Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The New York Islanders are now three games into the head coaching career of interim bench boss Doug Weight, who took over for the terminated Jack Capuano last week.
Some of the changes we have seen have trended positive for New York, others neutral and some have slipped. The 'newness' of a coaching change has now worn off, and three games remain on a six-game home-stand that will either position the team better for a late playoff run or potentially knock them further behind.
So what have we seen and learned through this 2-0-1 mark under Weight?
The Islanders, 19-17-9, have captured 52.2% of all possible points this season, well below the 60-63% mark believed to be needed to capture a playoff spot. However, over their last six games, they have managed to bank 75% on a 4-1-1 record. Sportsclubstats.com has seen a steady rise in the chance New York could make a late run, as they now stand at 20.7%, way above where they were a couple of weeks ago, below 10%.
Looking at the current standings, the Islanders have zero chance of catching the current third place Metropolitan division team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom they trail by 18 points. In the wild card chase, New York is five points behind the current WC2 team, the Philadelphia Flyers, with 3 games in hand. But they still have six teams to jump. Let's take the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the equation for now, as they sit one point behind the Boston Bruins for 3rd place in the Atlantic division with six games in hand. The Bruins lead the Islanders also by five points with New York holding five games in hand.
But you also have to hope Carolina, Florida, New Jersey and Detroit continue to play to their recent 18-16-6 pace while beating teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals over the next week. Thus giving much validity to the 20% odds even though the initial look paints a more colorful picture. Not to mention that starting February 1, the Islanders will play only 12 of their final 34 at Barclays Center, including a brutal nine-game road trip that spans February 21 to March 11.
Diving inside some of the numbers pre and post Capuano, we see that some things have improved, but keep in mind, those could be boosted due to the change itself, as the team does not look to have changed its playing style at all. Also take account for the much smaller sample size under Weight.
Goals for per game: 2.77 Capuano, 3.00 Weight
Goals against per game: 2.91 Capuano, 1.67 Weight
Shots for per game: 29.2 Capuano, 36.7 Weight
Shots against per game: 32.4 Capuano, 35.3 Weight
Power play: 13.6% Capuano. 21.4% Weight
Penalty kill: 80.0% Capuano, 87.5% Weight
Faceoffs: 49% Capuano, 48.7% Weight
Shifting to personnel, Thomas Greiss has been absolutely fantastic in goal since being handed the #1 job, just this morning deservedly picking up NHL second star of the week honors. In his last 11 starts, Greiss is 6-2-3 with a 1.99 goals against average and .942 save percentage. But, honestly, goaltenders are typically immune to the effects of coaching changes - They're either seeing the puck well and controlling rebounds or they're not.
On defense, Nick Leddy has been much better, but that could be due more to being pushed off a pairing with Travis Hamonic, due to the latter's knee injury. As a team, New York is actually allowing more shots under Weight and playing to a 49.6% overall Corsi, 47.2% at even strength. Their 46.5% season 5v5 Corsi is second to last in the NHL.
The more games Adam Pelech plays, the more disposable Hamonic becomes, in my opinion. Scott Mayfield got a run with the injury to Johnny Boychuk, but it's hard to see him as anything more than a #6 with his skating deficiencies still rather evident.
Up front, John Tavares has eight goals in his last six games and definitely seems much more motivated under Weight. His game has gotten more consistently dangerous, with double digit shot attempts in two of his last three games. Last night, yes, he should have changed coming out of the offensive zone with the Flyers on the eventual game winning counter, way before turning the puck over. But, even he is not immune to an occasional brain cramp.
Anthony Beauvillier is getting regular minutes, which is absolutely what he needs. The effort and enthusiasm he brings to the rink every day needs to be rewarded in the simplest fashion….A lineup spot. He should not be scratched again, barring injury. Let him play and learn. It's just unfortunate for the kid that he has to play with two of the most struggling Islanders forwards right now. Which leads us to….
Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome.
Nelson has always been a streaky, inconsistent offensive performer. For his career, the two-time 20 goal scorer has a PPG average of 0.57 from October to December, then slides to 0.36 for the duration of the season. This year is no different, with a mark of 0.64 heading into his current nine-game pointless slide. Over Nelson's last 25 games, he has only only produced 4-6-10 with 57 shots, averaging close to 15 ½ minutes per night. Forgetting the statistics for a minute, he just looks absolutely lost in all areas of the rink.
Strome has suffered a similar statistical fate as Nelson, with no points in his last eight games and only 4-4-8 with 41 shots on goal over his last 22 games. Just what has happened to the former 50-point scorer who began his career with a PPG average of 0.58 is anyone's guess, really. It's not as simple - now impossible, actually - to place the blame on Capuano. This is a kid who, more than anyone else, needs a change of scenery to see if that jump starts a career that is not developing at the NHL level, but suffering severe regression. More than Nelson, the alarming way at which Strome floats around the rink at times is infuriating to coaches, with Weight benching the 23-year old last night for his lack of effort on the Flyers game-tying third period goal.
This will all have to be re-visited next Tuesday when the homestand concludes and the Islanders would have played three 2017 playoff favorites over the course of the last week. Until then, the jury is still out on the Doug Weight Islanders, who look improved and energized in some areas and like the Capuano era Islanders in others