Let’s play devils advocate for a second here, shall we?
And I’m not talking about the horrendous acting that was very prevalent in the 1997 film of the same name by Al Pacino and Keanu Reaves (although I did enjoy the premise of the movie).
The New York Islanders have had a very good off-season. That is by all accounts, not just mine. General manager Garth Snow went out with a set plan in mind and executed it.
He addressed the team’s biggest need in the crease, signing Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson; fortified an already emerging offensive lineup with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin and signed all of his restricted free agents to league and team friendly, smart extensions.
What this has all led to is an avalanche of optimism and emotion heading into what will be the team’s last season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. But questions still remain, among the moves made and some still not made.
So what if?………
Jaroslav Halak cannot repeat his injury-free 2013-14 season in which he posted a .921 save percentage along with a sturdy 2.21 goals against average.
A loaded question with an easy answer. The Islanders season would pretty much be decimated by a long-term injury to Halak or a crumbling under the pressure of repeated defensive breakdowns to a goals against north of 2.75.
Chad Johnson is an adequate backup and provides New York with a strong duo unseen on Long Island for some time but let’s give ourselves a reality check. He didn’t start more than 5 games prior to last season’s 27 with Boston, whose defensive corps will never be confused with the Islanders at the present time. He’s 28 and has a total of 37 NHL starts.
Josh Bailey doesn’t figure out the Okposo rule and breakout as a 25 year old.
Travel back in time with me why don’t you. 24-year-old Kyle Okposo enters the 2012-13 season and goes on to produce an anemic 4 goals in 48 games. Turning 25 in April of that same season, he realizes his potential in the playoffs, producing 3-1-4 in 6 games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With renewed confidence, he rides that momentum into 2013-14 and a spot along captain John Tavares, setting career highs with 27-42-69 in 71 games.
Yes, Bailey had a strong finish to last season, ending with a career high 30 assists and 38 points in 77 games. But much more is expected out of the forward. He most certainly has talent and if he could only harness his ability to shoot the puck, would more than likely be in the 18-20 goal range that most predicted for him. But how much longer will the Islanders wait?
Clearly suffering from a severe lack of self-confidence which shattered Bailey’s season almost from the 10 game mark to post Tavares injury, he needs to realize his potential this season or it might be an experiment for another club to entertain.
Snow is not able to find a suitable deal for a top 4 defender prior to opening night.
This is the question sure to drive social media into an absolute feeding frenzy. I might be one of a very small crowd that doesn’t think a deal is necessary for the Islanders to flourish this season.
As professionals, you are expected to learn from your mistakes and work harder in the off-season than the year prior to make yourself bigger, stronger and faster. If you can’t follow those 2 simple directives, what are you doing here anyway?
If you add Griffin Reinhart to the mix, and I do believe he has a spot to lose coming into training camp, the Islanders are over-loaded with newly signed T.J Brennan, Carkner, Czuczman, Hamonic, Hickey, Strait, Visnovsky, de Haan and Matt Donovan. With only 6 dressed and 1 scratch, you can see the dilemma here.
And that’s to even make no mention of Scott Mayfield, Ville Pokka, Andrey Pedan or Ryan Pulock awaiting their turn.
Camp is going to be very competitive and should be used by the coaching staff to decide which of these 10 stuck to the gameplan and has advanced their game to the next level.
After all, with all that has been discussed and seen in the world of the NHL trade and free agency market, you cannot still possibly believe that teams just give top 4 D-men away can you? Guys like Keith Yandle, Johnny Boychuk and the like will not be had for a bag of pucks. Johnny Oduya or Nick Leddy from Chicago perhaps? Much more likely, and in that case, there best be a defenseman going back in the deal.
Obviously, the biggest question mark in all of this is the status of the elder statesman, Visnovsky. Coming off two concussions from a year ago, some suspect he still is not right. His comments at Islanders media day after the conclusion of the regular season did nothing to quell those fears.
It’s time for the Hamonic’s to step up. The Reinhart’s to prove themselves. de Haan to continue his solid, steady play and stay away from injuries and Matt Donovan to take a huge step in defensive responsibility.
I know those are a ton of question marks, but it can be done. The pedigree is certainly there.
Head coach Jack Capuano cannot get over the annual November swoon.
Jack Capuano is a good man who I believe has a smart hockey mind. There really are no logical answers to the annual November swoon that has plagued this club for his almost 4 full years in charge. It always seems to derail the Islanders chances by Christmas, save the 48 game lockout shortened campaign.
At the end of the day, however, it has to change. It cannot be allowed to continue and for that reason, Capuano is believed to be on a short leash entering the 2014-15 campaign. And he should be.
Snow has gone out and made sure the lineup is as ‘NHL-ready’ as its ever been in his tenure on Long Island. He will have many lineup decisions to make, starting with training camp cuts.
Those decisions will likely formulate the beginning of the answer to how long he remains behind the bench.
I don’t like to blame coaches for players not performing. On the other hand, all coaches, even the all-time greats, have what it considered to be a shelf life. You never really know when the expiration date is, but my guess is that Capuano is getting awful close to his.
I’m sure you all have your thoughts on these and other topics as we get closer to the month of death in the National Hockey League; August.
Let me know in the comments section below and let’s get some dialogue going. It could prove to be very therapeutic to us all.