Everything Else

Oh right, the Islanders.

It’s not easy to wipe away the buzz and impact of sweeping a long-time tormentor with just the flick of a wrist, but then nothing has been normal about the Islanders since…well, ever. You’re supposed to carry the momentum of a franchise-turning win like the first-round sweep of the Penguins into something that will define this era and be remembered for a while. Scoring five goals in the next four games, including getting two and a half games against the perpetually bewildered Curtis McElhinney reduces that first round to odd trivia shared in various Long Island and New York bars where Tammy from Queens will offer to blow you in the bathroom but won’t remove her bubblegum to do so.

The Islanders sold their soul already, assuming they had one. You can’t blame them, really. This is a franchise that has managed consecutive playoff appearances just once in the past 15 years. So you see why they turned to Barry Trotz, the Jose Mourinho of hockey (though about 1/130th of the asshole). You’ll get results, your defense will improve, but good god it will be about as entertaining as checking your dog for fleas. And if you give him a historic collection of offensive talent, he just might get your team to grunt and belch to a Cup (though it’s important to note no other Trotz team has ever made a conference final, which seems his destiny in wherever the Isles call home). There’s definitely a floor you acquire with Trotz, you’re just going to end up on it if you watch them for more then two weeks straight.

You’ll hear a lot over the coming weeks about how the Isles future is so bright after this. Yes, clearly a GM who has acquired Matt Martin twice and Leo Komarov  for a second team, who has openly admitted he hates playing players anything, and is managing a team with literally no home is sure to steer this club into the sunshine. Nothing hockey players love quite like shaving every day and having to throw a dart to remember where the home game is today! Certainly worked out well for the last big free agent the Islanders had, all the way back to last summer. Can’t help but notice Brock Nelson and Anders Lee haven’t re-upped yet. Perhaps they and their agents are going over the Lamiorello, “Every player is overpaid,” comment and wondering just how much they enjoy life between the highways of Long Island and commuting an hour to an arena where the structure and the fans are constantly off-center.

And the Islanders need them, and then probably another two top six forwards. See how they do that when they’ve never been a free agent destination before. Thomas Vanek once went here to die, I think. Andrew Ladd did die, and he’s only got four years left on his deal. If you sign in Brooklyn in the summer you’re going to end up smelling like Brooklyn in the summer…sweat and mistakes. No, the Isles acquire players when they essentially become Australia and other teams send their unwanted contracts there just to get them off the books. And then they stay, because much like a prison a lot of Islanders realize they don’t belong anywhere else.

Still, this is the Metro Division and you can stay around the top merely by floating for a while. The Penguins are exhausted, the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils are too busy trying to give themselves enemas orally. So maybe your future can remain bright by doing literally nothing and watching everyone else fuck up. That must be what Isles fans are getting at. Assuming both their goalies don’t quit the team to go build the wall on the Texas border themselves, or bring guns into the dressing room (which is hilarious, because would the NHL actually punish anyone for doing that?).

But hey, the Islanders have now won a round in consecutive playoff appearances, which they haven’t done since 1985. And yes, those playoff appearances are three years apart, but when you’re an Isles fan or player you have to grab onto whatever you can. That, and perhaps the most boisterous atmosphere in the league, for the 10 games the Isles play on Long Island that is. Just another lesson in how Brooklyn pretty much ruins everything. Tell us about your parking lot tailgates again though, which you have to have because there’s literally nothing else in Nassau. Is Nassau even a place? I don’t know and I don’t care and no one else does either. It only is inhabited because Robert Moses built a kingdom on getting white people to flee black people. And the only team that belongs in Brooklyn plays in Chavez Ravine.

So farewell to the Islanders, who will spend the next few years wondering if an arena can be built next to Belmont Race Track, which will hinge basically on how to get at train to go backwards efficiently. No really, it will. You have to take a moment to realize the wonder of a sports organization longing to get to a nowhere place like Elmont, NY. Every other team wants to get downtown, the Islanders want to get to a freeway exit. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.



Everything Else

Well this is a waste of time.

It would appear the New York Islanders didn’t really have a Plan B if John Tavares left. Their hook-and-lateral was to hire Lou Lamiorello to somehow convince JT that they really meant it this time. Now with him off to Toronto, Lou is free to fistfuck this team into oblivion because the game passed him by at least seven years ago and he hates pretty much every player in the league. They’re going to split time with this dreck between Nassau and Brooklyn, as the two communities try and foist this team off on each other in a real, “Hmm, this sauce tastes like shit here try it,” kind of fashion. This is Mathew Bartzal and his misspelled first name and opening band roadies.

There just isn’t much here, so let’s get through it quickly so we don’t get infected.

Goalies: This has been a bugaboo for the Islanders for a while, and it doesn’t appear to have gotten much better. Thomas Greiss has finally wrangled the full-time starting role from the departed Jaro Halak. Well, he didn’t take it so much as Halak got old, was allowed to leave, and Greiss was just about the only person around to clean up the mess. He was at .892 last year, which REEL BAD. Greiss has flashed being NHL starting-quality before, posting years of .913 or .925 the previous two campaigns while splitting time with Halak. But it would seem to be a longshot that he’s going to star in the role.

He could be easily usurped by Robin Lehner. Lehner certainly had his troubles in Buffalo, but if he’s past those he has flashed being a plus-starter before in both Ottawa and Buffalo. You certainly are rooting for him, and there isn’t much here to keep him from the crease unless Greiss goes off in an unpredictable fashion. Neither would seem to provide enough to cause the Islanders to surprise, however.

Defense: Oooh boy. This is still an outfit that’s going to toss Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk out as a top pairing, when both are most certainly second pairing players. The hope will be that Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech (and don’t worry if you transpose Pulock and Pelech, You wouldn’t be the first), make THE LEAP. Pulock might be the real keeper of the group, as he was the most dominant possession player they had last season.

It actually could be a nifty unit if two of the three kids can take the biggest responsibilities off of Leddy and Boychuk, who simply have never been up to it. That seems like a big ask of three neophytes who were restricted to second and third pairing duty last year. Also, Thomas Hickey is here to dutifully man the second pairing puck-moving role, as he’ll be doing for the next 45 years it feels like. Hickey is one of those players who define the word, “fine.”

Forwards: It was only natural that as soon as he took the seat in the office wherever the Isles deign to place it these days, Nosferatu Lamiorello saw fit to bring in Matt Martin in a glorious return to New York to get mistaken for Jacob deGrom. He also brought in Leo Komarov to provide…well, a dude who smells bad on the bottom six. Those are basically the only additions to a team that lost John Tavares and still finished with only 80 points last year.

The top six will actually be ok in Tavares’s absence. Barzal will slide up to the top line, and he’s most certainly capable of shouldering that. Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier are certainly dynamic, shifty wingers who make things happen. Anders Lee will score no matter what, it’s just a matter of whether you should give a shit or not. Brock Nelson will slide back to center, which isn’t his best spot but it’ll do. Josh Bailey has been a sneaky good winger for about five seasons now. You can do worse than that.

But this bottom six…WOOF. The aforementioned Martin and Komarov are going to be a waste of everyone’s time. Cal Clusterfuck is the wrong side of 30 and those who play that kind of style do not age well. Cizikas started to back up last year, and again bottom line centers don’t age well even if he’s only going to be 28. Andrew Ladd died three years ago. Barzal and Nelson are going to have to freak the fuck off this year or the Islanders simply won’t score.

Outlook: Even with Barry Trotz parachuting in here like a neckless Mighty Mouse, they’re up against it. As stated, this was an 80-point team last year that lost one of the best centers in the game and didn’t add much. The goaltending solidifying would be a big help and there’s a chance that could happen, but they look awfully short all over the ice. It’s a rebuilding year, and the goal of the year might be flogging Eberle, Nelson, and Lee at the deadline for whatever can be found. If they can’t be built around, that is. It’s going to be a long year, wherever the Isles call home.

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

Everything Else

If the Hawks basically sat out the free agent period, let’s spin around the league and see what’s what now that the important stuff has shaken out.

-Clearly the biggest story of the upcoming season is going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just in the heads of their fans and media (which is really the same thing anyway). Whatever you might think of “Computer Boy” Kyle Dubas or their enclosed world view, this kind of “Fuck It I’m Throwing Deep” move is really rare in the NHL. Steve Yzerman gets praised for doing it, and really all he’s done is trade for Ryan McDonagh (though he might get Karlsson which would really be a one-up on the Leafs and send a good portion of their fanbase into their toy-filled basement…oh wait they never left there).

The question is how much better does this make them. Because they’ve lost Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk to accommodate John Tavares, and that’s some 50 goals or more going out the door. Sure, Tavares improves whatever winger he’s with but almost certainly not to the level of the departed JVR.

And the Leafs still don’t really have anything on defense, though that unit was improved by stripping it of Roman Polak because Mike Babcock will play him. They’re still counting on a step forward from Morgan Rielly, but I think we know what he is at this point which is a pretty good rhythm guitarist but not a lead. Maybe a similar leap from Travis Dermott fills in these gaps, and as the Penguins and Knights have proven you don’t have to have a star-studded blue line to win, just one that gets it up to the forwards quickly and doesn’t wet itself in its own end.

Of course, those teams has top-end goaltending, and I don’t know how many Game 7 meltdowns people have to watch Freddie Andersen have before concluding he’s just good enough to break your heart. He’s only 28, and I suppose this is the time where he would  turn the corner if that’s going to happen. Still, you’re not getting past Tampa or Boston without goaltending, you’d think they’d know that already.

-Meanwhile, a little closer to home the Blues have also been aggressive, taking the ballast from the Leafs’ ship in the form of Tyler Bozak and trading for Ryan O’Reilly. This makes the Blues the most solid down the middle team in the division this side of Winnipeg. And yes, even more than Nashville because Ryan Johansen is facedown in a pile of ding-dongs right now and Kyle Turris just has that same bewildered look on his face. The Blues will still self-destruct trying to prove once again that Jay Gallon won’t shoot them all in the face accidentally, but they’ll probably rack up 100+ points before that happens. The Perron contract is stupid because he’s not spasming that season again and he’ll just fold under all the selfish penalties he takes, but they’re getting Fabbi Robbri back and if they can keep something from falling off Jaden Schwartz again they’ll be pretty dynamic. Sucks when they show more urgency than the Hawks do.

-Meanwhile, in the darkened and abandoned garage that has been the state of the Islanders for a good 30 years now, Lou Lamiorello continues to piss on his Hall of Fame pedigree by taking a team backwards. It’s one thing to lose out on re-signing Tavares, because hey that happens. But then to back it up by bringing in the stone-handed and stone-headed combo of Matt Martin and Leo Komarov, and then complain that every player is overpaid, sets this team back even more. As we’ve stated, Nofera-Lou hasn’t done anything in a decade to convince anyone the game hasn’t passed him by, and once he’s done turning into the Isles into something so foul they stop construction on the new arena halfway through maybe everyone else will realize.

Contrast that with Stan Bowman actively cheering Artemi Panarin to hit his bonuses in the press even though it would cause him a headache, or how the Hawks and other teams are so happy to pay their players, and maybe you start to see why most think working for Lou is a miserable experience. But it’s the Islanders, so is anyone really going to notice?