With the Islanders off through the All-Star break, the Islanders Point Blank team took a look back at the first-half of the season. Next up, the team's biggest need, a trade deadline acquisition question, the 2015-16 season and beyond...
Secondary scoring. While some players have better analytics years than their traditional stats would imply (I'm looking at you, Anders Lee), the second and third lines have to up the productivity. The Isles' goals per game currently sits at 2.76. That's down from 3.07 overall last year, and 3.17 through 47 games in 2014-15. If some of the forwards don't start putting the puck in the net, you have to wonder how long the goaltending can keep carrying the load.
Depth defenseman (5/6). It's clear that Marek Zidlicky and Brian Strait are not the answer. Adam Pelech was a revelation before coming down with a mystery illness/injury that has cost him the season and we all saw what a lack of depth that far down the chart did last year in the Islanders loss to the Capitals. Snow would be wise to scour the market and try to patch this up heading into March.
Trade deadline acquisition
None. Let's face it: this team is pot-committed to what they have. When healthy, their top-four defensemen are as good as any in the league. And with quality d-men so hard to come by around the league, they're not finding a serious upgrade anywhere. At forward, the team is going to go as far as their young forwards take them. Brock Nelson has stepped up, and now it's time for Ryan Strome and Lee cash in on some of those dangerous shot attempts and start finishing with consistency. Fans seem to feel the team needs that "Butch Goring move": the one swap that puts a young, talented team over the top. I really don't know who the Isles could realistically get to fill that role, nor who they would cut bait with in doing so. I think it's just up to the guys in that room right now to take this as far as they can.
It's always fun to play general manager and when you have followed a team as closely as we have, you draw your own opinions based on who might be available. Snow has a little over 6 million dollars to play with and in addition to shopping for that depth defenseman I mention above, Andrew Ladd could be a nice fit for a draft pick. He would likely come for just the remainder of this season but bring with him a boat load of Stanley Cup experience. You can never have too many winners in the locker room. Bigger question if that was to happen? Who exits the lineup?
Prognosis for balance of 2015-16
It's going to be a fight to the finish. After the break, the Isles' schedule is going to really pick up, and they're going to have to separate themselves from the Wild Card teams in the East as they play these games in hand. Before the season, I predicted a second place, 103-point finish. They're on pace for about 97 points right now, and I think they may need to get to the 100 mark to ensure themselves a playoff spot. I think they'll get there, but we're going to sweat down the stretch.
I agree Brian, it doesn't look as if anything is going to get easier for this team and they have really made a lot of things harder on themselves. Sure, there's the adjustment to Barclays and all that entails as well as this new found commitment to the game they were playing in their own end. But 35 games in 67 days? Gonna be a sweaty, nervous sprint to the finish line.
Looking into the future
Win a playoff series. The legitimacy of this organization begins and ends with winning a round for the first time since 1992-93. There was a strong case to be made for continuity after last year's giant step forward, Game 7 failure notwithstanding. This season, the measuring stick is very clear. Win a round, or expect some turnover.
You used the perfect word there, Brian: expect turnover. With this team, you can never guarantee it but I would be very surprised if many would survive another first round ouster or at worst, missing the post-season totally. This team is built to win and are most certainly talented enough. Just need to put the intangibles together and blend it all properly.