Everyone knew the Islanders lost talent this offseason. Jack Capuano referred to the production that departed for Detroit, Buffalo and Toronto again in his postgame scrum after the team's 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. But one factor that was certainly overlooked was that his club may have gone from one of the better shootout teams in the league to one of the worst. Well, Thursday night's skills competition shined a bright light on that shortcoming, and it wasn't pretty.
Where Frans Nielsen, the best statistical shootout performer of all time, would usually lead off the shootout, Cal Clutterbuck took his place and missed. Josh Bailey went second, in a spot usually reserved for Kyle Okposo, and had Michal Neuvirth beat low, but shot it right into the path of Neuvirth's glove. Strike two.
By the time Claude Giroux unpantsed Jaro Halak with a sweet deke, the game was on the stick of John Tavares. And while that's normally a spot no one would mind, the fact is that JT has been brutal in shootouts for the better part of two seasons. He once again fell short, as he came in slow, made a bunch of moves, and eventually had the puck poke checked away from Neuvirth to seal a 3-2 win for the Flyers.
Let's make no mistake: the shootout is stupid. It's a completely arbitrary way to decide wins and losses after 65 minutes of gridlocked hockey. Casual fans probably love it, and I'll admit it's fun to watch. But no matter your individual feelings, it has been the reality in this league for over a decade now. So while it may seem silly to cater to this showcase and build your team with it in mind, but it does matters, and after what I saw Thursday, I'm not sure the Islanders have an answer once overtime comes to a close.
Regulation and overtime wins loom larger, so if the team wants to feel encouraged to not even let games get to this point that works for me. But let's face it: valuable points are won and lost in the shootout, and if Thursday night was any indication, the Isles have to take care of business in regulation or overtime, because they're not going to get many wins going up against other team's lineups.
Is this a fair criticism of Garth Snow's offseason? I honestly don't know. Obviously, the more pressing concern is finding someone who can light the lamp in the first 65 minutes rather than who is going to answer the call in shootouts. But the reality is that the Islanders don't seem to have a lot of firepower once they get to those one-on-one match ups. And if they continue to struggle, the points they lose could come back to bite them.