Are the Islanders capable of salvaging their 2016-17 season? We're going to find out, and it's not going to hinge on a coaching change -- at least not yet.
GM Garth Snow is trying to make a deal for a top-flight winger to try to improve his stable of forwards. But even if he's able to pull it off, the Isles are going to need to tweak how they play if they hope to spur a renaissance.
The chatter surrounding the team and a potential acquisition has picked up a ton of steam. Art Staple of Newsday noted the Isles are furiously working to make a deal, and Sportnet's Elliotte Friedman has mentioned Brandon Saad and Matt Duchene as targets.
Our own Andy Graziano has reported that Snow is in talks with four teams specifically -- Colorado, Toronto, Carolina, and Arizona -- about a possible deal. It's clear that the Isles aren't giving up, and they're out to find someone who can help.
But there is a very real issue with this team that existed even before Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen departed via free agency. Somewhere along the line, the Isles retreated from their run-and-gun, possession-reliant, forecheck-and carry-in-heavy style that made them one of the most difficult teams in the league to contain, and assumed an identity of Neanderthal hockey: dump-and-chase, curl the puck around the board to an opponent, repeat.
Over at Lighthouse Hockey, Dan Saraceni wrote very eloquently about this phenomenon and what he thinks caused it.
"Jack Capuano is not considered a smart man, but I'll bet he's a lot smarter than he seems," Saraceni wrote. "He says he doesn't want to limit his players' creativity. He says he wants defenseman activating on offense if they have the opportunity. He says he wants his team to play with speed. That's all fine and good. But none of it is happening. They're trying to be safe. And their season is suffocating right in front of them."
The whole post is right on the money, and it really calls attention to the active disconnect between how the organization is building and how the big club is executing. You don't draft great skaters and skill players like Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang and ask them to play dump-and-chase hockey. But that's what Beauviller has been doing, and it's what Ho-Sang will be forced to do when his time comes.
This team has Nick Leddy, one of the best carry-in defensemen in the league. They have young skaters with quick shots. Why get away from what worked for this team for the entire 2014-15 season to hinge all your hopes on your goaltender of the night standing on his head?
A new forward won't prevent opponents from doubling-and-tripling up the Islanders in shot attempts. It won't make a difference if the system remains the same, and Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss are asked to be superhuman night in, night out. Is Duchene or Saad or the second coming of Gordie Howe himself going to truly turn this around if the Islanders insist on playing a style of hockey that went out of style almost a decade-and-a-half ago?
Once the Penguins let their skaters loose last season, it turned their season around. The Rangers have essentially no blue line, and are finding a way to score seven goals a night and be successful. If the Isles can swing a deal, that's only going to be step one. Step two is taking the reins off and letting these guys do their thing. Otherwise, I'm afraid no trade can save this season.