By Brett Malamud
Yes, we are just 24 hours since the Islanders ended their season. But, by popular demand, let’s take a look at our (very early) edition of Keep ‘Em Or Can ‘Em. Feel free to vote on each poll, as it’ll allow other fans to see what you think.
**It’d be unfair to judge the likes of Mayfield and Reinhart since we saw such little time
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Mike Basile
The Islanders are off to a hot start this season. They’re in first place in the Metropolitan Division headed into the all star break. Here’s my mid-season grades for the team.
John Tavares (21 G, 24 A, 45 pts)- The captain has been on and off all season, but when you need a goal he is always there for you, he is second in the NHL with 5 game winning goals. He is starting to heat up again with 6 points in his last three games. One big concern for me is he takes some bad penalties. Your captain can not be doing that. Grade: B+
Kyle Okposo (14 G, 30 A, 44 points)- Okposo is also coming on of late he has 5 goals and 7 points in his last three games. He is starting to find his game again and that chemistry we all know he has with John Tavares. With these two heating up this team gets even more dangerous. Grade: B+
Ryan Strome ( 8 G, 25 A, 33 points)- When Ryan Strome is on the ice, good things happen, and his +16 shows that. It seems like whatever line he moves to has a ton of success. His on ice vision is great and it doesn’t hurt that he has a wicked shot as well. Grade: A-
Brock Nelson (15 G, 15 A, 30 points)- Brock Nelson makes a living in front of the net, and it shows on the powerplay as he has 9 of his 15 goals when on a man advantage. He is very strong on the puck and is still maturing. He can very quickly turn in to one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. Grade: B+
Frans Nielsen (9 G, 16 A, 25 points)- Frans Nielsen has one of the toughest jobs of all players, as almost every shift you will see him out against the other team’s top players. He is very skilled defensively and his 25 points are really helping the secondary scoring for this team. Grade: B
Josh Bailey (8 G, 13 A, 21 points)- Bailey looks to be a fit on that top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. He has 6 points in his last three games and his 21 points this season came in only 34 appearances. It seems like Josh Bailey is finding himself. Grade: B
Nikolay Kulemin (11 G, 9 A, 20 points)- Kulemin has been a great addition to the New York Islanders team. He is great on the penalty kill and has three shorthanded goals. Very good third line player who is also heating up to add to the secondary scoring. Grade: B
Anders Lee (13 G, 5 A, 18 points)- Anders is a player you love to have on your team, he is gritty, works hard and loves to score those dirty goals in front of the net. He also has five game winning goals this season which is 2nd in the NHL. Grade: B+
Mikhail Grabovski (6 G, 8 A, 14 points)- Grabovski has been one of the biggest disappointments on the team this season. Failing to hit the net on good scoring opportunities and making bad decisions with the puck leaves him with only 14 points. He will need to step up if he wants to stay in the lineup. Grade: C-
Casey Cizikas (4 G, 6 A, 10 points)- Cizikas is quietly having a pretty good season. He isn’t a player who is going to go out and get points every night and even gets looked over on the 4th line because of Martin and Clutterbuck leading the league in hits. He does his job on the penalty kill and is one of the team’s best faceoff men. Grade: B-
Cal Clutterbuck (4 G, 5 A, 9 points)- Cal is second in the league in hits and according to Don Cherry is a part of the “best fourth line in NHL history.” I’d like to see him contribute more offensively because I feel like he has the skill to put up a 30 point season. Grade: C+
Matt Martin (6 G, 2 A, 8 points)- Martin leads the league in hits…… again. He is one of the best enforcers in the NHL and knows how to spark the team when they need some momentum. Grade: B-
Michael Grabner (4 G, 2 A, 6 points)- Grabner has six points in 12 games this season. He has come on pretty strong after missing most of the season with an injury. His best asset is his penalty kill, but with the speed he has, he is always dangerous. It would be unfair to grade him through only 12 games.
Johnny Boychuk (4 G, 18 A, 22 points)- Boychuk has been another great addition to the team. Johnny has one of the hardest shots in the league and is very dangerous on the power play. Did I mention he is also a +15? Grade: B+
Nick Leddy (7 G, 14 A, 21 points)- Boychuk’s defensive partner has also been a great add to the squad. With 7 goals this season he is a big help to the forwards. Him and Boychuk are a combined +25 this season, which is new for isles defensemen. Grade: B+
Thomas Hickey (2 G, 13 A, 15 points)- Thomas Hickey’s size is really starting to show. When him and Visnovsky are on the ice, they can’t win puck battles in the corner and allow the other team to works in their defensive zone. He is helping out offensively, but has to be stronger on the puck. Grade: C–
Lubomir Visnovsky (3 G, 8 A, 11 points)- Much like Hickey, his size also shows defensively. His 11 points in 29 games is good for a defensemen, but his first responsibility is defense and sometimes us fans question that. Grade: C
Travis Hamonic (3 G, 8 A, 11 points)- Hamonic goes up against top line forwards every night and is still an impressive +4. I would like for him to stay out of the box, but can’t complain much with his play. Grade: B
Calvin De Hann (1 G, 10 A, 11 points)- Calvin also pairs up with Hamonic to play against top tier forwards. This is a very tough task for the young d-man, but he holds his own and plays very steady defense. Grade: B-
Brian Strait (1 G 3 A 4 points)- The scapegoat of the islanders defense. Every time something goes wrong it is very easy for fans and the media to claim that it’s Strait’s fault. He is not great, but Capuano plays him way too much and that hurts him a lot. Grade: D+
Jaroslav Halak (24-9-0)- Jaro has a 2.41 goals against average and a 91.0% save percentage. Halak has been shaky in his past couple of games, but this break may be what the doctor ordered. He has been a rock in goal for the isles this season overall. His 4 shutouts are also very impressive. Grade: A-
Chad Johnson (6-5-0)- Johnson has a 3.38 goals against average and an 87.0% save percentage. Do I have to say anything? I understand he is the backup, but this is unacceptable. The team has lost faith in him and jaro cannot play every day. He needs to pick it up next start. Grade: F
By Mike Basile
I don’t think many, if any, Islanders fans were complaining when they acquired Thomas Vanek from Buffalo. He is a great scorer that will fit great with Tavares! The question is, did it really address the issues the Islanders are having? The two main issues in my opinion are quite obvious, defense and goaltending. By acquiring Vanek, they did bolster up the scoring and power play, but with the Isles already averaging three goals a game, was that really necessary?
The defense has been lackluster to say the least all year. The top pair, made up of defensemen Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, is a combined -7. Granted those two will be found on the ice for almost half the game, your top defensive pair has to be setting the tone for the others. The team allows on average 3.2 goals a game, which is a whopping 27th in the NHL. Don’t you worry Islander fans it only gets better from here, right? Oh wait, I forgot their penalty kill was 28th in the league at 75 percent. The mistakes this team makes are repetitive and consequential. The Islanders have gone a very inconsistent 1-4-1 in games after previous game victories. Bad passes in the defensive and neutral zone have shown to be costly, as well as having defensemen out of position and losing battles in front of the net. Unlucky, but still repetitive are broken sticks and fanning on shots that turn in to odd man rushes. Finally, the one that gets me like no other…… LOSING BATTLES IN THE CORNER! Ladies and gentleman that is all will power in that corner and losing over half of those is going to cause trouble.
A high point of last year has turned in to a scary 2 minutes this season. The penalty kill has been atrocious (to say it nicely). The fact that teams score on 25 percent of their power plays is killer to a team. For a successful penalty kill the team has to be at least over 80 percent and watching them play it seems like the Islanders are a long way from that. In their most recent game against Washington, the Islanders killed 2/6 power plays and if that is not bad enough, I would say over 90 percent of power play time was spent in the Islanders’ zone. If you cannot clear the puck, your opponent will score goals. It is that simple.
It would not be fair if I only blamed the defense, especially with a starting goalie whose save percentage is under 90 percent. Cue Evgeni Nabokov, who since the playoffs last season has been a slouch for this team to say the least. With his save percentage at .897, he ranks an abysmal 37th among NHL goalies. Even if you do not watch hockey, I think you would agree that this team needs a change back there. What about his goals against? That has to be better right? Yeah!! He ranks 37th in the league with a 3.18 goals against average. Now we ask the question “who is the backup” and that is Kevin Poulin, who has yet to get a fair chance on the Island. With two out of three solid outings against two quality teams in Chicago and Boston, I am definitely giving this kid more nods!
The question at hand is: what can the Islanders do? Here is my solution. First things first, do not panic! It is still early in the season and they have Visnovsky, who is still injured and will come back soon and help the defense. Another quick solution is to part ways with Matt Carkner, as he has been nothing but a liability. I would go out and sign Corey Potter off waivers for a cheap price and play him with Donovan over Carkner. As for the goalie problem, I would start giving Poulin more starts over Nabby and if that doesn’t work, it is time for a shakeup in goal.
Mike Basile is a sophomore at York College Of Pennsylvania. He is a huge Sports fan, and when it comes to hockey maybe considered a little obsessive. Giving insight on the Islanders and all things hockey. You can follow him on twitter @mikeybasile1