The Isles themselves wouldn't mind freeing up some cash, though, especially with the heavy-lifting they have to do this offseason with the UFAs. So if they can get value for Halak, trading him would be the most logical move. Can they get value? Halak is obviously a surefire number one goalie, but durability has always been a concern, and his groin injury that he sustained in March that kept him out the rest of the year didn't help change that perception.
To add another dimension into the mix, the Isles seems to love Berube. If you're looking for someone who could be the goaltender of the future, it may just be him. So it's not easy to get a read on this situation at all. The only thing that seems certain is one of these guys will be somewhere else when training camp opens.
I'm sure people are probably moaning about this because Collberg was the main prospect acquired from the Canadiens for Thomas Vanek at the deadline in 2014. And while I'm sure a less-informed hockey scribe will try to tell you that makes the Vanek trade one of the worst of all-time, it really doesn't.
Just remember that Matt Moulson was a pending UFA when Garth made the move, and he has scored 38 goals in 222 games since. Snow also wisely gave himself the option to keep his own first rounder that year (Michael Dal Colle, fifth overall), as opposed to 2015, when the Isles finished with 101 points and would have picked 21st,( where Colin White was taken). Oh, and Garth was able to trade for two first rounders in that draft anyway.
So, no, Collberg was a letdown and a poor return for Vanek, and it was because it was a buyer's market three trade deadlines ago. But when you look at what everyone else got out of that: Buffalo an underachieving Moulson and Minnesota a $6.5 million cap hit the last two years (and next) for the end of Vanek's usefulness, the Islanders may have come out looking the best in that equation.
New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow addressed the media via conference call and gave his 2015-16 signoff state of the team address.
The usually quiet front office head did not offer much in terms of specifics but did give some 'read between the lines' comments regarding the direction he thinks the team needs to go, among other topics.
On prime challenges for the future: "I have the same mentality I've always had. Take the next step, get to the next level. This year simply wasn't good enough. We are always looking to get better and that's the work that starts now, heading into the draft."
On his conversation with Travis Hamonic: "The specifics of the conversation I had with Travis, and any other players for that matter, will always remain confidential. He's certainly a high-character guy and a core player and we're thrilled for him to continue in that role. I wasn't surprised when he told me, more relieved. Relieved that his personal situation had gotten better to the point where he no longer had to leave."
On a three-goalie system: "If you ask any goalie, they want to play. There is only one net in a game and two in practice. Jaro had gone down early with an injury and we had a chance to acquire Berube on the waiver wire and make our team better, which as I said before is what we are always looking to do. We thought very highly of J.F. and still do moving forward. It then ended up becoming a position of strength, especially with the performance of Thomas Greiss. We will have some decision to make, for sure,"
On pending UFAs: "New ownership on July 1 won't have any impact on the negotiations I have with those players and their agents. Charles has changed the reputation of this organization. It used to be about who didn't want to come play here. Now, players don't want to leave. Moving forward, I have a great relationship with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, all three of those players and their agents. They all developed into key members of this franchise and in a perfect world, we would love to have all three of them back. But you have to work within the confines of the salary cap, both now and in the future. We'll see what we can get done."
On finding consistent linemates for Tavares: "John is an elite player in this league and the face of our franchise. We leave no stone unturned in an effort to improve this team on the ice. I can't give any specifics as to what positions we are targeting and what not. As we get closer to the draft, we will see."
On the first year in Brooklyn: "I think it was a great atmposphere. First class facility all the way. In talking with the players, coaches and everyone involved this season, they all felt the same way. From the locker rooms to the weight room, the lounge, everything was first class. Sure, there were quirks here and there but overall, a great job in their initial season. The situation is really no different than many teams out there, the Rangers, Kings and others who have distance between their practice and home rinks. It spans across other sports, too. It was an adjustment for sure, but heading into training camp, we are now over that hump."
On attendance: "I compare it to Winnipeg in the sense that the smaller capacity creates a more intimate feel. I have nothing but the utmost respect for our fans who came out and supported us and I applaud them for their efforts all season long and into the playoffs, when Barclays was absolutely rocking."
On Ice conditions: "The ice got better towards the end of the season once we had some new technology put into the building to combat the warmer temperatures. There were positive strides, for sure, taken in that area. In the first season, there was a learning curve, being that the building had never supported ice for that long a stretch before."
On Capuano and respect: "The way he interacts with the players, whether it be pregame or postgame, his preparation is why he commands that respect. But it's a two-way street. You can clearly see the development there and the avenue of communication it opens up between coach and player."
On youngsters: "Whether it be Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock or Adam Pelech, we are fortunate to be in a position now where we can develop these kids the right way instead of having to rush them to the NHL. Let them learn the game and make their mistakes at the AHL level, instead. They are all going to play a very big role in the future of this organization moving forward."
Is it tougher to rebuild or take next step?: "Ask me again in another 10 years. I remember talking to one rival general manager, and he was praising us on all the work we've done getting this franchise back to respectability. He told me 'Now you have to work on keeping them together.' And that is what I mean when I talk about our free agents. We would love to have all of them back but have to mindful of the layout of the league we currently find ourselves in."
On Thomas Greiss: "Thomas came in and impressed everyone with his personality and work ethic. It really opened eyes and caught the attention of the entire coaching staff and team. No matter what his status was -- backup, starter -- he was always ready and showed he can handle himself as a number one goaltender in this league."
On losing the series to Tampa: "We simply were not good enough. The better team won. We came out in Game 1 and sat back in the third period, didn't play well at all in Game 2, then lost two tight overtime games at home. That last game was a total no-show, we laid an egg for sure. We have to learn from it, build off it and get better for next year. The result was not acceptable".
With the playoffs for the Islanders over, exit interviews complete and Snow signing off, that puts an official close on the 2015-16 New York Islanders season. Stay tuned to IPB as we take you through the summer with our report card series, starting June 1, followed by draft and free agency coverage. We will also have select player interviews in August for you to get through the 'lean months' of the hockey offseason.
Thanks for reading and following on Twitter and Facebook all season!
The rantings and ravings of 'Mad Mike' continue to frustrate Islanders fans far after his tenure atop the organization.
Former general manager and current NBC analyst Mike Milbury appeared on Jeremy Roenick's "Roenick Life" podcast and broke down some of his most infamous moments and experiences as Islanders GM. He said of all his dealings, his move that sent Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the number two pick in the 2001 entry draft (Jason Spezza) to the Senators for Alexei Yashin was his worst.
"The worst trade was for Yashin, because it was done knowing we had to get better in a hurry or else otherwise we were all going to be out of work," Milbury told Roenick. "I knew he could play, but I knew he was fatally flawed and if we were going to win a championship this wasn't the way to go."
Milbury's tenure as GM lines up with some of the darkest periods of the Isles' ownership
"I think the average budget was about $25 million at the time, and we were creating a budget for the Millstein-Gluckstern group, one of them walked in and said, 'I want you to create a budget for $15 million, one for $10 million, and one for $5 million," he said. "Well, I said, you've got to be kidding. He said, "for $5 million, we can pay everyone the minimal salary, and even without selling a ticket, because of our TV revenue, we'll make money. I never produced that budget."
Still, despite the fact that many Islanders fans don't wish him well, Milbury is rooting for his former club.
"I think they're better off out of that Coliseum and in Brooklyn, and I hope it goes well for them as much, as they're licking their wounds after [the Game 5] loss."
Let me tell you, I had season tickets during the Milstein-Gluckstern era, and I totally believe that budget story. As much as I loved getting to go out on school nights with my dad to watch a hockey game, being at 30-40 games during that ownership era was simply torture. I'll never forgive you guys for the Ziggy Palffy trade, Howard and Ed!
We all know Milbury's failures, and boy, were they spectacular. And yes, most of us can't believe NBC employs this guy to actually (attempt to) talk intelligently about hockey. But now that the Islanders have come out the other side of that nightmare, it's interesting to go back and see all the pitfalls that befell his era as GM with fresh eyes. Particularly, it's noteworthy that all of the 2001 dealings that got the Isles some short-term success as the sacrifice of possibly being a Cup contender during that decade, was all done in the haste of not having job security. It teaches us a valuable lesson (especially headed into this offseason) that continuity is so important for a hockey club, and as much as fans tend to scream and yell for guys' jobs, sometimes the best thing you can do is just stick to the plan and stay the course.
Yesterday in Syosset at Ice Works, the New York Islanders met with general manager Garth Snow, head coach Jack Capuano and said their good-byes to their teammates before heading off to their summer destination of choice, where they will rest, reconnect with their families and children and erase the sting that their five game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning should have produced.
What the roster looks like when they reconvene in September for training camp, nobody knows. Not even Snow, the man responsible for figuring out what to do with his own free agents and scouring the unrestricted market and trade avenues to add to a team that is clearly on the rise, but still missing some pieces, specifically at forward. In our season ending retrospective, we opined that his future employment status within the organization should depend on his performance in the summer of 2016.
The players met one by one with the media and offered their opinions on the season, injury updates and where they think the club is heading. No news was bigger, however than the Travis Hamonic bombshell that was dropped just before noon ET. Hamonic has decided to rescind his trade request, as the serious family health matter at home has stabilized, and will remain a stalwart on the Islanders blueline. This is clearly addition by NO subtraction, as everyone gave Hamonic no better than 25% chance of staying ever since his trade request went public last fall.
With that, let's review what some of the players had to say and what it could mean for their future in Brooklyn: (Information collated from various sources)
Kyle Okposo: Stated once again that his agent and Snow have not had any contract talks all season. Uncertain of his future, obviously, but ended with 'all good things come to an end'. Certainly sounds like someone who has accepted his likely reality. My guess is that unless he takes a discount, someone will offer him more money and he would be a fool to not take it.
Anders Lee: Stated that his broken leg was doing well, he had been skating, and thinks he could have been ready for a game seven, which would have been played tomorrow evening. After having surgery to insert a plate in his fibula, this is great news for the young forward who will be counted upon heavily to return to 20 goal output next year, especially if Okposo leaves in free agency.
Frans Nielsen: This is the one player who I believe has the best chances of being resigned. Absolutely loves being an Islander and takes tremendous pride in putting on the jersey. Says and does all the right things and excels in his role. Sources have indicated to IPB that he could be had for 3 years at 12-14 million.
Josh Bailey: Had a concussion in the Florida series that he said was, thankfully, not serious. It was the first of his career. Shook every media members hand on the way out of scrum. Fantastic gentleman, but feeling is he could be on the trade block this summer.
Matt Martin: Martin is one of the most dedicated Islanders to the outside community. He does outstanding outreach and is always engaging fans off the rink. On the rink, he serves as a member of the best fourth line in hockey. Split on whether he comes back or not, as you know some of the more aggressive, non-cost conscious general managers out there will offer him way too much money for his role. Knowing Martin and having been around him for four years now, I get the feeling the Islanders will get the first and last shot to retain his services. Said yesterday he respects it's a business, but absolutely loves it here.
Jaroslav Halak: Was not ready to play, hence never suited as a backup to Thomas Greiss, who might have stolen his job after Halak's season ending groin injury. Said the three goaltender system is 'not ideal' and management 'has some decisions to make'. Sounds like he is pressuring the bosses a bit here, which is never a good thing. Arthur Staple of Newsday had mentioned in a Twitter Q&A about a month back that there could be some discontent from both sides here. Think he is shopped in the summer.
Johnny Boychuk: Said he needs no procedures over the summer and was physically fine in the playoffs. Not sure if that should be taken as a good thing, however. Boychuk looked slow and battered this season, leading the team in hits taken. Needs a rebound year as he is signed for a long time…
John Tavares: Has never and will never get in the middle of contract negotiations, leaving that to the men in suits. But did have some comments yesterday regarding the impending unrestricted free agents. "We have some key pieces that will be UFA. I really hope they're back, people don't realize how much I lean on those guys. Kyle's a guy I can talk to about anything about the game or life. Great friend & leader, I admire & respect him so hopefully he is back. They're not just teammates. You spend 250 days a year together. We have a special bond. We came up together young...we'd love to have them here. But I'm here to play, I trust they (management) will do a great job."
Lastly, Staple reported last night in Newsdaythat, in addition to his job seemingly being safe, Snow is also planning on retaining the entire coaching staff, consisting of Capuano, Doug Weight, Greg Cronin and Bob Corkum.
So, outside of any roster movement, which is very much expected, it will be the same staff leading the Islanders onto the ice for training camp that led them off after game five in Tampa. It's very evident that Capuano has the trust and respect of every player in that locker room. They play hard for him and want to repay his faith in them.
Capuano has made his mistakes, namely in game three of the second round, seen as the pivotal game when the series turned on its head. But the fact remains, the team has improved under his guidance.
Before the 2015-2016 season began, Hamonic decided he wanted to be closer to his Winnipeg home for an undisclosed personal reason. He asked GM Garth Snow to be traded, but throughout the season, a trade never materialized.
In 72 games this season, Hamonic had five goals and 16 assists.
The defenseman carries a $3.857 million salary-cap hit for the next four seasons.
What a bombshell delivered on locker clean out day. While Hamonic has still not spoken to the media as of this reaction, this is indeed the verified Arthur Staple account, beatwriter extraordinaire for Newsday.
Typically, all you get on a day like this is regurgitated quotes, much of which you have heard before, and injury news of who was playing with what, and for how long. Once in a blue moon, you get something semi-quote worthy, like what came from Jaroslav Halak earlier.
But what a tremendous lift this gives the Islanders, fresh off the heels of their disappointing playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After requesting a trade last summer for personal family reasons, we might never know what caused Hamonic to reconsider. What we do know is that the Islanders defense will look much better with him in it and now Garth Snow doesn't have to worry about getting equal value, because, let's be honest here, it just wasn't out there.
Kudos to Snow also for holding firm with his asset and not just giving into the original demand, dealing him for far less than what he is truly worth. Garth wins this one, easily.
This is just fantastic news. I was hopeful that something like this would happen, and I'm so glad it did. Being an Islander means everything to Hamonic, and having him on their blueline (especially on his team-friendly deal) means everything to New York. Whatever Travis' personal situation is/was, it seems it's something he's willing to deal with long distance just to stay here, and that's a such a testament to what this organization means to him.
Hamonic played his best hockey this season, and the improvement he has shown over the last two-to-three seasons have him on a trajectory to great things. I'm so glad we'll get a chance to continue to watch him grow and succeed in an Islander uniform.
It certainly was a strange season, wasn't it? On the heels of the New York Islanders second round elimination at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, their deepest playoff run in 23 years, on the surface, things really did not look all that different from a year ago.
Two less wins (47-45), one less point (101-100), 20 less goals scored (252-232, 0.24 per game) and 14 less goals allowed (230-216, 0.17 per game). New York won their first playoff round since Bill Clinton was in office and collected back to back 100 point seasons for the first time in 32 years. Jack Capuano has now coached the most full, consecutive seasons behind the Islanders bench, five, since Al Arbour accomplished the feat between the years 1990-1994.
But looking at it simply through your own eyes tells you something was…well, just off. The team struggled for consistency after moving to their new home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where fans initially struggled to appear and the ice was less reliable than a 7-11 slushy machine. At the urging of the players, morning skates were moved back to Long Island prior to the team traveling, via the Long Island Rail Road, to play a home game. Eventually, most of the issues ended up being overblown, and the team finished 25-11-5 in their new digs.
The new look defensive scheme that the coaching staff worked to implement during the off-season paid dividends, as Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, with some small contributions thrown in by J.F. Berube and Christopher Gibson, combined for a 2.40 goals against average and .920 save percentage, both better than league averages. But it never could mesh with the offense, namely the transition game. To add to the lack of offensive-defensive cohesion, one night the power play looked amazing and the next, it resembled a men's recreational league practice.
Garth Snow chose to be inactive in the summer of 2015 and again at the trade deadline in 2016, instead deciding to rely on the continued development of some youngsters who failed to repay the faith he had in them. Not that there was much to really spend your money on in those two instances, plus the fact we have absolutely no way of proving the social media assumption that he sat on his hands and did not even inquire. This season, however, is a different story with a plethora of free agent and trade options.
Anders Lee, coming off a 25 goal rookie season, scored only 15 before bowing out of the playoffs with a broken leg after taking a Johnny Boychuk shot to the shin near the conclusion of the regular season at Madison Square Garden. Ryan Strome had to be talked to twice in camp, then sent to Bridgeport for apparent work ethic issues. He plummeted from 50 points and 17 goals to 28 and 8. Brock Nelson scored a career high 26 goals, but his play away from the puck was alarmingly bad. Josh Bailey, after scoring a career high 41 points, dropped to 32 and continued to be the fanbase whipping boy. Mikhail Grabovski had a completely lost year and is now a buyout candidate and Nikolay Kulemin regressed.
On defense, Johnny Boychuk looked battered, leading New York in hits taken, slower to the puck and trigger happy to just fire the puck out of the zone, rather than maintain possession and start a legitimate breakout. Nick Leddy took three months to awaken, scoring only 12 points in his first 38 games before finishing with a career high 40. Travis Hamonic demanded a trade (which has since been rescinded) and Brian Strait played 52 games, 35 too much for many fans liking.
Yet, there they were, battling a seasoned and Stanley Cup experienced Tampa Bay team for a berth in the Eastern Conference final. That speaks to their resilience, a willingness to battle against all odds and never say die attitude. Those are all admirable traits and have been the calling card of this team for a while now. It has allowed them to simply outwork the opposition at times, but at the end of the day, help is needed. And it has to come this summer or else the franchise risks taking a potentially damaging step backwards.
With the New York Rangers needing to enter a rebuilding phase without their top prospects and the New Jersey Devils already in the midst of one, but still in desperate need of offensive flair and panache since they lost Ilya Kovalchuk, the time to strike has never been better to take over the Metropolitan area and turn Brooklyn into the hotbed of local, professional hockey. With young stars such as Michael Dal Colle, Matthew Barzal, Anthony Beauvilier and Joshua Ho-Sang, and some others, the future is very exciting.
They have absolutely shown improvement over Jack Capuano's tenure, like him or not. They have slowly climbed up the NHL ladder and now have entered the top half, instead of residing in the bottom half, as they did for two decades. But the key is to keep improving, keep evolving and never settle for anything less. Captain John Tavares, while not the vocal leader they need at times, embodies this philosophy perfectly.
Talent is nice and can take you some of the way. But it's not always just about talent. It's also about attitude. Can Garth Snow go out and get the players who have the intestinal fortitude to match their captain? Can he adequately replace Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, should they choose to sign elsewhere? Can he get that 'first-line winger' via trade?
With new ownership taking the reins on July 1 in the names of Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky, the belief is he must in order to save his job.
Players will always say when referring to their contract status during the season that they're "not thinking about that. Just playing the game and that will get worked out in due time".
After the Islanders' 4-0 loss Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs ended their season, there is now nothing but time to think about the uncertain future that awaits some long-time organizational soldiers.
New York was never really in Game 5 but they were in the series. The Lightning showed every reason why they were the Eastern Conference representative last season in the Stanley Cup Final. They know how to close and did a remarkable job in Games 2 and 5 in putting on a clinic that should be videotaped and shown to each team in training camp.
This series was lost by the Islanders in Brooklyn, when they exchanged body blows with the Lightning but could never score the knockout head punch, dropping two coin flip overtime games that really could have gone either way. The defensive mistakes that the Florida Panthers could not take advantage of in the opening round were there for all to see again, with the big difference being a more fine-tuned and opportunistic opponent on the other side.
Victor Hedman completely dominated New York captain John Tavares and with some young relied upon players not getting the job done, that was too much for the Islanders to overcome. Tavares was held to a single goal and single assist in the five games, and had zero points in the last four -- all losses. Brock Nelson was a ghost, Ryan Strome inconsistent at best, and Anders Lee rehabbing a broken leg. Alan Quine had a nice start but faded when the competition ramped up.
And now, it'll be an interesting summer ahead for general manager Garth Snow, assuming he survives this defeat. It'll be one that will not only define his future with the organization -- with new owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky assume control on July 1 -- but where this team is heading moving forward. Will they accept the title of 'best hockey team in New York' and continue to grow? Or does the roster turnover prove to be too much and force the team to take yet another painful step backwards.
Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic and Matt Martin have all been mainstays for so long in this organization that it would be downright strange to see them in any other uniform. They have all paid their dues and deserve to be where they are presently, but with three facing unrestricted free agency and one needing to be closer to home due to a painful personal situation, to see them facing uncertain futures with the team on its upswing must be tough to deal with on a personal level. It almost brought Hamonic to tears Sunday while talking to MSG's Shannon Hogan.
"Right now, you're in the moment," Hamonic said. "You spend your whole life dreaming of a chance to win the cup and you don't know how often you're going to make the playoffs and even get to the second round to try and make a run. But we're out and it sucks. I love being an Islander more than anything, it's one of the best things I do in my life. It was a pretty cool feeling in Game 6 when we won that and glad we were able to do that in front of our fans. (Mumbles and sighs).It sucks -- I was really confident in this group, so it's pretty frustrating right now."
Martin echoed a similar sentiment when talking with the media following the loss, preferring to extend the closeness this group has for a little longer. "I haven't (thought about new contract), to be honest with you," Martin said. "This was so much fun this year with this group of guys. I love this team and this group. We wanted to go further than this (sighs deeply). It stings, it's hard. As for the offseason and everything beyond this point, I don't know what the future holds. I've been here a long time, it's a huge honor to wear this jersey. I've loved every second of my time here. Right now, I just want to spend time with the guys and get over this."
Anyone saying this team didn't want to win, try to win or would be 'satisfied' with a second round loss, or who has the preposterous thought that they were outclassed in this series is dead wrong. You don't have to listen to captain John Tavares to tell you that, but for the doubters: "Brutal -- We didn't accomplish what we started out to do. Hard to believe it's over. Tough way to go out. We played some good hockey at times, but let those two games in Brooklyn slip away."
But John, does winning your first playoff round in 23 years take any of the sting out?
"No, not really. What's fresh in your mind is getting knocked out. Disappointing, second round. It was great to clear one of those hurdles, but that's not good enough for us. Expectations are high and we want to go farther than just winning a round."
The players will have their exit interviews and locker clean-out Tuesday morning in Syosset. From that point forward, the men in suits will make the decisions. And those decisions will determine what kind of franchise this ultimately becomes.
Sunday's 4-0 loss in Tampa was just a formality. The Islanders let defeat creep in during their second round series, the first they've experienced since 1993, when they got beaten in overtime in back-to-back games on their home ice. And while no one, not the players, the coaching staff, or the fans are going to take solace in it today, the fact remains that the 2015-16 season is another step forward for this organization.
Sure, it's another year that ends without a title, but let's face it: the majority of sports seasons we watch as fans don't end in glory. The idea is that one day, all the progress will build to a fever pitch, and we'll all experience that euphoria once again. And now that the 15-16 season is in the books, the Isles can say that they've made another stride toward achieving that ultimate goal.
"Just the talent that's in here. A lot of guys are still young," Frans Nielsen, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, said about the team and why he wants to remain in Brooklyn. "Just the fact that we had back-to-back 100-point seasons. You have to be a good team if you do it two years in a row […] We're so close."
Nielsen's right. This team is close, and it was evident in the way they dropped this series to a battle-tested playoff team. The Lightning are a group that has been through it all recently. The run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, losing two of their best players on the eve of the playoffs, and battling through a fierce division rival without much offense to speak of. That all led them to the Islanders, who they easily could have lost this series to in four or five. Instead, they used their experience to make the most of their opportunities. It was a sight to behold, and it's something the Islanders should aspire to become over the next few years. But it doesn't take away how well New York represented themselves in this match up.
Of course, a lot is going to happen between today and the start of next season. Nielsen, along with Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, will hit free agency, and you could tell from the quotes coming out of the room on Sunday that the fact that this team likely won't all be together when next season begins stings. But it also creates some opportunity. Where can they get better? What else do they need? And how do they get it? All questions that await the conclusion of the postseason.
But before we get into that offseason consternation, let's revel a little in the fact that the Isles gave us quite a thrill. From a fan's perspective, this season had a little bit of everything, and it was important for it to happen in the inaugural year in Brooklyn. Had they beaten the Caps in seven last season, their first playoff series win in over two decades would have been lost in a haze of angst-laden Nassau Coliseum post-mortems. The fact that they waited until they skated on new, often times choppy, ice to provide memories in a building that desperately needed some to make it feel like home, felt fitting.
So take the mental images of Hickey pinching in and beating Roberto Luongo, Alan Quine blasting a one-timer early on Passover morning, and JT's Herculean effort in Game 6, and stash them away to the archives of Islanders lore. Appreciate this season for what it was: fun, exciting, and a work in progress.
Because you never know when all these lessons New York has learned will provide the ultimate pay off.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Victor Hedman scored twice and Ben Bishop stopped 28 shots Sunday, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 4-0 and reach the Eastern Conference final for the second straight year.
Tampa Bay eliminated the Islanders in five games, winning four straight after dropping the opener of the second-round series.
Hedman scored an unassisted goal from the slot at 13:49 of the first period, then beat Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss again on a second-period power play that gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead.
Nikita Kucherov and Brian Boyle also scored for the Lightning, who will face either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals in the East final. The Penguins lead the Capitals 3-2 and Game 6 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are one victory away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight year, and they know it won't be easy to close out their second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders.
Even on home ice.
Despite leading the series 3-1, the Lightning have been outplayed for extended stretches, including much of the past two games, which Tampa Bay won in overtime on the road.
Game 5 is Sunday (3 p.m. EDT, NBC) at Amalie Arena, where defenseman Jason Garrison said the defending Eastern Conference champions can't afford a letdown.
The Lightning won three of the first four games in their opening round series against Detroit, but needed a late goal fromAlex Killorn and 34 saves from Ben Bishop in a 1-0 victory that finished that series in five games.
"It's definitely the toughest win to get," Garrison, who won Game 4 with a goal less than two minutes into overtime, said during a conference call Saturday, when the Lightning flew home from New York but did not practice.
Twenty-eight times in 289 instances. That is an insanely low number of teams that have been able to pick themselves up off the ground and rebound from a three-games-to-one series deficit in NHL history. The New York Islanders, if they are to survive and advance to the Eastern Conference finals to play the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals series, will have to be team No. 29.
To a man, they all seemed pretty confident they will be able to, at a minimum, bring their best game tomorrow afternoon at Amalie Arena in Tampa when the series resumes in Game 5 (3 p.m. ET, NBC).
"Play bad and win, play good and lose. It doesn't really matter at this point. We just have to win," is how Kyle Okposo put it so eloquently last night after the Lightning grabbed full control of the series with their second consecutive overtime victory at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Another way to exude faith in the current group that assembles in the locker room is to listen to Ryan Strome, back from being a healthy scratch in game three.
"I have no doubt that we will come out Sunday with our best game and effort," Strome said. "We are a very resilient group in here".
Head coach Jack Capuano has coached this club masterfully over the last month or so, getting New York to this point, but his questionable decisions late in Game 3 will have to be looked upon as a turning point in the series, granted the Lightning choose to not go against history and close the Islanders out over the course of the next three games.
Instead of relying upon his best defensive forwards to close the game out at home, up a goal with under a minute to play following an icing, Capuano instead seemed to go for an empty net goal that would have sealed the deal. It's a dangerous strategy and one that certainly did not pay off. If Capuano elects to use his timeout in that scenario (which he didn't) he could have came right back with his fourth line, arguably the best in hockey, even though they had just completed a shift.
The other option would have been to send out a trio of Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey (who was excellent in game three) and Nikolay Kulemin, three of the best defensive forwards he has at his disposal. Instead, captain John Tavares - sub-par all season in his own zone - and Okposo were sent out with Nielsen. Jonathan Drouin would feed Nikita Kucherov in the slot, tying the game with 38 seconds remaining, before Brian Boyle would end it in controversial style in overtime.
The Islanders do deserve some credit, however, as they have played the Lightning to three very close, competitive hockey games, yet find themselves on the short end of the series score. They have done so without Anders Lee, who I feel would have been a huge factor in a setup such as this, starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak and Ryan Pulock, who just returned last night from a five-game absence. They have also done so with zero-to-little offensive contributions out of Brock Nelson, Strome and Bailey. Not many, if any, are 100 percent healthy at this time of the year, and it seems that Johnny Boychuk and Cal Clutterbuck, specifically, are playing with injuries.
But while those remain facts, the reality is they can also be considered excuses. In my series preview here at SNY, I was concerned that the Lightning, a much more seasoned and experienced team with a super head coach in Jon Cooper and one year removed from an appearance in the final, would be able to exploit New York's defensive mistakes when the Florida Panthers couldn't. They have.
Staying true to their system, they never panicked when behind - three times in game three, last night until mid third period - and sealed the deal in game two up by two goals in the final period, stepping on the Islanders throats and not letting them close to Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop. They have done the things the Islanders have not been able to do, and seized the space given to them in the offensive zone when the Islanders have lost their concentration and focus.
To say the Islanders aren't a good hockey team, as some of the social media reaction has led me to believe a small subset are trying to say, simply isn't fair or accurate. They might not be ready for prime time just yet, but have made significant strides over the course of the last four years.
The team and organization aren't a laughing stock anymore, much to the chagrin of some in the mainstream media. They should be considered, maybe not even arguably, the best hockey team in the New York metro area. How the summer unfolds will go a long way in determining if they are ready to assume that title and continue to grow, as the roster could look significantly different when the 2016-17 season begins.
The Islanders could have done many things differently in this series, which is not over yet, but that is all part of the maturation process. Sometimes, the other team is just a little luckier and a little better.
When all is said and done, and the seemingly-inevitable happens and Tampa Bay Lightning move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, the story of how the Islanders' season ended will lay squarely on the shoulders of how they couldn't step on their opponent's throats early.
In this series thus far, the Isles have had nine first period power plays. Kyle Okposo's goal on Friday was just the second time they've been able to cash in. In Game 4, Ryan Callahan was hit with a four-minute double minor for roughing with the Isles already up 1-0. What resulted was the most anemic four-minute man advantage you'll ever see. Later in the first, John Tavares clanged a shot off the post on a 4-on-2 rush, but it was not to be. The lead was stuck at just one goal, and thus, a microcosm of what has plagued New York for four games.
"We had plenty of opportunities," John Tavares told reporters after the game. "It's a fine line in playoff hockey. You have to be able to overcome these things. It doesn't matter how you get it done, obviously. You've got to get results this time of year."
The Isles once again dominated the first period, outshooting Tampa 16-6, and once again came away not feeling great about it. Even when they carried it halfway through the third, you could tell their 1-0 lead just wasn't enough, and when Nikita Kucherov stepped up with another huge goal and beat Thomas Greiss on the short side, the writing was on the wall.
What it shows me is that experience really means the world in playoff hockey. Fresh off their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, the Lightning have stayed composed all series. Even when they fell behind 4-1 in Game 1, they still were able to confidently take their game to the Isles and nearly complete a comeback. Tampa knows that if they can weather the early pushes of the Islanders, they'll get their chances later on, and they won't miss.
And that's been the difference. One team stepping up and cashing in on ever opportunity they get, the other just hasn't been able to capitalize on theirs. And it's a shame, because the Isles could very easily be up in this series 3-1. Instead, they're on the brink of elimination.
Jason Garrison scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday night and a 3-1 series lead.
Garrison took a pass from Andrej Sustr and fired a slap shot from the right faceoff circle past goalie Thomas Greiss to give the Lightning their second straight overtime win and move them one win away from reaching the conference finals for the second straight year.
Nikita Kucherov scored his NHL-leading eighth of the playoffs for Tampa Bay, and Ben Bishop made 27 saves.
Kucherov, who tied the score with 38.4 seconds left in regulation in Game 3 on Tuesday night, evened this one at 7:49 of the third. He took a pass from Tyler Johnson and fired a slap shot from the left faceoff dot past Greiss' blocker.
Kyle Okposo scored early in the first period for the Islanders, and Greiss stopped 20 shots.
Game 5 of this best-of-seven series is Sunday in Tampa, Florida.
Ryan Pulock and Ryan Strome will be back in the lineup for Game 4 and Marek Zidlicky and Alan Quine will both be scratched, the team announced prior to the start of the game.
Pulock will be on the third defensive pair with Thomas Hickey and Strome will center the third line with Brock Nelson and Steve Bernier on the wings.
Previous Reports and Reactions
Pulock skated and headed to the dressing room early on Friday, while Zidlicky stayed on for extra work, implying Pulock will be in the lineup.
Meanwhile, Strome, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3, appears destined for the lineup as well. Bernier and Quine both stayed on for extra work, leaving it up in the air who will make way in order for Strome to get back in the rotation.
Looks like Jack Capuano is hoping his most recent benching of Ryan Strome is enough to break him out of the funk he seemingly finds himself in. There is nothing to suggest Capuano dislikes Strome personally, but the Islanders bench boss is clearly less than thrilled with the way he is playing the game within the larger team concept. Whether it's Steve Bernier or Alan Quine who steps out won't be known until warmups, with each bringing a different style of game (Quine, offensive and Bernier, defensive).
On defense, it will be nice to see Pulock come back in for Marek Zidlicky, who has really struggled with the Tampa speed forwards. While he could certainly help a struggling power play, let's not forget Pulock is still learning the position defensively and has been victimized in the playoffs this year, especially on wide attacks.
Just about a must-win tonight in Brooklyn for the Islanders. Even though it takes four to wrap up a series and not three, it will prove to be a very difficult task, down 3-1, against a Lightning team that knows how to close teams out. And we saw that on full display in Game 2, as they protected a 3-1 third period lead.
To me, having Pulock back changes everything. The Islanders are losing this series because of special teams, plain and simple. They had a chance in both Games 2 and 3 to take commanding leads thanks to some undisciplined play by Tampa, and their power play was flat out garbage. They were too fine, didn't take enough shots, and looked completely disjointed. Seeing Pulock creating space and time for his forwards, all while his howitzer of a shot looms, will be a sight for sore eyes.
Meanwhile, I'm hopeful Strome really responds. Apparently, Capuano doesn't love that Strome plays away from the puck, and with Capuano preaching shooting early and often in Game 3, that's why Strome got a seat in the press box. If Strome can bring a little bit of grit to his game, it could really be the jump the Islanders need. I'm going to guess he'll be in for Quine, but whatever the case, all eyes are going to be on Stromer tonight.
Despite a disappointing overtime loss in their last game, the New York Islanders were pleased with their improved play.
Now, after falling behind in their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders know they'll have to keep it up to have a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
"It was our best game so far," center Frans Nielsen said. "Just have to come out and try to be even better next game."
After a bad loss in Game 2 in Tampa, the Islanders came out with the increased aggressive play coach Jack Capuano was looking for back in front of the raucous home crowd in Brooklyn. New York was 39 seconds from taking a 2-1 series lead, but the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov gave the seesaw game its fourth tie, and then Brian Boyle won it less than three minutes into the extra period.
That gave the Lightning the series lead with Game 4 on Friday night back at Barclays Center before shifting to Tampa for Game 5 on Sunday. >> Read more
Fresh off a two-goal performance in Game 3, Josh Bailey was in no mood for personal victories after the Isles 5-4 overtime loss.
"It's always nice," Bailey told reporters of his two goals. "It would certainly feel a lot better if we got the win. That's really all that matters at this point."
True, but if Bailey can maintain the level of play he showed in Game 3, the Islanders will have plenty more wins left in them this postseason.
Bailey, who believe it or not has now played in 577 games including the playoffs, has always been a point of contention for many Isles fans. Why? Because when he was drafted ninth overall in 2008 (ahead of the likes of Erik Karlsson and Jordan Eberle), fans thought he would be that stud winger they've been clamoring for all decade. What Bailey turned into was a player destined to be under-appreciated: 93 career goals, 250 career points, all while developing into a defensively-responsible forward. Boring, am I right?
But Bailey, who by all accounts is one of the nicest and appreciative professional athletes you'll meet, has always been capable of showing flashes of brilliance. He has a nose for playmaking that sometimes gets him into trouble, whether it's an ill-advised touch pass when a shot would do, or a finesse play in the neutral zone that leads to a turnover. But from time to time, Bailey's offensive instincts just click, and he rises to the occasion.
We saw it in the playoffs before. Bailey had a strong series against the Penguins in 2013 (three assists, 16 shots, and a 54 percent Corsi For), and then again in the seven game loss to Washington in 2015 (two goals, three assists). After an embattled start to this postseason, where he combined with Brock Nelson and Nikolay Kulemin to be the worst players on the ice in Games 1 and 2 of the Florida series, Bailey picked his stuff up. He helped set up the Game 3 overtime winner, and played some big minutes (25:20) in the Game 5 double OT win before exiting Game 6 with an injury. His return to the lineup against Tampa yielded two goals, and almost a postseason hat trick.
"He was flying," John Tavares said of Bailey's Game 3 effort. "You could see some of those days [off] were real good for him. He was able to get healthy and get some rest. He was probably our best forward out there. He made a lot happen."
That's what Bailey can do when he's feeling it, and if he can replicate that effort, he can be the cog that helps the Islanders even this series, and maybe help them reach their first Conference Final in 23 years.
The Islanders aren't going to lose many games where they get four goals from guys not named "Tavares," and if Bailey can help carry those secondary lines, there's reason to be bullish about the Isles bouncing back from the heartbreaker on Tuesday night.
"There's a long way to go. Obviously, we need to get a win and even this thing up. We believe in our group and we did a lot of good things tonight. Just clean some stuff up and keep playing them hard." - Captain John Tavares
"You have to put it behind us and try to win the next one" - Defenseman Johnny Boychuk
"We need to learn from tonight and move forward, I thought we played a good game, physical and fast. Play a full 60 and leave it all on the ice" - Center Casey Cizikas
"Take the positives. Play the same game, tighten up on D" - Goaltender Thomas Greiss
"We just have to move forward, that's all you can do. I've said it after wins and I'll say it after losses. Keep pushing forward." - Defenseman Travis Hamonic
Sounds so easy, doesn't it? Those were all direct quotes from the Islanders locker room last night after they were defeated in overtime, 5-4, by the Tampa Bay Lightning and now find themselves trailing in the second round series 2-1, giving home ice back to last year's Stanley Cup finalists.
This opponent is much different than the one New York conquered in round one. The Lightning are smaller but much faster and skilled with the puck, in addition to being more battle tested. The Islanders, finding themselves in unchartered waters, traded haymakers with Tampa right up to the controversial winning goal at 2:48 of the first extra session.
But their coverage in the defensive zone was clearly lacking and it cost them a monumental chance to take command of the series. It's a problem that has been plaguing New York all season. The maddening inconsistency between matching their offensive prowess with responsible defensive play is something that head coach Jack Capuano spoke of this morning when on a conference call with the media.
"We were able to generate some chances, had a lot of shots," Capuano said. "That's what we've been doing all season, this inconsistency. Some games, they shoot from all over and some games, they don't. Really difficult to pin down why. Our defense was really activating but we need to clean some things up in the defensive zone. Can't give that team (Tampa) that much time in the slot to get free shots on our goaltender."
The Islanders blew three one goal leads in the game, the last coming in frustrating fashion. Tampa was able to maintain puck possession in the New York zone with Ben Bishop pulled for an extra skater. Jonathan Drouin, who missed almost a full period after taking a thunderous hit from Thomas Hickey, fed Nikita Kucherov in the slot and Tavares failed to slide over in time, leaving the Lightning sniper a free shot at Greiss. Give him that much time and space, he is not going to miss many times. He didn't here.
Not to mention the Islanders allowed Tampa to tie the score just 58 seconds after taking the lead earlier in the third period on a 'malfunctioning breakout' as Capuano called it, with Tavares again being one of the guilty parties. Not the best performance defensively from their leader, who was once again neutralized offensively by Victor Hedman.
"We gave them too much room in the third and a lot of that is on me" Tavares said. "We need to close those gaps and obviously, we need to, as a unit, do a better job out there."
Yet another two day break awaits the two teams before they renew pleasantries Friday night at Barclays Center for game four. This game had plenty of testiness throughout, with a pre-game 'chat' at center ice, numerous post-whistle scrums and two huge hits that left Drouin and Hickey dazed. The Islanders seem, to me at least, to play their best when fully engaged physically and that showed itself last night as well.
For the most part, they stayed with their game plan and played what Capuano likes to call 'Islanders hockey'. But they have lots to clean up in their defensive zone, starting in tomorrow morning's practice. The fear coming into this series, from my perspective, was the Lightning being able to capitalize on the mistakes that the Panthers couldn't. So far, that has come to fruition after three games.
All things considered, a series is won by getting to four wins, not two, last I checked. Long way to go before this series is decided.
-Capuano said in his conference call this morning he was not backing down on the comments last night regarding the overtime hit on Hickey by the eventual goal scorer Brian Boyle. "I don't believe he (Boyle) was looking to purposely injure anyone, he's not that type of player. But I stand by what I said. The hit was high and late and a head shot. When I spoke to Hicks after the game and saw the blood from his mouth and teeth, then watched the tape about six or seven times, it's pretty clear to me".
-Capuano offered no update on Hickey, only that he will see Islanders doctors this afternoon.
-The team is off today with practice resuming tomorrow morning at 10:30am ET.
-According to Eric Hornick's 'skinny,' it's the 11th time that the Isles have lost game 3 of a series that was tied 1-1; they have won the series only 2 of those 10 times.
-Game four is Friday at 7 p.m. ET, game five in Tampa has been set for Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Everyone knew it. Once Jonathan Drouin set up Nikita Kucherov with 39 seconds remaining in the third period, there was a sense of doom that fell over Atlantic and Flatbush. On the precipice of taking a 2-1 series lead and having a chance to take a commanding advantage on Friday, the Islanders had let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
New York scored twice in the third period to grab a 4-3 lead, but faltered late, squandering two leads in the third period. Now, their fate might be headed in a very different direction.
"You've just got to not get too high or too low," Johnny Boychuk told reporters after the game. "We've won a few of these already, it's our first OT loss. I thought we played well for the most part."
That's what stings the most. The Islanders did play extremely well, and probably deserved to get out of dodge on Tuesday night with a victory. Their first period, in which they outshot Tampa 17-9, was dominant, even if they came away from it tied at one. Where they failed was letting Tampa control the play late, as the Lightning's push never stopped after Cal Clutterbuck put the Isles up 4-3. Tampa out-attempted the Islanders 17-4 after Clutterbuck's goal.
"Obviously it stings, you're so close," said John Tavares, who was held without a point for the second straight game and was on the ice for Kucherov's tying goal. "We've got to do a better job with that opportunity and a lot of that is on me."
The loss, though, doesn't go without some extremely confounding aspects: a late line decision and some awful officiating.
For Jack Capuano, who I think has coached a heck of a postseason, I couldn't quite wrap my head around sending the Tavares line out for that late shift that resulted in the Kucherov equalizer. The fourth line - which played an outstanding game - had just come off, and Matt Martin had made two hellacious blocks to preserve the 4-3 advantage, so they had to go somewhere else. I would have thought Frans Nielsen's line would have been a better choice, but I can't fault Cappy too much for leaning on his top unit, who probably had the best chance of hitting the empty net. Okposo, though, very clearly got lost defensively on Kucherov's equalizer, so it came back to bite them.
Then, there were the officials. Here's the requisite qualifier: I hate to complain about officiating, because the game moves at such a fast pace, it's hard to completely fault the officiating. That said, the illegal hit delivered by Brian Boyle to Thomas Hickey that they missed, which directly set up and led to the game winner, was quite possibly one of the most egregious non-calls you'll see. What's more, not giving Shane Prince a penalty shot when he was slashed from behind on a breakaway attempt (seeing the officials explain to an incredulous Doug Weight that "it wasn't a breakway" may have been as entertaining as the game itself) was atrocious.
Add it all up and you get one frustrating night for Islanders country, one they'll have to bounce back from quickly after two nights of "Beliebers" invade Barclays Center.
"We knew a little adversity would come eventually," Prince said. "It's a game we should have won tonight, but we've got to put it behind us."
Brian Boyle scored at 2:48 of overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night for a 2-1 lead in their second-round series.
Nikita Kucherov tied it in the final minute of regulation, and Ryan Callahan, Victor Hedman and Vladislav Namestnikov also scored for the Lightning. Ben Bishop stopped 35 shots.
On the winning goal, the Lightning were on an odd-man rush and Hedman fired a shot from the left side that was wide, but the rebound came off the boards and right to Boyle in front at the right side of the goal and he tapped it in for the win.
Josh Bailey, back after missing the first two games of this series with an upper-body injury, had two goals, and Nick Leddy and Cal Clutterbuck also scored for the Islanders. Thomas Greiss finished with 36 saves.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night. >> Read more
The Islanders and Lightning play Game 3 of their second round playoff series tonight in Brooklyn at 7:00 ET.
According to STATS...
The Lightning beat the Islanders, 4-1, on Saturday, evening up the series at a game apiece, and snapping New York's three-game postseason win streak. Tampa Bay has a postseason mark of 9-0 when lighting the lamp at least four times since last year's playoffs.
New York had a 2016 postseason-low 20 shots on goal in Game 2. The Isles are just 1-4-1 when recording 20 or fewer SOG in 2015-16 (regular and postseason combined).
Dating to December 22, 2010, the Islanders are 8-0-1 at home against the Lightning, including winning the clubs' only meeting at Barclays Center, 5-2, on April 4 this year. Tampa Bay won its only two all-time postseason road tilts against New York on the way to winning the Cup in 2004 (won both games, 3-0).
Including its 2004 best-of-seven series with the Islanders, Tampa Bay has been tied 1-1 entering a Game 3 on the road five times in franchise history, winning four of those matchups (only series loss came last year in the Cup Final against the Blackhawks).
New York was tied 1-1 in the First Round against Florida, and won Game 3 on home ice on the way to taking the series in six games. The Islanders have an all-time best-of-seven record of 8-9 when splitting the first two tilts of the matchup.
Tyler Johnson had two goals and a helper in Game 2, recording his third multi-point performance of the 2016 postseason, and giving him a team-best 10 points overall. The Bolts are 10-0 when Johnson lights the lamp at least once since the beginning of the 2015 playoffs.
Strome notched a goal and an assist in the first four games of the opening round against the Panthers before sitting out Games 5 and 6. After Josh Bailey got hurt in the clinching Game 6, Strome went in for the first two games against the Lightning and assisted on Shane Prince's two goals in the Game 1 win.
With Bailey back, Jack Capuano chose to sit the 22-year old Strome again.
"I try to be a good a team guy and I don't want to draw any negative attention to myself," said Strome. "It's a big opportunity for us here tonight and I'm sure the guys that are playing will do the job."
Color me very surprised at this decision by head coach Jack Capuano, who has coached one heck of a two months, leading the Islanders into Game 3 of the second round of the NHL playoffs tied at one with last year's cup finalists.
Make no mistake, Ryan Strome has struggled, and struggled some more, in his sophomore season. I have been particularly hard on his game, more from a passion, drive and desire standpoint than anything and while he seems to immediately respond to the 'tough love' approach, he quickly then settles back into mediocrity. Whether it's just a second year slump or something more is to be reviewed in the off-season, certainly not now.
Bailey is an enigma as well. Since being rushed to the league by a struggling franchise looking for anything to give them a boost, he has never developed into an offensive force. But he has, prior to this year, been one of the more responsible and dependable defensive forwards on the team. Looking at his play lately, there is zero confidence in Josh himself. It's almost as if he's waiting to make a mistake.
Both players, over their last 51 games and 6 playoff contests, have very similar scoring totals. Bailey 6-17-23 and Strome 6-16-22. Brock Nelson seems to get another free pass, although he has also been a non-contributor so far in the 2015-16 postseason.
At the end of the day, win tonight, and everyone will quickly forget who was in the lineup and who wasn't. It's all about the result, after all.
SYOSSET, N.Y. (AP) The New York Islanders know there are several areas they need to improve to avoid falling behind in their second-round series against Tampa Bay.
They need to find a way to beat the Lightning's defensive pressure, step up their passing and just be more aggressive.
Returning home after the loss in the last game evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece, the Islanders will look to get back on the winning track when they host the Lightning in Game 3 on Tuesday night (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN).
"As a group, we know we can do more, guys have seen it on video," coach Jack Capuano said Monday after the team's practice. "We just weren't ourselves there for a big part of that game. So we all need to be better and I'm sure we will."
Islanders captain John Tavares agreed, adding: "We obviously want to play a lot better than we did on Saturday. We know it wasn't our best."
New York, held to eight shots over the final two periods in the 4-1 loss on Saturday, knows it has to generate more offensive chances - and that starts with shooting more. << Read more
The New York Islanders could stick with Thomas Greiss in net for the Stanley Cup playoffs despite the progressing health of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple.
Halak, who had a 2.30 goals against average and .919 save percentage in 36 regular-season games, has not played since March 8 due to a groin injury.
He has been skating for a few weeks and was a full participant in Friday's morning skate, according to Staple, however the Islanders, who play Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, may stick with Greiss, who has a 2.06 goals against average and .937 save percentage through New York's eight playoff games.
"It's always hard just to watch the guys from the press box or from home and not be able to help," Halak said. "But I think they've done a good job and obviously now I'm just trying to get back. We'll see. Just take it day by day right now. That's all I can do. Hopefully, I'll be back soon."
Greiss had 2.36 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 41 regular-season games.
Halak is right at the end of his six-to-eight week timeframe and, practicing for the last while, it makes complete sense that he is finally ready to return to action. However, he is not going to be supplanting Greiss any time soon, as the Islanders' new starting goaltender won a round for his team for the first time in 23 years, posting a 2.06 goals against average and .937 save percentage against Florida and earning a split in Tampa.
Staple said earlier during a Twitter Q&A that he believes Halak has already played his last game in an Islanders uniform, possibly speculating that the team will look to move him and his $4.5 million contract in the offseason, re-sign Greiss and go with J.F. Berube as the main backup.
Halak was very professional in his comments to Newsday today when he said, "Obviously it was bad timing for me to get injured, but I'm just trying to work my way back to the lineup and back to the bench." This is obviously someone who does not want to rock the boat with the team so entrenched in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Look for Ryan Pulock to replace Marek Zidlicky and Josh Bailey to skate in Steve Bernier's spot Tuesday when the series resumes in Brooklyn at 7 p.m. ET. I can't imagine head coach Jack Capuano pulling Brock Nelson at this point, although if he did, it would not be undeserving.
The start time for Game 5, which is Sunday in Tampa, will be set at 3 p.m. ET, the NHL announced.
The Islanders find themselves fortunate to be heading home to Brooklyn for Game 3 of their second-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning tied at one, taking the home ice advantage away from last season's Stanley Cup finalists with a 5-3 victory in the opener before losing 4-1 Saturday.
Over the course of the two games in Florida, some disturbing numbers jump out when analyzing via waronice.com. The Lightning have outshot the Islanders 67-42, including 28-10 over the final two periods in Game 1 and 26-8 over the final two periods in Game 2. They have generated 59 scoring chances to New York's 41 (44-33 at even strength). Of those, 27 are considered 'high-danger scoring chances' to the Islanders 11 (22-8 5-on-5). Had it not been for some shoddy defending and a couple of soft goals allowed by Ben Bishop in the opener, in addition to some strong goaltending by Thomas Greiss, this is easily a 2-0 series for Tampa.
But it isn't, and there are instances, hopefully such as these for New York, where you draw inspiration that maybe the puck is not always bouncing for the other team and you too can have the hockey gods smile favorably upon thee.
The way the Barclays Center erupted in Games 3, 4 and 6 of the opening-round against the Florida Panthers certainly has the Islanders feeling good about returning to their new home for three of the possible final five games of the series.
The fans came out and supported their team remarkably, making Brooklyn feel more like Long Island of 2014-15. We learned that Barclays can put on a pretty good show and the building, contrary to some belief, emits decibel levels fairly well. The ice is still a work in progress, due to a shoddy sub-floor, but it certainly was no better in Florida this spring or even Amalie Arena over the course of the opening games in the Sunshine State.
While New York draws upon the crowd, that will not be enough to defeat a team that is as well-coached, disciplined and experienced as the Lightning. The move by Jon Cooper to reunite his 'triplets' line from last year, featuring Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, ran the Islanders ragged at even strength and produced two goals and two assists in Game 2. Victor Hedman rebounded to play a superb Game 2, logging 27:35 on the ice and neutralizing powerhouse Islanders star John Tavares.
Two Islanders who have to pick up their game considerably are Brock Nelson and Kyle Okposo. Neither has been effective in the early going at Tampa and Nelson was alarmingly bad Sunday. Coach Jack Capuano said in a Sunday morning conference call that Josh Bailey was skating with the Sound Tigers and could be ready for Game 3 along with Ryan Pulock, who has been in regular practice the last couple of days. Pulock would almost certainly replace Marek Zidlicky, who has been slow defensively and has shown an almost unexplainable reluctance to shoot the puck on the power play.
"At this point, now we're going back home, for sure there could be some (defense) changes or some line combination changes," Capuano said Saturday. "Absolutely."
On Sunday, New York recalled six players on loan from the Sound Tigers, who were swept in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs by Tornoto. Goaltender Christopher Gibson, defenseman Scott Mayfield and forwards Bracken Kearns, Michael Dal Colle, Justin Florek and Marc-Andre Cliche made their way to the practice squad. None are expected to play, but rather gain valuable experience that could assist in their development.
Make no mistake, if the Islanders play their best game, they can defeat the Lightning, who are more than a couple of steps up from the Florida Panthers team that New York conquered in round one. They had regular-season success against Tampa, winning two of three and chasing Ben Bishop twice. But the playoffs are an entirely different animal. And the Islanders, don't forget, are this deep in the tournament for the first time in 23 years. There are bound to be some lessons to be learned.
If they learn them on the fly, they could find themselves playing for an entry into the Stanley Cup final. If they can't, an interesting summer awaits for a team that might look markedly different when training camp begins in September.
Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 4-1 on Saturday to even the second-round series at a game apiece.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop rebounded after being pulled in second period of Game 1 to make 19 saves. He gave up four goals on 13 shots Wednesday night in a 5-3 loss.
Jonathan Drouin and Victor Hedman each had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay.
Nikolay Kulemin scored for the Islanders, and Thomas Greiss 27 stopped shots.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
After Islanders teammates Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Leddy collided at the Tampa Bay blue line, the Lightning got an odd-man rush that resulted in Johnson's backhander that opened the scoring 6:03 into the game.
Johnson extended the Tampa Bay advantage to 4-1 with a late empty-netter. >> Read more
The Islanders will look to take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning at 3 p.m. at Amalie Arena.
According to STATS...
After their 5-3 victory in Game 1, the Islanders have now scored at least three goals in each of their last six games (including playoffs) against Tampa Bay -- the longest active streak against the Lightning.
The Lightning have gone 5-6 all-time in best-of-7 playoff series after losing Game 1, including last year's Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks.
While the Islanders have gone 15-4 all-time in best-of-7 playoff series after winning Game 1, they have lost five consecutive Game 2's in best-of-7 playoff series after winning Game 1.
The Lightning have scored a total of just two power-play goals over their last 15 games (including playoffs) against the Islanders. Over that same stretch, the Islanders have scored a total of 13 special-teams goals against Tampa Bay.
Nikita Kucherov, who scored his sixth goal this postseason in Game 1 against the Islanders, had scored just one goal over his first nine career games against the Isles.
Shane Prince scored a pair of goals in Game 1 against the Lightning. Over the first 70 games of Prince's NHL career, he scored multiple goals just once (November 25, 2015 at Colorado).