Monday night made final what was seemingly inevitable for the better part of the last two months or so.
In the midst of quite the disappointing season, the Islanders will miss the playoffs for the second straight time.
What makes it more disheartening was how well the team got off out of the gate this season. After a 5-2 win against the Canucks on Nov. 28, the Islanders were riding pretty high at 15-7-2 and looked like a bona fide playoff team, although there were holes that needed to be corrected.
But with the way Garth Snow and Doug Weight have run this team, it never happened. Things only got worse and have now spiraled into what has become a team that will make a draft selection inside the top 10 this June.
How did this all go wrong? With an emerging Mathew Barzal to go along with the veteran presence of John Tavares and one of the top scoring lines in all of hockey, it all looked good in Brooklyn. Of course, their efforts were not enough.
But who's to blame for this lost year? Should some shoulder the losses more than others? Let's take a look at it piece by piece...
We'll keep this section shorter than it can be because it's been discussed plenty of times here and elsewhere. This is a team allowing the most goals per game in the league and is the second-worst penalty kill out there.
Most of the defense has struggled, and it's not just the bottom pair. It has been a top-to-bottom effort to be this atrocious, which feels painful to say. I've been one to defend Nick Leddy many times in the past, but even he's lagged behind this season.
Yes, his minus-42 is what will stand out to most, but even his possession numbers (Corsi and Fenwick -- both overall and relative) have been career worsts. Maybe it's because he's tried to shoulder the load of the rest of the inexperience on defense, but either way, Leddy has been disappointing this season.
That's not to say he still doesn't bring skill and an extremely high skating level to the team -- he does have 41 points this season -- but you expect more from your best defenseman. He simply hasn't played as well as he should have this season. The same goes for Johnny Boychuk, whose age is showing by the day. What was once a strong tandem at the blueline isn't as fearsome as it once was, say three seasons ago.
The Guys Who Weren't Here
Weight has relied on the injury issues as a crutch plenty of times this season, but it's apparent the Islanders have missed Calvin de Haan's presence. He might not be the most skilled defenseman, but having a veteran skater that can log you consistent minutes seems more valuable after you see guys continually struggle. A rotation with Thomas Hickey, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech just never could totally get it together.
That also begs the question, would this team be better if it hadn't traded Travis Hamonic? Obviously, he had family matters to attend to on the west coast of Canada, and he wanted to be home. His numbers had been declining in the years before departing the Isles, so I'm not going to totally Monday morning quarterback this trade, but I'm sure he could have at least help, given with how this team has played in the second half.
Secondary Player Failures
Even when he inked the deal, it was hard to justify the length and money that Andrew Ladd got from the Islanders. I remember receiving a push notification about the deal and honestly scratched my head.
And so far, despite decent possession-driving numbers, Ladd has failed to live up to expectations. He's almost certainly going to fall short of 30 points this season, one year after he totaled just 31. You can talk about his veteran leadership, but secondary scoring is just as important. He hasn't provided much of this at all.
Remember when Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas were two thirds of the "best fourth line in hockey"? That seems like a distant memory. Honestly, every time they're on the ice you have to have a hope and a prayer that something just doesn't go terribly wrong. I know they're not meant to be scorers, but they should at least be responsible in their own end. They haven't been. Whether it's because they don't have their buddy Matt Martin or not, they've been a part of the problem this season.
But Who Really Takes The Blame?
This is a simple question that really has a simple answer. It's the men running the show -- Snow and Weight. We've discussed it on this site before, but Weight has turtled when the questions get tough on him, and it took him forever to adjust any defensive schemes to make things work. It was too little, too late.
But the biggest brunt of the blame has to fall on Snow. Seriously, how does this man still have a job in professional hockey? Yes, I've heard he's "fleeced teams" on draft day and taken advantage of some cash-strapped organizations to acquire some pieces. But when there were obvious flaws and holes to this defense (especially with Hamonic gone), there was never a real upgrade. With two first-round draft picks in 2018, a creative general manager could have worked something out.
It could have been before the season, it could have come during the trade deadline, but the Islanders could have swung a deal for an impact player to at least show fans they want to go for it.
What did the Brandon Davidson and Chris Wagner trades show? That this front office rarely wants to take a risk. Maybe it was because of the '07 trade deadline moves -- and aftermath -- or the Thomas Vanek debacl. But Snow just seems gun shy when given the opportunity to make significant improvements to this club. That's one way to lay in complete mediocrity for a long time. And right now, that's where they find themselves. And that largely falls on the shoulders of one man running the show.