LESS THAN ZERO – How The NY Islanders Season Blew To Bits

LESS THAN ZERO – How The NY Islanders Season Blew To Bits

 

This season was Doug Weight’s first as head coach where he was able to install his own system. This singular sentence really answers how the 2017-18 season blew-out.

 

Yes, there are other factors, but in the end, the one constant above all others is that this system failed. Furthermore, Doug Weight’s first year as coach was a succession of errors all creating more fractures in this foundation of the new system until the entire season fell into the hole it created. One of the primary reason that it failed is that it depended on solid or at least average to above average goaltending.

The NY Islanders DID NOT get that from either goaltender this year.

You can not play an offensive run and gun up-tempo style with below average goaltending. Then, of course, there were injuries, and then invariably, a collapse of that system that was predicated on speed/aggressiveness. The rookie coaching staff seems to have had no answer on how to address as issues persist. However, to be fair, goaltending still remains substandard.

Back at training camp, long before our hopes and dreams were dashed by crappy goaltending and this unmitigated disaster, Weight and his coaching staff placed a new system that was less shot-blocking and to create better views for the goaltenders to make saves. Add that offensive players were to be more aggressive at the top of the zone, this also left a far looser defensive box.  Unfortunately, despite an increase of offense, this system was suspect even in the first 20 games as both Isles goaltenders seemed to be unable to make key saves.

Of course, there lies a question if the goaltenders had difficulties via that new system. Except for one very big item: that’s their job to make saves. They both didn’t.

No matter the citations of shots, scoring chances, and high danger scoring chance frequency… all of which as a result of the defensive scheme failure INCREASED, the goalies saving rates DROPPED.

Though Halak has been up and down all season, Greiss was far below any average during his career.

 

 

 

THE GREISS FACTOR

Greiss in 5vs5 play was 68.97 save% in high danger save%. This is godawful.

To compare, Greiss last year was 81.68% HDSv.

The year before that? 83.92%

Get the picture?

In fact, if you take the shots at Greiss this year; now take the average of his Save% of the last two years and calculate the expected number of saves from the actual number of saves…. The additional goals HE gave up IS the difference in the team not making the playoffs this year, despite all the issues they had. (If you want to do the Math: 3 goals=1 point, 6 goals=2 points etc…  THEN add to standings. Have fun)

That is a sobering and tremendous downtrend. Just the Greiss Factor alone was the difference of playoffs to outside looking in, no matter what the other annoying and inconsistent issues we saw beyond this.

 

 

THE DEFENSIVE INJURIES BLAME GAME

Yes, defensive injuries do matter. But where it mattered far more is due to the flawed system installed this past summer. Defensive players seemed to have a hard time adapting to this new style. Then, when they did, then injuries happened.

The reason that made Calvin de Haan’s injury so catastrophic, along with Johnny Boychuk, was due to their replacements inability to adapt to that same system. Dennis Seidenberg was horrendous when plugged in for injury. In fact, coaching’s overall dependence on an unskilled depth player like him over bringing up a player like Devon Toews, who was considered just on the cusp of making the team at camp, ended up another key mistake by the coaching staff. Especially when it was clear de Haan wouldn’t be back this season.

De Haan injury: Injured on Dec 16th. Team knew by Dec 18 it was likely a long-term injury.

NHL froze rosters on Dec 19 until December 28th. Nobody is called up before the freeze. Nobody is called up as soon as freeze ends.

Devon Toews: Dec 29th, injured.

Doug Weight: quoted giving lip-service to both Toews and Aho, who are lighting it up at Bridgeport, NEVER calls Toews up before or after. Result: Team goes into 5 game nose-dive in defensive struggles compounding defensive scheme issues. They ran into January in deep trouble.

 

This coaching decision seemed very reminiscent of former coach Jack Capuano’s tenure. The unskilled veteran is meant to be short-term to offset injuries. Once it was longterm, Toews should have been brought up. Instead, he played in the AHL, eventually being injured for the season, as well.

Instead, Sebastian Aho was eventually called up, after finally realizing that Seidenberg was nothing even near his last season stopgap success. Aho did well in the AHL this year, but he was far from as aready as Toews seemed to be.

By then it was far too late. The defensive game and system unraveled completely. The entire team was pulled into the abyss as confidence seemed to seep away. Injuries mounted, and the flawed system installed over the summer was clung to despite all the warning signs that it was failing.

Eventually, the coaching staff brought back elements of last year’s defensive scheme. A tighter shot blocking strategy and a tighter more aggressive system (including the awful Penalty Kill). However, by then injuries were also to Scott Mayfield, further depleting the D. Goaltending was still well below average. No rescue came from any trade or waiver wire.

The season just slipped away.

 

 

THE SNOW FACTOR

Yes, Garth Snow did not rescue this season via trade.

Then again, only one top 4 dman was even traded at the trade deadline… and Ryan McDonagh had the Isles on his no-trade list. Per what I have heard, the Isles WERE interested. However, McDonagh REFUSED to waive that list. So they were not a player to be able to get him.

Plus, let’s be absolutely honest… this team was in shitty shape even by the NHL trade deadline. Let’s not pretend otherwise, anymore.

Could a deal be had earlier??? Hard to say when so little moves made, overall. No matter the fact that a rescue did not happen, it was coaching new system and lack of changing course besides goaltending that seemed to truly run this team aground. The injuries and goaltending only magnified it. Plus, it is TREMENDOUSLY difficult to swap out goaltending. Halak’s reputation is not stellar. Greiss is on a multi-year contract. Not one rumored goaltender moved at the trade deadline. Goaltending was not going to be addressed until the summer, leaving the coaching staff looking for solutions. Not much of a toolbox of experience there. Yes, you are correct… why did they go with that the first place???? Well, we will get to that. 

There is a lot to blame Snow for, especially in being too slow to fire Capuano in the first place. Last season can be hung around his head.

Yes, Snow chose to hire Weight. You are correct.

However, not many seemed to argue with it when the team played at a 107pt pace when he was placed in charge last season.

I believe the Isles ownership, besides key players like John Tavares, were just as enthusiastic to place Weight in-charge. I believe that THESE factors are why Snow is not being hung out to dry by ownership this season. Too many items depend on Tavares/agent. Welcome to franchise players in their walk year.

Hold off on the arguments or complaints. It is what it is. Let’s wipe away the emotional muck and abject disappointment. Yes, this past season was a SHITSHOW. No bones about it. As to who to blame and who to fire… this is totally out of fan control no matter what they think or how many billboards are put up.

For better or worse, this secretive hockey operation and personnel will let everyone think what they want, and not offer any bridge or explanations to fans for their internal decisions. When Garth Snow, and possibly Doug Weight, remain in position after this season, fans will see that this extends to the new ownership, as well.

This ownership likes the longterm strategy in place, and despite the issues and items in the win-now column… (something that drives most long-waiting fans nuts) THAT if Tavares is willing to commit to it, that is good enough for them in their book.

This is an ownership that NEEDS Tavares to help place fans in seats by Belmont. Yes, it is great Matthew Barzal looks like a star. But JT is the face of this franchise. Once Belmont is built, they need star attractions in place. This gives them a bit of time to get the ship righted, as well.

I believe it is due to these factors, besides Snow’s long-term contract (subsequently: large buy-out) that will keep things AS-IS.

What it does mean is ownership better be right on Tavares wanting to remain, or else results will be solely on them. But that is a blog for another day.

 

 

LOOKING BEYOND

As far as I can tell, it looks like Garth Snow will remain GM. Doug Weight could even remain coach, but with a very poignant hard lesson for his rookie year. Yes, there will be lots of questions for year 2 of his tenure next season. They have a lot to get sorted out.

I expect the Isles coaching staff to be scrutinized and jostled.

Ok, let’s list who won’t be back:

Alan Quine, Nikolay Kulemin, Dennis Seidenberg, Thomas Hickey

 

NUMERO UNO:

I fully expect John Tavares to resign this summer. Could I be wrong? Sure. Been wrong before. But, in the end, I have to stick with all I heard last spring and summer from teammates and those around him. It also explains a lot of the things NOT DONE behind-the-scenes, despite fan ire.

OK, now that is out of the way. So let’s go based on this:

Despite all the issues this year, offense from the top 2 lines wasn’t one of them. Now it is about getting line 3 producing and who fills out line 4.

 

Line 1: Lee – Tavares – Bailey

Line 2: Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle

Line 3: Andrew Ladd and two slots open

Line 4: one spot open, Clutterbuck and Cizikas

 

Here are the questions:

Brock Nelson: forget the fan perceptions and complaints. Aka: we’ve heard it before with Calvin de Haan and Josh Bailey. Let’s ignore that, and look at this season itself. He was TERRIBLE. Not a doubt. Now… is that a byproduct of the shitty system and use, plus overall total inconsistency of the line? Or a combination of all these things making a large suckage sound from line 3. I tend to think the latter. However, despite the fan mantra to trade him away, I think his value is diminished. This is why the trade deadline story of Garth Snow refusing an offer for him is not worth freaking out over. It was likely a shitty offer. Could he be traded over the summer? Maybe.  To be honest, he’s fine on line 3 … with the following: as long as that line IS producing.  With Andrew Ladd, who can still score goals and two-way defensive presence, Brock Nelson must show up or can be displaced.

Josh Ho-Sang: A few with a cursory grasp of analytics will point to the production when he was here. However, those who are in the game and in organizations look at the overall line and overall confusion when he played. They all point to that he was not ready. However, since the AHL has yet to fix these items, it can now be pointed to that it should have been addressed on the NHL level. Sending him to the AHL destroyed his trade value… which to be honest, was always on shaky ground. The skillset is there with the puck. Without the puck plus learning the overall NHL game and overall 2-way responsibilities is still his battle.

Keiffer Bellows: His emergence as a high-end prospect seems to make many wonder if he makes Josh Ho-Sang expendable. Expect him to get a LOOOOONG look come camp and if he makes the team, used on line 3. So between him and Ho Sang, competition could be very interesting… especially if they are both competing for one slot.

PREDICTION: It is Ho Sang’s slot to lose. Personally, with Seattle on the horizon, and the Las Vegas trouble in protecting all the players just fresh, I foresee the NY Islanders (and likely the rest of the NHL) wary to push up prospects to playing next year because of protection issues. So Bellows might not be seen until the season after unless he has a boffo camp.

 

 

DEFENSE:

We know the top pair is Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. So let’s move past this.

Let’s talk about the big question of 2nd pairing based on skillsets only…

Based on skillsets, it should be Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech.

Ok, if so, then what of 3rd pair???

Well, there it gets interesting, or, well… concerning… especially after this past year.

We have Scott Mayfield, Brandon Davidson, Sebastian Aho, and Devon Toews now vying for inclusion, as well.

So let’s get right to it…

 

Questions:

How good can Toews and Aho be? AND more importantly… WHEN. The need is NOW… and that is a problem.

Will a top 4 D present themselves for acquisition this summer? Or will Calvin de Haan, though skilled, still an injury risk, be signed?

My guess here is trade is preferred, the rest fills out at the camps, or Calvin de Haan gets another short-term deal to keep equilibrium UNTIL Toews and Aho takes steps.

 

GOALIES: One is the loneliest number

No matter the horrific season or the fan fear, Thomas Greiss will get the opportunity to show he can get himself back together.

The question IS who else?

Soderstrom? Sorokin? Halak? Mrazik? Which #1 do we get next year?

What is totally clear is that the Isles Goalie situation needs the greatest clarity this summer and is the biggest item on their plate, besides on what they do and install on coaching.

 

 

CONCLUSION:

So, yes there are big questions that need answers, deals and a lot of clarity, BUT…. Despite what fans think, the needs are NOT massive. YES, they are CLEAR and IMPORTANT to address. However, there are some big items to our advantage:

  1. How many teams have a top 6 like the NY Islanders?

Yes, the defensive players that we need to get going fast are young. But they will be getting better. The question is HOW MUCH and WHEN.

CAN THE ISLES USE ANOTHER TOP 4 D? Yes.

On line 3 of the Isles offense… this is where they need some help OR decisions to be made.

Above all… coaching staff/systems need a complete review. Expect the Isles organization to finally admit this once the season ends. I’d expect a mea culpa that conforms to many of the items cited here. So don’t be surprised. It was the system, the defense had trouble adapting… poor goaltending was a constant… and then once there were defensive injuries, the coaching staff stuck with this flawed system which the entire team collapsed with. How they solve that should be as important as goaltending.

 

The NY Islanders next season STILL have Barzal, Beau, Bellows, Ho-Sang, young D, AND 4 picks in top 60 this year. The Isles are well-positioned to push to the top of 1st to find help now OR deal to get right pieces in-house this summer.

 

Was this a tough year? Definitely. What a giant mess.

But it is also about time to get real about the team, core, youth, and draft assets that are in their favor.

 

When you wipe away the dust and smoke, there are quite a few things that are not as bleak as emotions seem to suggest.

Questions? Certainly.

Doubts? Sure.

I think biggest doubts, as I cited a few times and earlier are in coaching staff and systems. This system they employed stunk. It failed miserably.

Beyond this, sure, I hear you. Can this GM get it done this summer???? Especially after waiting for items to take place time and time again, from Isles fans point of view.

So from Isles fans point of view… this summer might be quite dim for those who want change. 

 

 

 

 

Some info:

EXAMPLE TO SYSTEMATIC DEFENSIVE SCHEME FAILURE FOR ISLES THIS SEASON:

(via: NaturalStatTrick)

Season (reg players with SA/60 UNDER 30 – Shots Against per 60 min)

17-18 = Only 1 player who is under 30 shots against when on ice. Andrew Ladd.

16-17 = 7 players under 30 shots against on ice. de Haan, Seidenberg, JT, Bailey, Clutterbuck, CC, Kul

15-16 = 8 players under 30 shots against on ice: Lee, Frans, KO, CDH, Hamonic, MM, CC, CB

 

Season (reg players with SCA/60 UNDER 30 – Scoring Chances Against per 60 min)

17-18 = 2 players with under 30 scoring chances against when on ice: Ladd/Kulemin

16-17 = 5 players: JT, CC, CB, Kul, Pelech

15-16 = 9 players: Lee, Frans, KO, de Haan, Hamonic, CC, Clutterbuck, Hickey, Kulemin

 

Season (reg players with HDCA/60 under 12 – High Danger Scoring Chances Against per 60 min)

17-18 = 2 players. Ladd and Kulemin (Kul was under 10)

16-17 = 12 players: JT, Lee, Mayfield, Bailey, Boyck, CDH, CB, Seidenberg, Kul, Pelech, Ladd, BN

NOTE: 3 under 11: Mayfield, CDH, Kulemin

15-16 = 12 players: Lee, Frans, KO, CDH, Strome, CC, CB, Kul, Boyck, BN, Bailey, MM, Zidlicky

NOTE: 4 players were under 11

 

NOTE: Besides defensive injuries accumulated in 17-18, assistant coach changes and Defensive scheme change before the 17-18 season.

 

OBSERVATION: Seidenberg went from 29.31 SA/60 in 16-17 to a whopping 43.61 SA/60 in 17-18 = yet Doug Weight and coaching staff kept going to him over bringing someone up.

About B.D. Gallof

3 comments

  1. Few things
    1) even with the new scheme to let the goalies get a better view of shots, any team that lets up 40-50 goals per game on a regular basis are not going to win. It exhausts the goalies, and they will end up losing games as a result.
    2) Leddy is on the season -34 in +/-. You aren’t going to be successful if you one of your top D men are -34, even if they add something for goals scored.
    3) Will the Islanders re-sign Gibson, give him a shot at the #1 goalie spot, or will htey let him walk as a RFA. If they let him walk,I say give Sodestrom a shot.
    4) how do you feel about letting Ross Johnston play on that 4th line. I think he adds size, toughness, and can put a puck in the net from time to time.
    5) Should the Islanders try to trade boychuck while he still has some value? He is starting to get up there in years and is getting injury prone
    6) will the owners consider firing both Snow and Weight, considering the disappointing season? Especially since Snow has been around a long time now as GM and doesn’t have a whole lot to show for it.

    • Howdy old pal!!!
      1. Can’t play run & gun/up-tempo style with below avg goaltending, then injuries, then system collapse because that system predicated on speed/aggressiveness (with solid goaltending). Remember: goaltending being off was first. the shot disparity came later.
      2. plus/minus is never a good barometer for an individual player. It also is affected by team play, how used, goaltending, etc.
      3. Soderstrom IS coming. So we will see.
      4. He’s not bad. But overall, has little effect on results.
      5. Can’t trade someone with a NMC (no movement clause). He and his wife built a house in Garden City. Not going anywhere.
      6. No. Weight: not sure. Depends on disposition. Snow: prob not.

      • And #1 is why the Bruins are able to get away with it even though there isn’t a huge disparity in overall team talent. Their goaltending and their defensive system in tandem with the run and gun is better than the Isles. Weight showed he isn’t ready for primetime when he didn’t address the systems’ flaws much earlier on.

        Great article!

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