Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Brian Erni and I continue our annual season review, taking a look back at the 2016-17 New York Islanders and analyzing each player's performance in a down season that saw the team miss the playoffs by one point.
We will be offering two reviews per week that will take us right through to the beginning of training camp in September 2017. Of course, there are a couple of things to sort out prior, such as potential trades that could alter the look of this franchise going forward and oh, yeah, that pesky John Tavares extension.
Contract details via nhlnumbers.com and stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com.
41 - Jaroslav Halak - Goaltender
5-11, 181 lbs
32 years old
Contract: $4.500m cap hit through 2017-18, unrestricted free agent
Season: 28 GP (26 starts), 12-9-5, 2.80 GAA, .915 S%, 2 shutouts, .538 QS%
What a roller coaster season it was for the Islanders in the goaltending department. From the start of the preseason, when everyone thought the logjam of Halak, Thomas Greiss and J.F Berube would be alleviated by a demotion or trade, it wasn't. Through the regular season, it caused much more stress and distraction than it should have, likely playing a role in why the team ended up missing the postseason by one point.
In 2015-16, Halak (2.30, .919) and Greiss (2.36, .925) combined to give the team what they haven't had in some time - capable, at times spectacular, goaltending. Just that quickly, Halak's poor start and Garth Snow's poor decisions, from sticking with a three active goalie system to not recalling Halak from Bridgeport until late March, put a halt to everything.
Prior to his demotion, Halak had won only six of 21 games and was carrying a putrid 3.23 goals against average and .904 save percentage (league average is around .915). He was becoming disgruntled and a distraction in the locker room. His demotion, make no mistake, was warranted. What wasn't was the length of time he was given to 'straighten things out' while Berube faltered start after start in his place.
In his defense, Halak took the demotion and proceeded to deal with like a true professional, reporting to the Sound Tigers and putting up impressive numbers (2.15, .925 in 27 games) before finally being recalled in late March during the playoff push.
Once he returned to the team, he continued his tremendous play, going 7-1 to close out the season with a 1.58 goals against average and .950 save percentage. In the time Halak spent in Bridgeport, Berube won only three of 10 games with a 3.47 goals against and .884 save percentage. What a difference even one game could have potentially made.
IPB Grade: C- : Halak earns a poorer grade for his shaky play and even shakier, at times, attitude, which prompted his demotion. But the way he handled himself since that point and when he returned bumps him to the C-. He had earned a recall about 10 games into his Bridgeport assignment but instead was forced to sit and wait while the Islanders ran Greiss into the ground and lost games with Berube between the pipes. This year, expect him to start as the number one, garnering about 60-65% of the starts in what could be his final season with the club.