The Isles’ Struggle Between The Pipes

The New York Islanders have started the season with a lot of offense, but their goaltending may become the crutch that prevents them from propelling further up the standings.

The Isles presently have the third best scoring offense in the league, having totaled 54 goals in 14 games, sitting only behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. However, when looking at goals scored against, the Islanders are 21st in the league with 46 having found the back of their net.

This is a team stat, which means that the Islanders might need to start focusing more on their overall defensive play in front of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. But on the other hand, it may also indicate that the team is not getting the best of play out of their two goaltenders.

Halak has played in nine games and has won five of them. He sports a 2.82 GAA, which is okay at best. The real concern is his save percentage. Halak has allowed three or more goals in seven of the eight games in which he has started, which has resulted in his save percentage being a mere .906%.

Unfortunately, his partner between the pipes has not been any better.

Greiss has started six games thus far and has allowed three or more goals in four of them. Three of those games included four, five, and six goals against, causing his save percentage to plummet to an alarming .896% along with a 3.75 GAA.

Right now, both net-minders are playing well below their expectations. Halak is also in his contract year, which typically leads to a player elevating his game (cough, cough, John Tavares, cough cough), which makes it really frustrating to see that he isn’t at his best. Greiss, who has helped carry this team in the past when Halak has been injured, has proven that he can be better and will need to be, especially since he is signed for another two seasons.

The Islanders clearly have a high powered offense that has been helping them win hockey games. Tavares has led the way with 12 goals on the year, which is good enough for second best in the league. Mathew Barzal has continued to look more comfortable at the NHL level, having assisted on five goals last night, setting a new Islanders rookie record. Anders Lee remains a force to be reckoned with in front of the net, and Josh Bailey is performing as the playmaker the organization always believed he would become. And, as of last night, the Islanders defense is finally starting to score some goals as well.

If Halak and Greiss can find a way to improve their play to the level that it needs to be, the Islanders may be able to challenge for a top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division.

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Josh Bailey is the Real Deal

Josh Bailey had a career year in the 2017 season. He scored 13 goals and 43 assists for 56 points, his highest points total by a margin of 15, and a 24-point improvement from the year before.

Many hockey fans and pundits attributed last year’s success to being placed on the wing of John Tavares and opposite of Anders Lee, forming the Islanders’ top line last season.

The trio was most recently reunited during the team’s 6-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. Tavares had his second hat trick of the season that night, with Bailey assisting on his third goal which happened to be on the power play as well.

Prior to earning that assist, Bailey found himself tied for the team lead in points with Tavares. Tavares’ hat trick has given him the lead, but Bailey’s helper allowed him to maintain his point-per-game pace as he now has 11 in as many games played.  

However, Bailey’s previous 10 points came without him playing with Tavares. He had seen some time on the “Killer B’s” line with Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, and has also played with forwards such as Andrew Ladd.

His ability to shift throughout the line-up proves that Bailey continues to be a very versatile forward for the New York Islanders coaching staff, but it also might prove that last year’s success wasn’t a fluke or sole by-product of playing with the Islanders’ captain.

It looks like Bailey could finally be the player that the New York Islanders organization always envisioned him becoming.

Bailey’s development after being rushed into the NHL straight out of the 2009 draft has been heavily criticized over the years. He was kept from competing in the World Junior Championships during his rookie season, and was then back to the minors at times in the years that followed. Although he was a responsible two-way forward, he never fully emerged as the play-making center that they thought he would be.

Now, Bailey is often seen on the wing, which has allowed him to produce more offensively these past two seasons. His confidence has grown greatly, and he has scored some major highlight reel goals. I mean did you see that between-the-legs goal against the Sharks this month?

It also probably helps that Bailey is in his contract year and will be looking to cash in big next season. Whether or not he will be re-signing with the Islanders will remain in question until this summer, but one thing that looks like it could be very possible is that Bailey’s success has not been a fluke – it’s the real deal.

Barzal May Need Bridgeport

Mathew Barzal has been touted as the future number two center of the New York Islanders behind John Tavares. The role was given to him this year straight out of training camp, and so far, he doesn’t seem completely ready.

Barzal has dressed for all six games with the Isles and currently has only one assist. He is only 20 years old, meaning that his lack of production at such an early stage of the season is nothing to fret over. However, it seems that he may not be ready to handle the responsibilities that the team envisions for him, and may need to be sent down to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.

Barzal has come to the Islanders fresh out of the WHL, having bypassed the transition from Junior hockey to the AHL. Some added time developing with the Islanders’ minor league affiliate would help him handle the responsibilities of being a top-six forward at the professional level before assuming his intended role with the big club.

And who knows? We could see Barzal back up here quickly if he were to be sent down and did enough to impress both the coaching staff of the Sound Tigers and Islanders.

But sending Barzal to Bridgeport would open a hole at center, which doesn’t exactly help a team that is looking for a productive second line. It’s possible that head coach Doug Weight could move Josh Bailey back to the center position and then re-tool his forward lines, but that also doesn’t address the lack of fire power on a team that is still searching for it’s first power play goal of the season.

Could GM Garth Snow possibly pull the trigger on a deal that would pry Alex Galchenyuk, a forward the Isles were rumored to have interest in trading for this past summer, from the Montreal Canadiens?

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Habs GM Marv Bergevin has reportedly been seen at a handful of Isles games this year, and it has been widely speculated that he could be looking to move Galchenyuk, despite having received a new contract from his club this past summer.

The former third overall pick has been struggling this year with the Habs, having been demoted to the fourth line and held to only one goal in five games played.

Galchenyuk is more than a fourth line forward. He put up 44 points in 61 games played last season, as well as 30 goals and 56 points the season before that when he dressed for all 82 games.

In fact, the year he posted 56 points was the same in which the Habs decided to move him from the wing, and utilize him up the middle. He has since been moved back to the left wing position.

Perhaps Galchenyuk would benefit from a change of scenery. Acquiring him from the Canadiens would allow him to slip into that second line center position, while giving Barzal the opportunity to groom his game with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

This is all purely speculation, but it is intriguing to see that the GM of the Canadiens has been spending so much time watching the Islanders play.

It’s Time For Pulock to Play

Ryan Pulock made the New York Islanders roster straight out of training camp, but has yet to dress for his first game of the 2017-2018 season.

We previously discussed that there would be a log jam on the Islanders’ blue line, but the recent play of their defense should indicate that Pulock deserves a look.

Pulock, who was drafted 15th overall in the 2013 draft class, posted 15 goals and 31 assists in 55 games played for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. He has a canon of a slap shot, and is a defender that the Isles envision quarterbacking the power play for years to come; a power play that is currently powerless.

The Islanders are still searching for their first goal with the man-advantage after completing their third game of the season, a resilient 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

During today’s tilt, the Islanders had a whopping stretch of 4:38 of power play time with 1:22 of that frame becoming a 5-on-3 advantage. Although they mustered plenty of shots, the Isles failed to score.

A lot of that was due to the impressive play of Jake Allen, who turned aside 40 of 42 shots today.

Pulock’s booming shot could provide an added spark when the Isles have the man-advantage.

Although his contributions on offense would be a nice addition, Pulock might be a positive change to the line-up on the defensive side of things as well.

Calvin de Haan, who many expect to have another career year as he is eligible for free agency next season, has become the recent public enemy in the eyes of Isles fans.

de Haan was guilty for two major mishaps in the Isles’ 5-0 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, and was also the culprit for another cross-ice giveaway in the defensive zone that led to a goal by the Blues this afternoon.

This is not to say that de Haan’s season is automatically written off. After all, he has only played three games. But perhaps de Haan’s recent blunders can open up an opportunity for Pulock to be inserted into the line-up.

Pulock has succeeded at every other level and is ready to play at the NHL. A modest 1-1-1 record is an okay start, but perhaps Pulock’s slap shot and defensive awareness would be a welcomed push for the team.

The Islanders Could Really Use a Good Ladd

Andrew Ladd will have to be a key component with the Isles top-six forwards in order for them to have a successful year.

Ladd’s debut season with the New York Islanders was a very sub-par performance. He began the year with only three points in the first 21 games of the season, and finished the year with only 31 points overall; the lowest scoring total he has posted since his sophomore season in 2007, where he scored 21 points in 65 games with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ladd’s poor play resulted in him being shuffled across all four lines, likely making it more difficult for him to find his niche within the Isles line-up.

However, he managed to finish the season with 23 goals, which ranked third best on the team behind John Tavares’ 28 and Anders Lee’s 34.

One of the most alarming stats was that he only bagged eight apples on the year, the least amount he has ever posted aside from his rookie season in 2006, when he only dressed for 29 games.

Looking at Ladd’s stats, he has traditionally been a scorer of 40-60 points when playing at his best. In fact, in his three previous seasons before signing with the Isles, Ladd consecutively scored 54, 62, and 46 points.

He is a notorious slow starter. During his last year in Winnipeg, the Islanders’ broadcast team displayed his stats from the previous year at around the 15-game mark and showed that both years were comparable in regards to his production up until that point in the season.

Perhaps he will have a better start under head coach Doug Weight, who is a close friend of his and someone that will likely utilize him in the best roles that he knows he can play.

Even if Ladd doesn’t score a lot of goals right off the bat, he can at least help his line-mates find the back of the net with more than just eight helpers.

During training camp and pre-season, Weight has Ladd on the wing next to Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey. Joshua Ho-Sang has also seen some time in place of Barzal on this line as well.

Ladd is going to have to be productive if he is to play with one of the Islanders’ top young rookies this season. Not only will he be setting an example of how to play at the NHL level, he will also be looked upon to help push their development in their first major league season.

Not to mention that Ladd also carries a contract with six years remaining, paying him a team high $7.5 million dollars this season, and an annual cap hit of $5.5 million.

The Islanders really could use a good Ladd for the 2017-2018 season.

Prepare To See The Best of John Tavares

John Tavares has delivered some memorable seasons for the New York Islanders, but it seems that the 2018 season may be the year where he takes the league by storm.

It came to no surprise that he was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders in 2009, having already possessed an impressive resume. He was named the CHL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and the Player of the Year in 2007, before completing his OHL tenure In 2009 with a total of 215 goals, breaking the previously set record of 213 by Peter Lee.

All of this was completed after he received “exceptional player” status, which granted him entry into the OHL at the early age of 14. The same was attempted with his NHL draft status. Many pushed for him to be entered into the 2008 class, but were unsuccessful (to the Islanders’ advantage).

He also won gold medals while playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in 2008 and 2009, and named MVP in the latter tournament, scoring eight goals and 15 assists in six games played.

Steven Stamkos would end up going first overall in 2008 and has since blossomed into one of the most exciting players in the NHL. However, soon after the 2008 draft ended, many began to quickly look to 2009, expecting Tavares to go first overall.

He quickly burst onto the NHL scene, scoring his first goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on opening night in 2009 at Nassau Coliseum.

Since then, JT has amassed 235 goals, 302 assists and 537 points while skating in 587 games wearing the blue and orange jersey.

His best season came when he tallied 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points in 2015, falling one point shy of the league lead, which led to him finishing the year as a Hart Trophy Finalist for the league MVP.

Tavares’ point production has steadily declined since then, respectively scoring 70 and 66 points in the last two years.

Despite the decrease in numbers, Tavares has still maintained himself as one of the top players in the Metropolitan Division, as well as one of the most dynamic centers in the NHL. His strength and creativity with the puck has not only helped him lead his team as a captain on the ice, but also improve the play of his line-mates as well.

But there still seems more to his game than what we have already seen.

Tavares is now heading into the final year of his current contract. He has said and done all of the right things; that he wants to remain a New York Islanders player for the rest of his career. Yet the lack of uncertainty faces the franchise’s arena situation over the next few years seems to be what is slowing the talks of a contract extension that could have technically been signed on July 1st.

Previous reports have also stated that money is not the issue, which has only further fueled the speculation that whether or not the Islanders will be playing in a new home in Belmont or forced to play on the terrible ice in Brooklyn is the reason for the hold up.

Other fans are concerned with some of management’s decisions regarding player personnel as well. Acquiring Jordan Eberle, a former teammate of Tavares when playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships, was a sign that GM Garth Snow was looking to improve his first line by finding his star player some added support on the wing. But thus far, this is the only move that Snow has made, and the type of move that many feel should have been made years ago.

If Tavares decides that he is not going to re-sign with the Islanders next season, he will definitely be looking for a long-term contract that pays near $10 million dollars per season (which is likely what he would get from the Islanders if he does decide to re-sign).

The Islanders are committed to their star forward, and should have no problem coughing up that kind of cash. But the best way that Tavares can ensure that he is rewarded with this type of deal, regardless of what team he plays for next season, is by having the best year of his NHL career.

It is not difficult to fathom that Tavares can score north of 38 goals and eclipse the 90-point mark.

At 27 years of age, there is still plenty of amazing years left in the tank. He has reached one of the most prime years of his playing days and is poised to cash in on the biggest contract he is likely to receive in his NHL career.

Why wouldn’t it be the best year that we see out of John Tavares?

 

Depth on D: A Look at the Isles Defense

The expected starters on the blue line for the New York Islanders will likely be Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Calvin de Haan, and Thomas Hickey. Therefore, competition for those final two spots will be fierce.

The departure of Travis Hamonic via trade to the Calgary Flames has opened up more space for some of the Isles’ d-men who are looking to step into a bigger role this preseason.

Dennis Seidenberg is another veteran that will be joining the aforementioned four defenders, but it’s uncertain if he will be dressing for all 82 games. It is possible that he could be played out of his spot with rookie Ryan Pulock ready for prime time minutes in the NHL.

Pulock will also have company with Scotty Mayfield and Adam Pelech looking to solidify themselves as regular NHL defenseman as well.

This is not to say that Seidenberg is incapable of logging regular minutes as a defenseman in the NHL. He scored 5 goals, 17 assists, and 23 points in 73 games played last year, only nine games shy of a full 82. But he will certainly have his work cut out for him, now being 36 years old and surrounded by young talent looking to emerge with the Islanders.

Pelech is coming off of a fresh long-term contract, which may give him a slight advantage over Pulock and Mayfield. He signed a four-year deal this summer with an annual average of $1.6 million.

He has shown that he is a very steady “defense-first” type of player that quietly does his job well. Management clearly has faith in him, rewarding him with this contract after only playing in 53 NHL games.

Mayfield brings size and grit along with a willingness to drop the gloves if he feels his team needs a spark. He will be turning 25 this season, which is a common age for developing blue liners to turn a corner in their development. He scored 9 points in 25 games last season.

Although Mayfield has shown that he can play at the NHL level, he has typically only dressed when a player has been injured, and not on a regular basis. He also is prone to taking bad penalties from time to time as well.

Pulock may not have seen as much NHL action as his friendly competitors, but he is the defenseman with the most upside heading into next season.

Pulock scored 46 points in 55 games played last year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, netting 15 goals and 31 assists. He is known for his booming slap shot, as well as for his smooth ability to quarterback the power play.

He has stepped into the line-up at times over the past few seasons and hasn’t looked out of place. Barring a few injuries, there is a good chance he would have already been a lock on this team. Pulock also brings size to his game, weighing in at 215 pounds.

But even if Pulock is a guarantee to make the cut out of training camp, he is already the seventh defenseman on the roster after Boychuk, Leddy, de Haan, Hickey, Seidenberg, and Pelech.

Coaches will tell you more often than not that having too many capable players competing for a few roster spots is a good problem to have. Doug Weight will be carefully observing the play of all of his defenders during these preseason games, but will be closely watching the younger crop of Pelech, Mayfield, and Pulock.

Hamonic’s presence will most certainly be missed in the locker room and in the line-up, but it’s clear that the future on D still looks pretty solid for the upcoming season.

The real question, that can only be answered in time, will be if this infusion of youth will be able to handle the opposing offense from their Metropolitan Division rivals.

The Next Second Line Center for the Isles

Rumors have been floating (or slowly sinking) since July that Garth Snow was trying to trade for a number two center to play behind John Tavares. The most common name to be mentioned is Colorado Avalanche center, Matt Duchene.

According to multiple sources, Avs GM Joe Sakic has been looking for a young top-four defenseman, high-level prospect, and a first round pick (if not more). There have been rumors that Snow attempted just that in a deal involving Travis Hamonic, but then sent him to the Calgary Flames after being spurned by Sakic.

The remainder of the summer has been very quiet for the Isles, aside for a few re-signed players of their own.

The Isles seem like they are going to be looking from within for a player to step up and be the number two center. That is unless Snow pulls a Boychuk/Leddy type of deal and acquires a center just a few days before the official first puck drop.

But as it stands now, what you see is what you get, so who might the Isles consider for the role?

Brock Nelson has spent some time in that second center spot over the last few years, and is one of the top candidates for the position. He’s had three 20-goal seasons in a row, hovering between 40-45 points each year.

Nelson is also entering the prime of his career, turning 26 this October, providing reason that he is capable of producing more offensively. He is also in the final year of his contract, which should provide him with added incentive to produce at a high level so that he can garnish a lucrative contract extension next summer.

However, he has been wildly inconsistent at times. Like many twenty-goal scorers, Nelson will net goals in bunches, but then seem to disappear for several games. With that said, former head coach Jack Capuano was notorious for constantly shuffling his line combinations, shifting Nelson back and forth from center to wing many times.

Perhaps having Doug Weight as the new head coach will help Nelson find more consistency in his game if provided with a more stable line-up.

Another candidate is rookie forward Mathew Barzal. He is only 20 years old, but he will be entering the NHL with an impressive resume from the WHL.

Last year, Barzal scored 10 goals and 69 assists for 79 points in only 41 games. He possesses the tools to be a gifted playmaker for the Islanders, and potentially fit in nicely as the Isles’ second line center.

There is a chance that Barzal may start next season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to adjust to professional level hockey. Fans might be greatly displeased with this decision, but it could serve him well to spend some time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

On the other hand, Barzal was the captain of the Seattle Thunderbirds, and was an alternate captain for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. The scouting report on Barzal is that he is a complete hockey player, playing at both ends of the ice with a willingness to block shots, and always looking to give a heads up pass for a teammate.

These are strong reasons to believe that Barzal is capable of taking over the second line center position over the course of the season. Whether or not Weight feels that he will be deserving of that role straight out of training camp remains to be seen.

Josh Bailey is coming off the best year of his career, scoring 56 points while playing on the wing of John Tavares. Yet Bailey may find himself as the odd man out on the top line with Jordan Eberle in the mix, and Anders Lee leading the team in goals last season with a total of 34.

Bailey is also a natural center and entering the final year of his contract. A chance to shine as the Isles’ second strongest center before looking for a new contract could make him a very viable candidate.

Casey Cizikas has more or less cemented himself as the fourth line center of this hockey club. He has effectively held the role for many years now, and it would almost come as a surprise if Weight were to move him up to the second line.

Cizikas earned a contract extension two summers ago that spans five years worth $16.75 million. Although Cizikas is a fan-favorite, many felt that these numbers were a high price to pay for a fourth line center. This may mean that the Isles envision him moving up in their depth charts over the next few years.

He may not be an obvious choice, but don’t be surprised if Weight gives him a shot.

Lastly, Anthony Beauvillier is someone that will also be competing for the second line center position. He scored 9 goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 66 games last year, which was his rookie season in the NHL.

Beauvillier saw some time in the press-box last year when Capuano was still at the helm. This was typically due to Capuano favoring veterans in times of losing streaks, and also feeling that the 19-year old could use some nights off to observe the game.

But Beauvillier has shown that he has speed, quick hands, and a strong hockey sense. Weight may want to see if he can re-establish the chemistry he had at the end of last year with Joshua Ho-Sang, and the duo could be two-thirds of an exciting second line unit.

The Islanders have options at center next year, with two of them involving inexperienced rookies. The most likely choice may seem to be for Weight to try Nelson in that role once more.

With a handful of choices, it’s very possible that the Isles may not know who their true second line center will be right out of training camp.

Is Halak A Lock Between The Pipes?

Jaroslav Halak will be the number one goaltender starting between the pipes for the New York Islanders this season. The question will be if he can replicate the all-star numbers that he produced back in 2015.Jaroslav Halak had an up and down season last year, spending time between the Isles and their minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The demotion was due to a poor start to the 2017 season, posting a 6-8-5 record with a 3.23 GAA and .904 save percentage in his first 21 appearances. These numbers are hardly acceptable by any standards, but even more so for a goalie that was coming off a very impressive run with Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup.

During the international tournament, Halak put up a 2.15 GAA and a .941 save percentage in six games, almost propelling his team to a championship over Team Canada.

His play inspired fans and the coaching staff to believe that the injury riddled season of 2015 would be behind him, and that Halak was ready to start off the year strong and in control of the number one spot.

To the contrary, last year’s disappointing record at the beginning of the 2017 season resulted in a demotion, and the Islanders turning back to Thomas Greiss to be their number one goaltender.

Since Greiss at times was seen as the team’s number one goalie during the 2015-2016 season, posting a 23-11-4 record as Halak’s “back-up”, the coaching staff felt confident that he could right the ship that Halak set to a bad course.

However, the Isles did not play as well in front of him as they did the year before, and Greiss seemed to struggle with handling the persistent pressure of being the starting net-minder.

The Isles were also carrying three goalies last year. Keeping J.F. Berube on the roster affected the amount of practice time that each goaltender would receive, and may have also sent the wrong message to each goaltender as well.

Halak’s poor start resulted in plenty of trade rumors that started last winter and ran up until the expansion draft.  Many wondered if he would be used in a deal to avoid a young forward or defenseman being pried away by the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Instead, J.F. Berube was traded, leaving the organization with Halak and Greiss once more.

Halak will be entering the final year of the four-year contract he signed back in 2014. The first year of his deal saw him display a 38-17-4 record, earning him NHL All-Star honors. Additionally, Halak was a key piece in a resurgent year for the New York Islanders which saw them return to playoff action in their final year at Nassau Coliseum, which resulted in a seven-game defeat to the Washington Capitals.

Halak’s future with the Isles beyond this season will likely remain uncertain for quite some time, especially with all of the media focus surrounding John Tavares signing, or not signing, his contract extension before becoming a UFA on July 1, 2018.

With that aside, this is going to be another big year for Halak. Whether he remains with the Isles or signs with another club, he is going to have to produce stats that are worthy of another team committing to a goalie who will be 33 years old, coming off two difficult seasons in the past three years.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Halak’s inconsistency has been a concern in his career. He has faced similar troubles with the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues, both of which eventually resulted with him starting over fresh on another team.

A contract year is huge for any player, but this one has more flare to it than usual; the organization is under a tremendous amount of pressure to prove to their captain that the Isles are close to becoming cup contenders, and are ready to take the next step and advance further than the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Whether or not management has done enough to secure that possibility is another discussion, but Halak’s performance will be a huge determining factor.

Playing the Weighting Game

When the puck drops on October 6th at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, it will not only be the start of the New York Islanders season, but will also mark Doug Weight’s first official game as the full-time head coach.

Doug Weight was named the interim head coach after General Manager Garth Snow fired Jack Capuano back in January, who had served as the team’s coach since 2010. Capuano had lead the Islanders to a 17-17-8 record and last place in the Eastern Conference, a far cry from the high expectations that the team had for themselves after an exciting playoff run in 2016; a run that earned the Islanders their first playoff victory in 23 years after defeating the Florida Panthers in the opening round.

While trying to find a way to accept the responsibilities of being named head coach, and propel his team into playoff contention, Weight thrived despite being in a very tough position. The Isles went 24-12-4, and won the last six games of the season, falling just one point shy of making the playoffs.

Many players began to prosper while under his watch as well. Ryan Strome, who had repeatedly struggled with Capuano behind the bench, excelled with Weight at the helm. Before injuring his wrist, Strome had 30 points on the season, but 15 of those points only came in the 24 games he played between February and March. Strome’s end of the year resurgence is likely what made him considered valuable to the Edmonton Oilers, as he was all it took to bring in Jordan Eberle via trade earlier this summer.

Andrew Ladd, who signed here last summer due to his close relationship with Weight, finally kicked his offense into gear over the second half of the season as well. Ladd scored 13 of his 23 goals with Weight in charge of the bench.

As of now, the Islanders roster is more or less looking the same as last year, aside from Travis Hamonic being traded to the Calgary Flames for draft picks, and the aforementioned deal that saw Strome exchanged for Eberle. Although rumors have circulated that Snow has been kicking the tires in search of a second line center, he may feel confident enough with his current roster due to Weight’s ability to turn last season around.

But are the Islanders now a contending playoff team? Well, that’s a discussion that this blog will continuously have while monitoring Doug Weight’s progress as the head coach. There are reasons to be optimistic, but the fact of the matter is that Weight is still very inexperienced.

It doesn’t help either that he will have another inexperienced coach working as his assistant. While Scott Gomez was a dynamic and exciting player to watch that won two Stanley Cups as a member of the New Jersey Devils, he is merely just beginning his coaching career as of next season. Perhaps he can help the power play, since 255 of his 756 career points came with the man-advantage.

But coaching a power play is very different than skating on one.

Therefore, hiring Luke Richardson and Kelly Buchburger to be assistant coaches have appeared to be very wise moves by Weight.

Richardson spent the last four years as the head coach for the Binghamton Senators, the Ottawa Senators’ farm team in the AHL. He also was an assistant coach of for Ottawa from 2009-2012, and led Canada to a Spengler Cup championship last year as well.

Buchberger was the vice president of player development for the Edmonton Oilers last season, and was the team’s assistant coach between 2008 and 2014. He also spent two years as the manager of player personnel for the Oilers.

Both Richardson and Buchberger were teammates of Weight’s while with the Edmonton Oilers. Richardson had plenty of playoff experience as a player, despite not winning a Stanley Cup. Buchberger, on the other hand, won two while playing for Edmonton.

To round out his coaching staff, Weight also hired Fred Brathwaite, who previously was the goaltending consultant for Hockey Canada and was goalie coach for Germany’s Adler Mannheim. He served as a back-up goalie in the NHL for nine years, playing some time for the Oilers as well.

Brathwaite will also be accompanied by Chris Terreri, the former goaltending coach for the New Jersey Devils. Terreri, who was hired on August 23rd, will serve as the Isles’ goaltending development coach, as well as the goaltending coach for their farm team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. 

Greg Cronin is the only assistant coach from last season that worked the bench that will remain  in an associate role.

Hiring experienced, veteran coaches to replace a staff that did not meet last year’s expectations should hopefully prove to be the right choices made by Weight.

Team captain John Tavares has yet to sign his extension with the New York Islanders, and many believe it is hinging on the arena issues that currently surround the future home of the franchise. With that said, a successful regular season followed by a deep playoff run would likely show signs of the team moving in the right direction and encourage Tavares to sign a long-term deal.

It is also believed that the decision of Weight being named head coach received some influence from Tavares, as the two are very close. During his rookie season, Tavares was living with Weight while he was the captain in 2009-2010.

With training starting this month, we will be able to gain a closer look at some of the line combinations, defensive pairings, as well as the playing systems that Weight plans to implement for next year. But how will these decisions affect his team? Will young players like Joshua Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier, and Mathew Barzal progress under a team that seems to be focused on experience and advancing in the playoffs? Will players like Ladd be able to replicate and build on last season’s improvements? Will Tavares feel confident that Weight will be helping him lead this team to its first Stanley Cup championship since 1983?

These are just some of the questions that this blog will be focusing on. With the arena in question, and pressure surrounding this team’s immediate, as well as distant future, the 2018 season will be a big one.

Although he has been tirelessly working at his new job as head coach, Doug Weight certainly has his hands full.