I was having a discussion with a co-worker 2 weeks ago about the Islanders and what I felt were some glaring problems that were developing, and on December 19th the Islanders played a game against the Sabres that seemed validate my fears; unfortunately we may just be in for a long season.
When I look at this team, I consider its core to be made up of Rick DiPietro, Brendan Witt, and Radek Martinek. Honorable mention goes to Ted Nolan, but as he can't dress for us, that's all I can give him. Now don't get me wrong, you can laud players like Campoli, Vasicek, Park and Bergenheim, but I'm talking about our core, the real strength of our team. The only problem with the core is that it contains no goal scorers. When opposing teams play us, who do they fear? Which line? Which forward? Which defenseman playing the point on the power play?
The game against Buffalo was telling. We played an "Islander" type of game. We were strong defensively and generally played well in the neutral zone. The shot differential was incredible, 43- 17 in favor of the Isles. DP played well, and the effort from the team was strong and constant. Islanders hockey.
Only problem, as the final horn sounded, the Isles wound up on the losing side of the scoring sheet. And the culprit? No surprise, it was our inability to score. When we were in the worst of our scoring woes coach Ted Nolan often stated that the team just needed to work harder to create opportunities, which is true. However, does anyone out there think that for the 13 games in a row where we could not score more that 2 regulation goals we were consistently lacking effort. I don't buy it. Although Coach Nolan can't come right out and say this, what we are lacking is scoring talent, not effort. Again, lets go back to the Buffalo game. Here are some of DP's comments.
"We played the type of game we've talked about playing. The last month we seemed to get away from playing our smart kind of style and being opportunistic, and we did that tonight. Unfortunately, we weren't able to score more goals."
I do not see us acquiring one player which would allow us to break out of this, and enable us to fight for much better than an 8th seeded playoff birth. More importantly, we are more than one or two players away from being able to truly contend in the postseason. Plus, who can we afford to give up while still maintaining competitiveness? The message boards this Summer contained many optimistic posts where fans arrived at the conclusion that the players we were getting could produce the goals we lost on July 1. Unfortunately, the posts also assumed that Ted Nolan could basically walk on water and therefore get career results out of all of his forwards. He is an excellent coach who we are very fortunate to have, but he cannot score goals for us. Also, even with all the goals we had last year, we barely made the playoffs and bowed out early.
Look, I'm not saying we're out of it, just that we have a severe flaw right now that is not easily corrected. I think we have little choice but to lean toward the re-building route (I'll allow a moment for a cringe). We have Okposo to look forward to soon, along with a talented blogger that follows his every move , and most importantly, we have a championship caliber goaltender signed for a very long time. Garth Snow will have a great deal on his shoulders in the upcoming years, and it will be far from easy. If done right, however, the reward can be glorious.
Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays. And as always, go Isles!