Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Tampa Bay Lightning left Brooklyn last night and boarded a plane for Detroit, the next stop on their five-game road trip. They will take the ice tonight with a 9-6-1 record in the 2016-17 season. Three of those wins, by a combined score of 14-2, have come against the New York Islanders, who seem to have zero answers the past two weeks to the malaise that has taken over this team.
Head coach Jack Capuano has juggled lines. He's called out his players to the media. He's, not 'stick to the face' directly, but more like 'hook around the hands' directly, called out his general manager. He has shown some slight snark at reporters, then answered the same question the following week with calmness and resignation. In his seventh year as bench boss, it seems the expiration date, for which I believe all coaches have, has come. But will general manager Garth Snow act on it?
The problems have been regurgitated on the pages of SNY the past several weeks and all across hockey media in the New York metro area by columnists. Reporters are doing their job, reporting and presenting the facts, while the rest of us are left to digest a season where a 5-8-3 start feels more like 1-12-3 to be honest.
New York has, arguably, put forth one complete sixty minute effort all season, a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Other than that, it's been dead last in possession, a power play that can't get out of its own way, a penalty kill gone awry, late leads evaporated into dust like the enemy in 'War of the Worlds' in its final scene and an offense that couldn't buy a goal even if the players pooled all their money together and offered it to the hockey gods in sacrifice.
Capuano seems to have lost the locker room, a sacred place where players mingle and talk amongst themselves, with little coach interaction other than a brief pregame or postgame speech. On the ice, it looks as if 19 men are just going through the motions, deaf to much of the little things that make hockey teams so successful. Last night's 4-0 loss did nothing to make this claim invalid, while obviously impossible to quantify.
Sure, Ryan Strome has to be better than two goals in 16 games, Anders Lee one in 16 and Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd combining for three. Sure, there have been injuries to Ryan Pulock, Dennis Seidenberg and Travis Hamonic, a trade notice put out by Garth Snow on Jaroslav Halak and a captain who, on some nights, doesn't differentiate himself enough from the passengers.
But those cannot, any longer, be used as excuses for sub-par results. This team is talented, make no mistake about it, but misguided and at the current time, mismanaged. Players are not allowed to develop any chemistry with each other being placed in a line blender multiple times a week. The system, whether you put that on the players not executing it or the design, has failed them repeatedly with a hideous breakout and neutral zone play. Its dump and grind, dump and grind, dump and grind. The Islanders have turned into the neutral zone trapping New Jersey Devils of the past, only without the wins and Stanley Cups.
With the losses of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, the roster was reshaped over the summer by Snow with Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and
P.A Parenteau. Snow, for the second straight year, put all his eggs in the basket of Strome, Lee and Brock Nelson to play larger roles. As Captain obvious would say, that plan has not worked. Development under this administration has stalled, to the point where I don't need to mention Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, etc. to the list of players many scouts would say should be way ahead in development.
Trying just about anything to get his struggling team going, Capuano went to desperate measures last night, dressing only 11 forwards and allowing Travis Hamonic, one week into a broken thumb which originally called for a four to six week recovery, into the lineup, even though there was reported weakness in his bottom hand. Yet, Mayfield received six shifts for 6:49 and Beauvillier 16 shifts for a forward low 12:01. Even Adam Pelech saw his ice time shaved to 11:57 after having a terrific camp and a solid start to the year.
Do Capuano and Snow deserve credit for three playoff appearances in four years, including the team's first playoff round win in over two decades? Does Capuano get any love for a .535 winning percentage with a roster, up until three years ago, that might have contained as much AHL quality as it did NHL quality? They do.
But detractors would be a hundred percent correct in pointing out that even with winning 45 games last year and the exciting win over the Florida Panthers in the playoffs, the team rarely passed the 'eye-test', often the truest barometer, and that has carried over to this year through the first 16 games. That it's a results based business and five wins and a team that can't string two consecutive passes together for long stretches, is hardly results. It's the most opposite of results that you can get.
If the plan was to build towards getting some veterans off the roster via contract expiration and looking towards the 2017 draft, Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang, Barzal, Beauvillier, Pulock, Pelech, possibly Mikko Koskinen, maybe figuring out where the long-term home is, etc. why not just say so? The message heard repeatedly over the summer was quite the opposite. That, in my opinion, is the leading source of frustration currently being seen across all parts of the organization and fanbase.
Desperation? I'm not sold that the Islanders brass feels it yet. And that, unfortunately, does not bode well for an upcoming schedule that includes the Stanley Cup champions on Friday followed by a West coast road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
If the players feel it, they certainly are not showing it. And while it's important, in life in general, to keep your emotions in check, sports can be a good outlet for letting said emotions propel you to excellence if channeled correctly. Just have to have someone who tells you what the correct channel is. Anyone have a TV Guide?