“We just aren’t getting any puck luck right now.”

– Jack Capuano after a 4-1 loss versus the Flyers.  

The lack of progress of Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson might be the swan song of this season if the Islanders are not careful.

Last summer, the Isles brass made two important decisions. One paid off handsomely: Signing Greiss as their backup goaltender. Their other decision might wash all that success away: they felt that the next step for their kids would be enough of a difference on offense.

Now as we all careen through March, the Islanders are slumping, looking for offense. Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson, and just lately, Anders Lee, are nowhere to be found.

In theory and NHL practice, it is proper to assume that 2 or 1 of the 3 would step-up and improve this year while the other 1 or 2 held at the same level. Instead: all three regressed. This is starting to look like more than just bad luck…

So, since there has been clear regression in all three key offensive cogs, there is only one thing to point to… especially after a fair amount of cajoling, motivation, and tough love. Player performance might be on the players, but overall performance vs regression is on the coaching staff.

There are a few items this year that have led to some glaring flaws on the Islanders, despite the overall success until the last 7 games:

  • Both Nick Leddy & Johnny Boychuk are not playing their all-star level of possession play that we all saw over one year ago. Possession has stuttered with and on them at times this season. Leddy has shown glimmers. Boychuk has seemed more top 4 dman than top pair dman this season.
  • The Isles main scoring has been streaky at best.
  • Possession and lack of offensive progress, and regression, is starting to effect their best player: John Tavares. This is now starting to pervade the entire team.

Lately, coach Jack Capuano, has pointed to puck luck as being the culprit as they spin into the playoff ether. Though the Isles PDO was slightly above average before this slump, and dropped, there is something else also coming for the ride:

  • Analytical hypocrisy from the coaching staff who will cite PDO analytics with one breath, yet play the analytically substandard Brian Strait over rookie Ryan Pulock time and time again. Pulock, who could add a bit off a curve into that PDO drop with his booming shot and offensive prowess…. even if only used in 3rd pairing minutes.
  • The Islanders are being out-worked and out-hustled throughout this slump.
  • Greiss, as I stated before all this, would look more and more human the more he is played with Halak out. This also has happened. He is not only no longer stealing games, he is starting to lose traction at the top level on stats. This will continue.

What now?

Here we all are, staring into an abyss, on a playoff wild card precipice. Some big items are starting to come clear….

  1. The Islanders previous run before the slump was unable to get any distance from the rest of the NHL pack. The Eastern Conference has just been too tight. Instead, they were only able to keep pace. We then start to be haunted by the rest of the East teams moves last summer and trade deadline to improve themselves. Perhaps… as others like CBS New York’s Jeff Capellini has suggested throughout this season… had the Isles anted-up last July or even the trade deadline… they would have an extra piece in their pocket to help them out. The opposing argument to this… especially based on trade deadline deals is: Not one team seems to be playing any better since the NHL deadline due to additions. So we might be stepping into a slight bit of fan fantasy here.
  2. However: I point more to this, over another else – Coaching has not been able to solve kids regression. We must then begin to assume that coaching is now adding or persisting this regressing. We have seen flaws throughout Capuano’s tenure. The problem of being a playoff team and higher expectations, is those flaws become more evident. This slump might be ringing like a clarion bell here. This could very well become this season’s epitaph.This season should be the ultimate gauge and tell-tale heart of Jack Capuano’s future. Unless they break out of this in the next few games, the writing is on the wall for the Isles management….

Hopefully they are paying attention and not buying puck luck woes.