Entering play on Thursday, the Islanders are 6-9-4, with just 16 points. That puts them dead last in the Eastern Conference and ahead of only Arizona in terms of futility in the NHL. With New York seven points out of a playoff spot and seven teams to leap if they're going to qualify for their third consecutive trip to the postseason, the situation looks bleak.
Still, the Islanders are confident they can get their season turned around. So what has to happen for the Isles to resurrect their 2016-17 campaign?
Stop the dump-and-chase. It's gotten to the point where looking at the Islanders' possession metrics is an exercise in both high comedy and futility. The team ranks 26th in Shots For (390), 28th in Corsi For Percentage (46.5), 25th in Fenwick For Percentage (48 percent), and 29th in Shot Attempt Percentage Close (45.28). Put simply, the Islanders get out-attempted almost every single night, and usually by a very healthy margin. Last year, when they had the 10th-best save percentage in the league (92.62), we could overlook their sinking possession metrics. Now that the goalies have come back Earth (91.69, 21st in the league), it's a big, glaring wart right in the middle of this club's face. It's time for Jack Capuano to let his skaters skate and try to generate the offense the way this team did all of the 2014-15 season: carry-ins, endless shot attempts, and a relentless forecheck. If the team continues to just dump-and-chase, you can shuffle the lines and change the on-ice personnel as much as you want, it won't make a difference.
Move Andrew Ladd back onto the top line. You can't spend $37.5 million on a player to come in to be a first line winger and then let him play on the first line for all of a week. Because of the World Cup of Hockey, Andrew Ladd barely got any time to skate with John Tavares in training camp, and once Ladd got off to a slow start, he was quickly moved down in favor of a revolving door that has included Cal Clutterbuck, Nikolay Kulemin, Anthony Beauvillier, and others. Here's an idea: Give Ladd more than roughly a minute to develop some chemistry with the center he was brought in to play with, and maybe, just maybe you'll start to see this first line make a little bit of noise. The Islanders just cannot survive without Tavares getting the space he needs to make some plays, and what we're seeing right now is the byproduct of teams not being concerned at all with being burned by either of his wingers.
Make a decision early on buying versus selling. The West Coast trip needs to set the agenda for the rest of the season, for better or worse. If you come out of these next three games with four or five points, by all means, make a move that makes this club better. But if the Isles continue to flounder, don't make rash moves to correct course. Instead, see what the market value is for some of the more usual players on team-friendly deals (Thomas Hickey, Thomas Griess, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Stome) and try to make a deal when the clock isn't ticking. Let's face it: if it doesn't improve soon, it's not going to, and the Isles should be poised to reshuffle the deck while setting themselves up favorably for next year and beyond.
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Fix the three goaltender issue. I know that Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, and J-F Berube have been silent with the media on this issue, so there is no telling where their collective heads must be at in regards to the situation, but it's clearly a mess that still needs fixing. Berube is wasting his most developmental years, getting a chance to dress as a backup for the first time in weeks last night in Anaheim. Since his agent Allen Walsh went on a Twitter rampage, and Garth Snow made the decision to announce publically he was placing him on the trade block, head coach Jack Capuano has started Halak. And started him. And started him again. Let Berube go and find work elsewhere. You never know, you might get lucky and be able to pass him through waivers so he remains in the Islanders organization. But the kid needs to play. And play yesterday. Ride with Halak and Greiss and throw caution to the wind, which could be the theme of the season anyway should things not drastically improve on the West coast.
Deal for a scorer. Snow was said to be working the phones last week in search of offensive help. Even though I am uncertain this will help given the system appears to be broken and the players faith in such system fractured, a message almost certainly needs to be sent that nobody is safe and can afford to take games off, as we have seen just too many times through the first 18 games. The key is going to be finding the right deal without mortgaging what seems to be a full stable of young, offensive stars. If you feel the team is simply treading water this season and really not advancing, there would be nobody I would deem 'untouchable'. Nobody. But you are going to have to give to get with many teams closer to the salary cap ceiling than the floor and an expansion draft coming up next summer. Certainly no easy task but if Snow takes a swing, he needs to hit a home run. What would it take to get a Matt Duchene? Jeff Skinner? James Van Reimsdyk? Would a defenseman and regular do it? Would a prospect have to be added? Things will get more interesting if results don't start changing, and soon.
Stop the musical chairs on offense. To Brian's point, lines need time to gel and develop familiarity and consistency, yet this fact still eludes Capuano, especially when the puck is not going in the net. Andrew Ladd got a week as wing for John Tavares after playing with him in just one preseason game before being put into the bottom six forwards. Last night, he played with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. For better or worse, make your lines to best fit individual skill levels and player attributes and roll with them.