Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

This is about closing out the past and moving on. 

As you well know, I was big on some aspects of the Garth Snow regime. However, in the last few years, many forget that I was one of his largest critics, along with criticism of the Isles org and Charles Wang’s handling of the Lighthouse Project. So much so, that before Chris Botta had his credentials removed, I had also in the heat of the Lighthouse Project battle. I had warned him if they came for me, they would come for him. Indeed they did. 

However, our circumstances are different. And the past… well is the past. I have been able to get credentialed access since, besides access with the NHL all along. Though I still wait for the NY Islanders to explain and sort those old items out. C’est la vie. They have never been proactive. Instead… just reactive. That is probably their biggest organizational weakness over the years that still drives me nuts. 

What I liked during the Snow years was their analytical drafting and use of it. What irked me was their failure with Scott Gordon, Jack Capuano, and then with Doug Weight to stick with it and use it heavily.

Garth Snow made his bed. His constant use of neophyte coaching and failure to fly when new ownership climbed aboard with two stilted season disappointments were the final nails in his coffin. The NY Islanders would have made the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season had Jack Capuano been fired a few weeks before. The 2017-2018 season needed Thomas Greiss just to play his usual average for the Isles to at least be a playoff bubble team. This despite many issues and problems. 

I believe that the kids in the system, analytic use, and their framework were and are working. If anything, they should have entrusted it more. Besides used experienced coaching and staff to work with the problems rather than be ruled and victimized by them instead. Not to mention their player development has not been good for years and never been addressed by the new owners until finally hiring Lou this offseason. 

Tyler Dellow of The Athletic said back on July 3rd in a podcast: “I actually like the way the Isles draft. I think they are a progressive team when it comes to drafting. I suspect they are a team that pays a lot of attention to numbers and what-not.”

Indeed they do, Tyler. Their draft guy is also their Director of Analytics. And he was used by Lou Lamoriello this past draft once again at the end of the table with Lou and company. 

For those who like to diminish analytics… championship teams don’t, but flat earth believers probably do. The fact is that all winning teams in all professional sports now use analytics heavily. So while it might not be the be-all, end-all, it certainly plays an important role. Baseball. Basketball. Hockey. You name it. It is now also used heavily in business and marketing. 

We are in an age of data analytics and the need for more data. This is why the NY Islanders also continue to work with Iceberg Analytics this coming season, which I reported back in an earlier blog on the subject.Last year, Bloomberg broke a story on how the NY Islanders were moving over to Iceberg Analytics, a Russian company. Previously, they had been tied to POWER SCOUT HOCKEY.

Now we have Lou Lamoriello. He’s the top piece to the NY Islanders hockey operations, and conduit and answerable to Scott Malkin. Jon Ledecky’s name has NEVER been uttered by Lou. Which remains most interesting. 

Lou took over the general management of the NY Islanders and tossed Snow and Weight out their positions. No problem there. Especially in getting very seasoned coach Barry Trotz to be the coach right off finally winning a Stanley Cup. A great get. 

However, there is one weakness that might be showing itself. A lack of analytical use in free agent signings and trades. 

Lou Lamoriello was never an analytics guy. It is what caused his eventual demise in New Jersey, while also handing out overpaid and lengthy contracts to declining veterans and lesser players.

But then he took charge of highly analytical Toronto. However, Brendan Shanahan was his boss, and HE BELIEVED in analytics. 

Now Lou is here, and one has to wonder how much did that analytics use and new NHL rubbed off on an old dog. Enough to continue with their drafting and scouting. But when it comes to actual GM moves…. Eh, not so much thus far. 

Yes, he did add some grit and physical aspects. But that’s it. 

We all know the Islanders lacked in puck possession and goal differential. None of those signings helped there. Especially tying in more bottom 6 forwards to multi-year deals.

I’m all for improvement over the likes of Alan Quine, Shane Prince, and Tanner Fritz. But the new NHL really requires that GMs that want to bring in grit and physicality then they have to also make sure they are bringing in other analytical attributes to help on other weak points. The Isles had many and still do. That’s my issue with their offseason moves thus far. 

So here we are now with a team whose present and future is now based on 3 assumptions that seem to be coming along for the ride:

1. Lou is an elite GM who can make the big significant deal (despite contrary evidence of over 10 years). As I have cited, Isles owners are pushing for a move because they don’t want to go backward. The desire is to win.

2. This coach, who fans in two cities termed an underachiever until this year, has been given by that GM all the burden and WILL improve the team with a weaker lineup. And remember, the goal isn’t playoff appearances right? It’s banners, parades, etc. This is why Malkin allowed Lou to spend $20 million on a coach. 

3. Prospects, all of whom drafted by Garth and staff including this year, will become significant NHL players. Which I do think many will. Matt Barzal had a boffo year. Anthony Beauvillier is coming along. So is Ryan Pulock. Adam Pelech will work well in the middle pair. Is Keiffer Bellows ready to make the team? Can Josh Ho-Sang? Hard to think so thanks to that crowd and multi-year deals. We will see. Devon Toews should be ready to compete for a spot on defense. 

But is this a team that can assure playoffs right now? Remember, you don’t win a cup without at least two star level players, and one or two just below that level. That seems way off now. 

So there seems to be an expectation of winning out the gate and rise that might not be there at the start. 

But if we look at the team construction thus far, it seems that Lou is looking to have a season of assessment and estimation, no matter what he says. He added protection and locker room personalities over possession metrics and goal differential thus far. This might indicate either of two things…

1. Despite owners wishes and word otherwise, Lou knows this season is more about assessment, adopting a new system, and this is a bigger retooling that can be done in one offseason, UNLESS a trade or next offseason presents new opportunities to improve. 

2. Lou is ignoring analytic best practices in GM moves thus far because he has not learned enough in Toronto and is still old school, which will be a detriment to the organization as long as he remains GM.

Pray it is #1. 

I remain concerned, but hey, the games should have a lot more hits and fights! The problem is with hits and fights… they tend to happen more when you don’t have the puck and usually… when you are losing. 

Yes, the past is the past… for us. Let us hope that is the case for Lou, as well. 

Onward.

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