Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
'It ain't over 'til it's over' is one of the oldest, greatest sports quotes, muttered by Yogi Berra. It also became the lyrics to a song by Lenny Kravitz. It's a line that has become difficult for Islanders fans to say these days.
If you look at the NHL standings as of this morning, you see the Islanders sitting on the outside looking in, trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets by six points with both teams even in games played at 67. That gives New York 15 games (30 points) to make up ground, which will be more difficult than it looks on the surface considering they have to pass the Carolina Hurricanes and red-hot Florida Panthers on their way to even approaching the Jackets.
New York's league worst defense (241 goals allowed) has torpedoed a once promising season that saw them sitting at 15-7-2 at the end of November. Since then, it's been a free-fall of epic proportions. The Isles have stumbled to a 14-22-7 record with nary a move to improve a roster that, to be completely honest, needed an overhaul in January.
General manager Garth Snow, now in his 12th season running what appears to be the entire organization with zero reporting lines and even less accountability, decided that the best move was to do nothing. Looking at the players who switched sweaters at the NHL trade deadline, outside of perhaps Patrick Maroon, who went to New Jersey for a third-round pick, there were few who would have helped, with expensive prices and players previously dangled being taken off the market. However, that's no excuse, as it was already too late.
The latest blunder by Snow, who has been at the helm of a 419-395-121 (52 percent of possible points) record was letting the picks he acquired in the Travis Hamonic trade sit snugly in his back pocket, even after Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk went down with injuries. That forced head coach Doug Weight to go with a six-man rotation that sometimes included four rookies (Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Sebastian Aho).
The time to turn the Islanders season around came and went and the goals just kept flying past Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss at breakneck speed. Combine with a slump that has befallen captain John Tavares - who is the biggest free agent fish in the pond this summer - that took down the entire first line and it appears, barring a miracle, New York will be on the outside of the playoffs yet again, which will mark the eighth time in the general manager's tenure (one playoff round win).
Add to that the inexperience behind the bench of Weight and his staff, who took until roughly three weeks ago to change a defensive system that wasn't just performing poorly -- it was catapulting itself off Mount Everest -- and you have the makings of yet another lost season. Weight himself has become increasingly agitated in his post-game press conferences, snapping at reporters and using expletives.
What does this all mean? If you think Jon Ledecky and Ledecky alone is responsible for this mess, I guess that would hold a toothpick of truth. But not much more than that. Ledecky might be at the top of the list on the official Islanders website, but he's far from being alone. He is an alternate governor to the governor, Scott Malkin, who just so happens to be the 'money man' at this dysfunctional family picnic. Nothing happens without going from Ledecky to Malkin, and that includes replacing a general manager who, in a result-based business, doesn't have many to warrant unwavering job security with apparently zero check and balance.
So far, Ledecky has delivered on his promise of Belmont Park as the new home of the franchise and he's been one of the most visible, approachable owners in history to fans. He's reached out to truly understand their feelings, good or bad, while riding the subway with them to Brooklyn and not hiding in his office. For that, he earns and deserves props.
The path forward will have to be decided by Ledecky AND Malkin, jointly, and outside of the Tavares contract saga, what they decide to do with Snow and Weight will have tremendous implications in trying to steer this franchise out of the mud it currently finds itself sitting in.