Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Sound Of Silence

Following their statement win against the rival New York Rangers, the Islanders returned home to face a Pittsburgh team that was right behind them in the division standings.  I read a tweet a month or so back (sorry to the author, but I couldn't find it) that stated, "It's exhausting keeping up with the Penguins."  This has stuck with me because, goddammit, it's so true.  Even after winning three in a row, the Islanders were looking at the possibility of being only a point ahead of the Penguins in the division standings (and with one more game played).  Considering the Isles were going into a back-to-back set of games - with a road game in Montreal to follow the contest against Pittsburgh - I personally had a bit of that "Geez, the Pens are still right behind them?" feeling amidst all my happiness.

In the latest example of their never-say-die attitude this season, the Islanders defeated the Penguins by coming back from down a goal in the third period.  Four (!) goals from Kyle Okposo powered the late game charge and gave another sellout Nassau Coliseum crowd an exciting evening.  The very next night, the road game against the Canadiens proved to be as difficult as most people thought it would be.  It was nice to see the "can't win them all" attitude that the team has helped bestow on the fans continue to prevail when such games happen.

The Islanders only had one game in the week leading up to the All-Star break.  It was an opportunity for the Penguins and New York Rangers to make up a game or two on the division leading Isles.  The Rangers continued their good play, winning both their games - one of which was against Pittsburgh.  The Pens lost their other 2 games as well, although they were able to get two points out of those games by losing in OT and a shootout.  The Isles took care of the struggling Philadelphia Flyers to earn their only possible 2 points.  When the players were finally headed out to relax for a few days (those that weren't going to the All-Star game, of course), the Isles had a 3-point lead over the Penguins and a 5-point lead over the Rangers.  Quite a lovely spot to be in with 36 games remaining.

Not only is the All-Star break the unofficial halfway point of the season, but it also kicks off every hockey journalist/sportscaster's dream season.  The NHL trade deadline is a little over a month away and it's time for those rumors and suggestive articles to start flowing.  The Islanders are in a position to try and upgrade their team for the playoffs.  However, as more than a few of those hockey writers have pointed out in the last week, why would general manager Garth Snow want to?  As Arthur Staple of Newsday wrote, "Snow is not remotely focused on adding any pieces to what he and his players feel is a fairly complete roster."

Nothing To See Here

Trade rumors and speculation are fun.  But even before the reports surfaced that very little is expected out of Islanders management on deadline day, I wondered if the cost of doing business at the trade deadline would be too high.  The Islanders (according to the entire Internet) could use a new backup goalie and a left wing for superstar center John Tavares.  I don't disagree with the possible need to replace goalie Chad Johnson, but I've changed my opinion on the need for a top-line wing to play with Tavares and Okposo.  And I don't mean the need for an all-star left wing like the Oilers' Taylor Hall, I'm talking about any available forward.

It's obvious any of the bigger name players will be pricey.  Isles fans have enjoyed watching young players Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Calvin de Haan all year and trading away even one of those guys seems crazy at this point.  And rest assured, every other GM in the NHL would be looking at those young players in order to make any sort of trade.  Plus, Snow has a severe lack of upcoming draft picks, making the inclusion of young prospects even more of a lock.  He could look to use veteran players like Josh Bailey and Michael Grabner to land a forward, but really...why?

The Answer Is 91

I've personally come to believe that trying to give John Tavares a top left wing to play along side is ignoring everything he's proved to be capable of when it comes to linemates.  For some reason, people are forgetting what Tavares has done for many previous partners.  PA Parenteau, Brad Boyes, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson (among others) all increased their personal scoring production while with Tavares.  One could argue that even Thomas Vanek's stint on Tavares' wing resulted in one of the best stretches of Vanek's all-star career.

Why would the Islanders want to trade away any good assets in order to provide Tavares with the type of player that he's already proved he can create on his own?

"Because the team will be even stronger if they did!"

With every passing victory, it's getting harder and harder to say the New York Islanders need to be stronger at their forward positions.  What are we looking for as fans?  To win games by five goals instead of two or three?  Bailey has performed quite well in his recent time with Tavares and Okposo, with 9 points over his last 9 games.  Is that not good enough?

Additionally, even if the coaches feel Josh Bailey isn't the best fit for Tavares and Okposo, switching wingers in and out has seen all of them perform (at least) adequately.  Head coach Jack Capuano has used this option a number of times.  The depth of this Islanders team is its main strength.  The biggest question right now isn't who should be traded, it's who will have to sit when Mikael Grabovski returns from injury.

We Need To Talk About Matt

If there's any move that would be feasible for Snow, it would be to replace current backup goalie Johnson with a more experienced netminder.  Johnson's signing was very good because he was inexpensive and was coming off a very good season.  More than halfway into the season, he hasn't shown the ability to return to those numbers.  His year with Boston is looking like the outlier and not the norm.  With all-star starting goalie Jaroslav Halak being closely monitored for the number of games he is to play, having a capable backup to keep Halak fresh for the playoffs is likely the team's highest priority.

Matt Donovan is going to be a decent (possibly very good) NHL defenseman.  In the handful of games he's played, he's played relatively well.  He must clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL, so he's been stuck with the big team and scratched regularly.  He is the only tradable player on the roster that won't disturb the depth if he's gone.  Plus, he has value (hence the fear of putting him on waivers).  Johnson doesn't have nearly as much, but his cheap contract doesn't hurt.

If I'm hoping for anything on trade deadline day, it's this:
  1. Trade Donovan and Johnson for a more experienced backup goalie.
  2. Don't make any other trades.
Honestly, I'd probably come to terms with Johnson still being on the team after the deadline.  It's possible he improves in the weeks to come.  As long as Halak can rest enough to be as healthy as possible for the playoffs, the team can survive with Johnson back there for another 8-10 games.  After all, they've won 6 of the 11 he's started.

So enjoy the glorious silence of the upcoming trade season, Islanders fans.  For the first time in a long time, your team's management staff can sit back in their chairs and relax while every other team tries to catch up to where they've already been.


  1. Listen ...not a bad article here Almost lost me at goddammit though ..., it's Insulting I don't say it in my life and don't need to read it ( saying it in my head ) I don't like hearing it from people either ...

    Don't gimme that awww the poor alter boy nonsense ..... I'm an F- bomber 1st class

    My point is
    ... all good writers never need that rubbish and find better ways of expression that wont isolate or offend but more importantly ...Show respect for All of their readers ...

  2. Thanks for reading. I'm not the type of person to tell others what should or shouldn't offend them. I simply hope you enjoyed the article enough to continue reading future posts. My goal is that they are as interesting as they are harmless.