Predicting the New York Islanders Season 2019-2020

Predicting the New York Islanders Season 2019-2020

Every now and then we have a writing contribution from our wonderful audience. This column is written by one of our fans, @AmazingInsights from Twitter. Enjoy! – Dan

Let’s get right to the point – If you think the Islanders are going to be anywhere NEAR 103 points this coming season, you really REALLY need to read this blog.   Oh, before you do, may I suggest you first turn OFF your emotions, put down the #isleskoolaid and then consider these very real issues.

To appreciate what happened last year, you had the following themes:

1.  Lou became GM and changed the mindset of the lockerroom 

2.  Trotz became Coach and got a coaching staff with a clue 

3.  We had the “eff John Tavares” Battle Cry

4.  We had the emotional feel good Lehner Story. 

5.  A number of players were playing for Contracts 

From where I sit, a LOT of emotional energy across all those items is what truly drove this team.    But did you notice something after the  sweep of the Penguins?    A week off and – to be honest – they lost the emotional “mojo”.   It really is a hard thing to turn on/off.  

The 2019 Season 

So far, I don’t think I haven’t raised anything that can be considered confrontational.   But that’s about to change.     Now it’s time to take an HONEST assessment of the team as it sits on August 26, 2019.   No emotional thinking, no “isleskoolaid” logic (is that an oxymoron?) and no “I bleed Orange and Blue” nonsense.    Just an honest assessment. 

So first, you might want to open this link in another tab, because you may want to have it as a handy reference for the sections below:

https://www.capfriendly.com/teams/islanders

1.  They didn’t fix the CORE problem  


A.  And that would be – SCORING.  For all intents and they are bringing back the same team (more on this in a second).  While there are NO new impact players, we now have SEVERAL players who played well in their contract years to get absurd over termed contracts.   And if you think Bailey is finally going to show up to score 20 this season, you might want to put down the “Bailey Bahama Blue Koolaid”, because Bailey hasn’t ONCE scored 20 in a season.   

B.  PowerPlay.   You can argue that for the first time in AGES we have a Powerplay coach with a pulse – or clue – with Jim Hiller.   With luck, Hiller can have the same effect that Mitch Korn did on our Goalies.   But lets NOT forget that the #isles have a “Hey we have two entire minutes to pass the puck before we take a shot” mentality on the Powerplay, so Hiller has his work cut out for him.  

2.  Goalies

Both Lehner and Greiss benefitted from the Mitch Korn the “Goalie Whisperer”.    The fact this duo won the Jennings Trophy speaks VOLUMES as to why last years team got 103 Points.  

Oh and a quick News Flash !!!  Lehner isn’t here anymore and we now get to see what magic can be sprinkled on Varlamov.   Oh, and Varlamov is a little older than Lehner – and – has some injury history.

3.  Emotions

Let’s be honest.   There was a TON of  emotional energy that was channeled last year.    So the “everyone thinks we will suck because JT isn’t here” mantra is history – as is the “feel good” story around Lehner.   

Here is hoping that Trotz knows what buttons to push to get this team ready,  but I think he has a MUCH harder road this year.   MUCH MUCH harder.  

4.  They aren’t going to surprise anyone 

The Islanders surprised a lot of teams last year.    I believe a LOT of this was emotionally driven (ie JT) but it was also coaching that turned around the hellacious Snow/Weight “coached” teams.    Using the word coached when it comes to Snow/Weight is insulting to even beer league coaches.  

But now other teams know the Islanders M.O. and as such they will have lost the “surprise” element to their game

5.  Health 

Check out ALL the ages (notice a theme here) on the CapFriendly link, including our so called “Top 6”.  The NHL is now a “young man’s league” and here come the Islanders with a number of key players 30 or older.   

The Islanders suddenly look .. shall we say .. O L D.  

Lets NOT forget Clutterbuck at 31 is coming off MAJOR back surgery.    Keep repeating that until it sinks in.  Major Back Surgery.    For those old enough, remember what happened to Mo Vaughn after his injury.   And for those young enough, look no further than Robinson Cano.    And those guys play BASEBALL.   Hockey is MUCH more physical.  

And Varlamov – he is 30 as well.   And he was hurt last year as well.

I don’t know many players whose body becomes less immune to injury as they get older

6.  Bailey Syndrome 

I use this term to describe a player who magically decides to show up in the contract year, gets a large contract – and then returns to his normal output.  

Be very worried about the contracts given to Nelson and Lee.   The biggest problem is the term, because how long do you expect to get that production from either player. 

Lesson:   Always fear the year after signing a contract, because the focus on playing for the contract is now over. 

7.  The “4th Line” 

Remember what I said about getting older and a physical game.   The 4th line likes to hit.   The question here, what exactly can you expect from Clutterbuck after surgery ? 

8.  Age

I have focused on age a lot in this entry.   This really isn’t a young team, and it really starts getting ugly 2 years from now  (again go to Cap Friendly and start adding 2 or 3 years to the players ages)    Lou is going to have to unload a LOT of people in the next few years – and QUICKLY

Lesson:  The NHL is a young man’s league.

9.  Roster and Cap Space

While you are looking at Cap Friendly, now look at the total the Islanders and spending this year.   Do you see any “elite” players?  I sure don’t – yet we don’t have a lot of room to sign an impact player.  

This is why the Mitch Marner talk was absurd.    Remember at the END of this coming year you need to sign Barzal AND Pulock.    That 7-8 million cap space is likely going to consumed by those 2

So where are you fitting Marner?     Which contracts were you getting rid of to get the 12 Million? 

Keep repeating THAT AND Analyzing it until reality sinks in 

Oh, and a comical side note.   Look at all of the guaranteed contracts.   Lets say Josh HoSang plays “lights out” in camp  – who is he going to displace ? 

Summary

Trotz and the coaching staff REALLY have their work cut out for them this season.    

For those wondering “where is Lou” – take a look at the current roster and ask yourself – we are paying HOW MUCH for this lineup ?    And Chiarelli is LONG GONE.  Which sucker .. er .. GM is going to take any of the players on the islanders roster you would want to get rid of ? 

So set your expectations accordingly for this season.   I have the feeling it’s going to be a long one.     

Backwards Going Forwards

Backwards Going Forwards

If you’re a New York Islanders fan, you probably are thinking that the Islanders have taken a step backwards from last season. After all, they lost their Vezina nominated goalie in Robin Lehner, the super bottom 6 producer Valteri Flippula, and the free agency contest to sign Russian superstar Artemi Panarin. That’s not great, especially considering that after the team’s season ended in a sweep against Carolina, the biggest need identified by coach Barry Trotz was for more offense. He was rewarded with an offseason of less offense, which technically is offensive.

I wrote about why that was offensive here:
https://worldwidesportsradio.com/lou-sers

But really, what’s worse for the Islanders is the fact that, based on the way this team is constructed, they are currently in “Win Now” mode. I’ll explain how that conclusion was reached shortly, but here’s a hint- it starts at forward. Check the link below to see the nightmare that two GM’s have created at forward.

https://www.capfriendly.com/teams/islanders

Thank you, Capfriendly.com!

The New York Islanders currently sit at just under $7 million under the salary cap, with a restricted free agent deal awaiting 28 point scorer Anthony Beauvilier. This means they’ll end the offseason somewhere around $4-5 million under the cap. Feel free to name an impact player that gets paid $4 million dollars in today’s NHL to swoop in and save the season. I’ll wait.

This in itself is a problem. But it’s not the primary problem. As pointed out by my buddy @AmazingInsights, time is our primary problem. Let’s look at who has the longest life on their NHL contracts with the Islanders. Anders Lee tops the list in both time and money. Now look at the age column. Anders Lee is 29. And a player starts a decline at what age? About 30 (https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/why-athletic-performance-declines-with-age/)

Next longest contract? Our favorite Beth, Brock Nelson. Nelson checks in at 27, so he is in his elite period of experience and performance. That got him a deal that runs until he’s 33, well into a decline. And anyone watching Nelson play over the years knows Nelson had a “contract year” last season and should expect a decline back to his lollygagging, streaky playing, and generally ineptitude this upcoming season.

Up next? Jordan Eberle. Ebs will turn 30 this year, with 4 more years after on his deal. Time is not on his side, either.

These are three of your key forwards. Thus, why I say win now. But let me beat the point in further, for the #IslesKoolAid out there.

Next up for term? Andrew Ladd. Already 33, already DONE. But with 4 more years at $5.5 million dollars. Untradeable, unless you throw in something significant like a first and second round pick, or a valuable prospect and a first. A wasted roster spot for a player that used to be good and play physical, but whose style of play has ground him down by 31. A year and change older than Anders Lee is now.

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Bleeding the cap soon?

Then we get to the Josh Bailey deal. A Garth Snow gift to his favorite son to try to convince Tavares to stay on the Island- like THAT would do it- we see that Bailey at his age 29 season has $5 million cap hit until he is 34. Also, Bailey himself had a few break downs last season. He was on a 30 goal pace in November, but barely finished with only 16. He also lost 15 points from his prior season, but that was when he was bounced off of the first line this year for playing like shit. If he’s not riding coattails again? Ge ready for 14-21- 35 to return. You know, Bailey’s average pre-Tavares line stats.

Players turning 30 this year? Eberle and Bailey. Ladd is already there. This is 5/6ths of your top 6. This is 3 of your key forwards at 30 or more in October. This is 35% of the salary cap. This is win now.

And why now? Easy. How many productive forwards on the Islanders are under 28 (Nelson turns 28 in right after the season starts)? Definitely one, arguably two. The arguable one is Beauvilier, who has averaged 19 goals a year in the NHL. No assists, but goals, which IS the more important stat. Beau is due for a raise this year and will see a few million. But the definite one? Mathew Barzal. Barzal is due a raise after the season. Think he’ll get $5 million or more, considering what the RFA contracts of Connor McDavid, William Nylander, Austin Matthews, and the rest of the new crop of budding stars got paid?

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More than $5 million. Bank on it.

What’s worse is the bottom six of the Islanders. Yes Matt Martin is in the final year of his deal and will give some cap relief based on what you should pay someone with that kind of production, but Leo Komorov is not. Nor is Cal Clutterbuck. Two more untradeable contracts without giving up assets, which is our next problem- where ARE the Islanders assets?

Generally, within 3-4 years of a draft, players emerge from those drafts into the league. For top 10 picks? It can be weeks after a draft. Let’s see how the Islanders have done in this range by looking at the 2015-2018 drafts.

The 2015 draft has been productive for the Islanders. Well, the first round anyway. Beauvilier made it to the NHL after one more season in juniors, where Barzal needed two. So, within 2 years all of the first round picks of the Islanders made the NHL. So that means the 2016 draft should have a player entering their sophomore year, right?

Wrong. The 2016 NHL draft has produced ZERO NHL games played for the franchise. ZERO. The expectation would be Keifer Bellows having 80 or so NHL games under his belt. Nope. Zip. And Anton Golyshev seems to enjoy Russia, so that’s another shitball.

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Nope.

The 2017 draft? A whopping 22 games. All on defense.

The 2018 draft could be blossoming for the Islanders this year. Which is interesting because the Islanders will have 15 forwards and 7 defensemen already holding contracts. Some of those contracts are albatrosses and aren’t going anywhere, so those kids are generally dicked over. Like the fans. Or Cord’s neck. #DickedStraight

I’m going to stretch this analogy for three more years- the 2012, 2013 and 2014 drafts. What forwards came out of those drafts?

2012: Snow took 7 defensemen in that draft. You can argue that it was a deep draft for defensemen that year, which was true. You can argue that Griffin Reinhart got the pick that got them Mat Barzal.  You can also argue that with the 4th overall pick, the Islanders could have had Filip Forsberg, who was the 3rd highest forward drafted that year, was available when the Isles picked Reinhart, and was the first forward taken after 3rd overall pick Alex Galchunyuk.

You can also argue that if Forsberg was an Islander, Tavares would also be an Islander today. You could argue that if Snow took Dumba or Trouba instead of Reinhart that Tavares would be an Islander today. You could argue that Snow isn’t an absolute fuck up and was an NHHL GM because no one else would accept that job after Neil Smith quit after a month WITHOUT BEING PAID, but that’s a losing argument.

2013: 84 games of Alan Quine. Fucked.

2014: Two first round picks, including a top 5. These guys have both burned their entry level deals while COMBINING for under 90 games played in the NHL. Worth about the same output thus far as Alan Quine. Michael Dal Colle is officially a bust. I said this to my buddy Kool Aid Rob a couple of years ago and he called me crazy. Which is why he is Kool Aid Rob. Josh Ho Sang is on a one year two way deal, meaning that his career as an Islander is over July 1, 2020.

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Shoot the puck.

And for shits and giggles, the 2011 draft? Three forwards made it, but only one played more than 11 games. Ryan Strome was the 5th overall choice in the draft, had one good season with the Islanders, and eventually acquired Jordan Eberle. So at least Strome did something useful. He left. Buh-bye!

If you’re keeping score, from 2011 through RIGHT NOW the Isles have produced one impact forward by trading a 4th overall, and used a 5th overall to acquire another impact forward. I’m going to leave out 2010 when we used a top 5 pick to obtain Cal Clutterbuck – an impacted forward- but I guess I just didn’t. From 2011 to today, the Isles have produced at most two useful forwards from their system, and one from another one. That’s over an eight year span. Which included two top 5 picks, a top 4 pick, and 11 first round draft pick overall. Eight years. That’s longer than many NHL careers.

This is also drearily worse than I realized. The drafting of Garth Snow can be summed up in one word- Asshole.

Ordering pizza. Again. Today.

Even if you have hope for Keifer Bellows, 73% of that first round is already in the NHL including everyone with offensive talent. And if you’re counting on the vaunted 2018 Islanders draft? Which of those 15 contracts will the Islanders jettison for Oliver Whalstrom? And Otto Koivula? Will he be as effective as Brady Tkachuk or Andrei Svechnikov from that same draft? Because they’re already producing in the NHL. Probably because they have offensive talent. Didn’t Derek Brassard just take Koivula’s job?

I’m going to give Simon Holmstrom a pass, because he’s at least a year away from the NHL. Which just compounds the lack of assets issue and reinforces the point of the win now mentality of this club, as its at least another year before a prospect is ready to help a win now team.

He looks like a little kid.

At least the defense is in good shape…kind of. Feel free to click on the link and go to the defense section.

https://www.capfriendly.com/teams/islanders

The Islanders have 4 useful defenders under 28. But again, the salary cap nightmare rears it’s ugly head. After this season, Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock also need contracts. Those are definitely needs. But look at that top three, paywise. One guy under 30, Nick Leddy, but his deal will carry him right into his decline as it ends when he’s 31. The other two? Oh boy.

Thomas Hickey is on the wrong side of 30, and has 3 years to go on this deal- all what our science article would call a decline era. And Johnny Boychuk is already in decline yet has the highest paid contract on defense that lasts until he’s 38. Another unmovable contract…but at least you can ask for that 8 team list that you can try to send him to, as his absurd “no movement clause” is done.

The Islanders do have a defensive asset ready to step in, and with 4 younger defensemen it will make a solid core. Except…there’s 7 defensemen presently under contract, and the two with short terms are going to be resigned. What raise do you think Pulock will get? Toews? Because that’s cap space, too.

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Only took 5 years and a Hall of Fame coach to develop! Alright Bridgeport!

So who with a long term guaranteed contract sits down for Noah Dobson?

When the season gets rolling, the Islanders with the addition of Brassard will have 10 of 24 players on the squad including both goalies at or older than 30. They will have 3 more guys the season after turning 30. They will be a cap max team. And as we’ve seen no trades in the last almost 14 months (!), we can not assume help is coming. Besides, we have no young forward assets to offer in a trade, no one is taking many of these bad contracts written by the last and present GM’s, and where the team needs the most help? There are contracts cemented for 5/6’s of the top 6.

I wanted to remind you all here that the Islanders also do not have a single elite player. What team has won a Stanley Cup in the last 15 years without an elite player? They don’t have an elite player in their system, either. If they offer sheet Mitch Marner or Patrik Laine? Neither of those guys are elite players. Marner’s averaging 23 goals a season on his career, though to be fair it has increased every year. Laine has one dimension, although it is the best one to have, but 30 goals last season on a good team and he was still -24? Not elite.

Mat Barzal? Not elite. Not even top 20.

Mathew Barzal? Not elite. Not even a top 20?

All of those long term deals, lack of prospects at forward, and complete lack of elite players tell us one thing: the Islanders are a defensive minded, win now team. Just without the horses to win now. The Drive for Five? It’ll have to wait another generation.

EDIT: The Islanders just signed Derek Brassard. 14 goals last year. Wrong side of 30. But this is a win now team, so I’m sure that’s the missing piece to the cup!

Follow on Twitter here: @JoshBarely

Lou-sers

Lou-sers

Lou Lamiorello is a Hall of Fame NHL executive.  But what would make me, a lifelong Islanders fan, happy about having Lou? First off, I’m not a guy who has an affinity for the Devils, or the Maple Leafs, or the douchebag Rangers, or any other team in a sport that frankly hasn’t figured out how to monetize itself save for 3 cities geographically. I do however care about my local team. And in looking at my local team with a legend GM after 2 drafts, 2 free agency periods, and one trade deadline, my concern is that this is still a roster created by Garth Snow. And Garth Snow was an absolute fuck up.

You’re probably going to say something like “Well, Lou offered Snakeface and Breadman the highest contracts of any team involved in bidding.” Yes, yes he did. So why did they both say no? My guess is Lou.

There was a time in history when Lou Lamoriello was maybe the best GM in the entire league. His drafting with the Devils was legendary. The results? 5 finals, 3 cups. That’s an average of a cup victory a decade, and almost 2 finals a decade. Solid shit.

After the Devils was an interesting time for Lou. When the Devils forced Lou out after a mediocre run? The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped him up. But more to be the man to restructure an organization. They surrounded him with talent to make decisions on all levels, from coaching to draft to scouting. And Lou made sure everyone was handsomely paid.

So what did Toronto do under Lou? They built an exciting team that won absolutely nothing. In return Toronto let Lou seek other pastures.

Lou Lamoriello contains the wisdom of a 50 year career in a sport. I have to give him credit for breaking into Russia and bringing championship players like Slava Fetisov to the NHL that would have never seen NHL ice. He single handedly expanded the sport, and deserves recognition for players like Pavel Datsyuk or Pavel Bure or Vagina Malkin playing in the NHL. That’s all Lou.

But that bravado? Does it translate to today? Nope.

The NHLPA has gotten smarter and better under Donald Fehr. That dude is a genius, flat out. Every time he gets involved in a sport, players get rich. Look at Major League Baseball. Their minimum wage is 35000% higher than actual minimum wage. I don’t know about you, but I’d love a 35000% raise. Hockey players are starting to have those expectations, and are winning at it, as evidenced by all of the absurd restricted free agent contracts being thrown around the NHL to 20 year olds.

But Lou? Look at his last few years with the Devils. With the exception of that last cup run on the back of Martin Brodeur, the Devils record on everything was unimpressive. They lost Zach Parise. They gave Ilya Kovalchuk an absurd deal that…the Devils have been paying that since 2010 are still paying for it until 2025. Who the fuck is stupid enough to give a 15 year deal? Oh…right. Garth Snow.

So there’s history. And yes, I am flying past the reliving of, but really, if we needed to, we can say this- Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens and Scott Neidermeyer and Ken Danyko meant no one scored against the Devils. The punch on offense? Bobby Holik? Shit, Jason Arnott was a Devils hero. Jason Arnott. That’s a guy you build a team around, amirite?

But I’m losing focus. Let me focus on what Lou Lamoriello has done as the GM of the Islanders.

He could not retain John Tavares. He could not attract Artemi Panarin. He offered both of these turds the most money anyone could have offered them. The response? Fuck Lou. I have to shave? Cut my hair? Dude, I’m a multimillionaire. Eat a bag of dicks.

And scarily, there was NO plan B.

Consider this: fans of Lou have said that the Islanders won the 2018 draft. Nice. How many NHL games have those players won? How many overpaid veterans were traded away to make room for the scary talent of 2018’s draft? That 2018 draft talk reminds me of the 2008 draft that everyone said Garth Snow won. What exactly did Garth win with that draft? Fuck it- HANG THE BANNER!

Historically Lou has had some choice drafts, although he does reach a bit just like another ass clown for players he likes despite “best player available” status. So let me ask you this- is anyone saying that the Islanders won the 2019 draft? No. Maybe because history has shown that Lou has shanked the equivalent of about 13 entire professional drafts?

Outside of drafting, look at the players that Lou has brought into the Islanders. This would be a clue as to what the GM values. So who does Lou respect?  You’d expect guys with good hands and offensive upside. Nah nah yeah nah. It’s players with no creativity. Grunts, not scorers. Matt Martin. Leo Komorov. Tom Khunackle. I’m sure I spelled that wrong, but I also don’t care. Where’s the talent? And don’t say Valeri Flipula. That was an outlier season for him. And he’s not here. Neither is Robin Lehner. Seems Lou still values 80’s and 90’s hockey today, when the game itself does not.

So, back to a previous thought – who has Lou signed over 2 free agent periods? Who has he acquired for a 103 point team at a trade deadline? Who has he acquired that’s worth a shit via trade? Yes, there was the story about Max Pacioretty that was scuttled because Lou had some good first round picks. So where are those picks? The NHL is a young mans league. 19 year olds are common. Dobson? Whalstrom? Bellows? Hello?? Is the old man asleep at work? Has Garth Snow rubbed off on him?

Then there’s the Mitch Marner offer sheet rumor. The money involved would cause the Islanders to lose 4 1st round picks. OK. It’s not like the Islanders have used first round picks well. Still, after the raises to bring back the same team in a tougher conference, there will be no offer sheets. The Maple Leafs cap manager is fully operational, so Mitch Marner has no chance to become an Islander. And I’mnot positive Lou knows what an offer sheet even is.

But say there was. What if the Islanders were going to offer Mitch Marner a contract that cost them 4 1st round picks? Were there alternatives?

Brayden Point is a top notch offensive player. He made $900,000 last season. Where was the $5m offer sheet? Which would screw over Tampa Bay’s salary structure? And cost the Isles a 2nd and a 3rd?

Patrick Laine? He’s like Anders Lee but with speed. Kyle Conner. Matthew Tkachuk. All players who score and are available if you want to burn off 4 first rounders. Oh, and move someone or someones from the roster to create the cap space for them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zko1I1Y4CQ

But lets’ talk about the value of 4 first round draft picks. What if we used them differently?

Two of the picks you were willing to burn on Marner? Use one to send Andrew Ladd and his albatross contract to anyone that wants a first. That’s it. Use another to move Johnny Boychuk somewhere to play out his days. The picks we traded for him have served Boston just as well if not better than Boychuk has served the Islanders. That saves you two first rounders and creates a lot of cap space. Then you can use the other two to acquire someone to help the team. Look at what the Devils sent to Vegas for Gusev- a 2nd and a 3rd. So two firsts will get you a seriously solid player. Rich Nash in his prime didn’t get two firsts from the Rangers.

To many moving parts? Lets simplify. Call the Chicago Blackhawks and offer your next 3 1sts and Andrew Ladd for Patrick Kane. You know, a leader with cup experience and a crazy but not unreasonable contract.

But hey, Lou knows better. Because his last title was almost 2 decades ago. Lou-sing.

When’s gonna be his time?

For the record, I am not a fan of offer sheets unless those sheets are reasonable. What is reasonable? Tactical. For instance, Mitch Marner. I would have offered him $10 million dollars a year. The draft pick compensation would have been negligible (two 1sts, a 2nd and a 3rd), but if Toronto matched? They have half of their entire cap invested in 4 guys. Consider this- to draft a Marner would have required a 1st  round pick. So is Mitch Marner worth a 1st, 2nd, 3d? Yes, yes he is. But offer sheets…get matched? So we don’t try?

The Montreal Canadiens offer sheeted and failed at Sebastian Aho. Carolina easily matched. Kudos to Montreal for thinking outside of the box. This one time. But Carolina was able to match because of payroll flexibility. Which is something a team with Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd making 13% of the cap just does not have.

Aslo, we have Mat Barzal coming up to be in a position for an offer sheet. Who do we need to move to secure Barzal’s future as an Islander? Nick Leddy can sure use a new home. Johnny Boychuk’s contract is now officially bad. As is Cal Clutterbuck. But the best value to trade?

Josh Bailey. Why? Josh Baileys career 14 goal average can be moved because he’s a recent all star. And of course Bailey would acquire 4 first round draft picks, right? Nah. Besides, 15 goal scorers do not earn $5 million dollars per season. Not yet, anyway. So you’d probably have to package him with a pick to get something back, like a prospect or a 2nd round pick. Still, its removing useless cap space so it’s a good value.

So why are players who are getting mega offers from Lou saying no? That’s because Lou is a grandpa. Grandpa loves the kids, but in his heart he wishes those kids were as World War Two ready as he was. Except there’s never going to be another World War Two, despite creating a roster like it’s happening now.

Does Lou communicate with younger players? Let’s look at Robin Lehner. First off, Lehner was a value signing 12 months ago. Then he somehow became an issue. If you ask Lehner, the Islanders sandbagged him. If you read Lehner’s quotes, he was completely full of shit about wanting to play on Long Island. And yes, it is ON Long Island. But he still turned down a guy he was praising in public all season. Lou lost the young man, because Lou has grown out of touch.

Lou’s touch with communicating with youth is that he expects players to conform. Players do not live in the age of conform. They live in the age of pampered babies. Whereas Lou is old school and older retired athletes and present coaches respect him, younger players are placated and spoiled. The Russians that Lou worked with came from an authoritarian regime. Shaving facial hair was the least of their worries. Now? The KHL has enough allure that Russians don’t feel a need to come here for fame. Look at the Islanders- Sorokin issue. Sorokin came here for a training camp, looked at Garth Snow, and realized that anything in Russia was more professional than that. This includes both Russian whorehouses and mail order bride organizations.

This may sound mean, but this is realistic- when a player asks Lou what the long term goal of the organization is, they realize they’re asking a guy that is 76 and in a high stress job. He may not outlive the current season, never mind a long term plan.

Desperation move. No one else was paying that.

So how do we solve this mess? It’s time to make Lou what he excels at- an organizer. Lou needs to have his role solely as team president. He needs to add a GM to the mix, just like Toronto had oversight for Lou. Let Lou acquire coaches and scouts and whatnot. But it’s time for the players to hear a different voice. One that can convince a player to come to this organization out of any reason that’s not desperation. One that can make a trade (it’s been over a year if you’re keeping track). One that can communicate to the modern athlete.

Until then? It’s like Garth Snow is still in charge. And if it feels like that to fans, imagine how that feels to talent. Even with a 22nd century arena, it’ll still be a team run in the 1980’s. Until the Islanders solve the GM issue- and it is now officially an issue- they’re going to be seen as a reflection of their GM: swinging and missing at the stars and the playoffs. A bunch of Lou-sers.

Backwards Going Forwards

The Lee- Eberle Debate, Revisited

Last September 6 (that was 2018, before the hockey season started, I wrote the following on our old website. Apparently it may have been read by an NHL GM, who gave it some thought. Enjoy!

What to do with Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee?

9/6/18

Fans of this blog- go ahead, there are one or two out there, you can admit it- know that for the most part this blog runs in the following cycle:

  1. State a problem
  2. Explain cause of problem
  3. Explain how others handled similar situations successfully
  4. Discuss potential solutions
  5. Use case studies, histories, and current trends to come to a research based conclusion instead of scream like some ignorant asshole.

Well folks, this is no exception. If you read the last blog entry about what it would take to trade for a star player (note: not much) then you have to come to the conclusion that you aren’t going to get a whole hell of a lot of you trade Jordan Eberle and or Anders Lee.

Think I’m crazy? What did the Islanders trade to acquire Eberle? Ryan Strome, a 3rd line center with one outlying career year. This was a STRAIGHT UP trade. No picks, no prospects, no other players. So what do you think the Islanders would get for the same guy on an expiring contract looking for a raise from his current $6 million salary?

Best hope- a pick and a prospect, or two picks. Anything north of that is a steal.

So this presents you with the following dilemma- what do you do with a Jordan Eberle? Do you trade him for the above mentioned package? Pay him the aforementioned raise? Or do you ride out his season and head off into the sunset for nothing like John Tavares just did a few weeks ago?

This is not an enviable position to be in. Eberle is a solid second line wing who helped with the learning curve of Mathew Barzal. Eberle most certainly has value to the team. He’s also a productive offensive player likely to score 25 goals and 30 assists on an average year.

But that’s not what makes this an unenviable position to be in. Every team has to make choices on players. No, what makes this particularly bad is that the Islanders have a first line wing in the same situation, that of 40 goal scorer Anders Lee. Some would say that Lee is a product of Tavares, having put up 76 goals in two seasons with Tavares after putting up 40 goals in the prior two seasons without him.

This situation boils down to the following concept: Islander fans might have a span of 366 days where the Islanders lose three of their top six forwards for nothing. Stuff like that cripples’ teams for years.

So what do we root for to happen, as fans? Well, you have the following scenarios:

  1. Pay both of them
  2. Trade Lee
  3. Trade Eberle
  4. Ride out the season

Let’s explore the pros and cons of all of these options.

  1. Pay both of them

Pro: They stay with the team for the rest of their effective careers.

Con: At least $15 million in combined salary cap hit. Roster inflexibility. Untradable contracts. Keeping younger players with potentially greater talent in lesser roles because you can’t give a 4th liner $8 million. Not even Garth Snow was that stupid.

This is the fan favorite option as we always love our own. But it’s also the one that would eat up at present 3/16th of the salary cap. Leddy, Ladd, Bailey and Boychuk make up another 4/16th of the cap. The 4th line makes up another 2/16th of the cap. 9 players, 9/16th of the cap. That’s on pace for a 16 player team, which probably won’t turn out so well.

Also, this will keep you not only from importing any skill players, but it will force you to choose which of the emerging players to pay from the likes of Anthony Beauvilier, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Noah Dobson, etc. A talent ceiling, which is also never a good thing for a team.

  • Trade Lee

Pros: Remove a slow skater from an always getting faster league from the lineup. Plus there are questions whether or not Lee was a product of Tavares and if he can repeat his prior successes. Also, you’re saving somewhere between $7-8 million that can be used to address other areas. And then of course you’re acquiring a lesser player, a draft pick, and a prospect in a trade now, or a little less at the deadline.

Con: I like Anders Lee. He seems like a great teammate, a stand up guy, and has made a career of grabbing those garbage goals that can be a difference maker when you’re in the playoffs. You would not get equal statistical value for 2016-2018 Lee…but if you act now you may get something similar statistically to 2014-2016 Lee at a lower price tag.

  • Trade Eberle

Pro: Save $7 million plus on a guy that is a 25 goal 58 point guy no matter who he plays with. Since Snow brought Eberle here specifically to play with Tavares (just like Ladd!), his time is up. Plus a 25 goal scorer should net you two picks in the top 30 of a draft, which may be nice as the Islanders transition from the team of Tavares to the team of Barzal.

Con: He scores 25 goals and 58 points no matter who he plays with. If Barzal slots in at 1C and they give him Lee and Beauvilier or Bellows of Whalstrom or whomever at wing, Eberle will still score 25 goals and get 58 points on line two. This may help stave off the inevitable statistical decline of Josh Bailey just a little bit, which makes Bailey fans happy. Those fans are overlooking the Bailey production hypothesis that says when Bailey is productive the team isn’t winning. He also has clear chemistry with Barzal and Beauvilier, although that can change year to year as players evolve.

  • Ride out the season

Pro: You get to see what Lee and Eberle do with a real head coach, something neither of them have had in their career. Yes, it’s a defensive minded coach so their offensive stats will inevitably suffer, but they’ll still show a glimpse of what the Islanders will look like in the future if all of the prospects develop as they’re expected.

Con: The scariest of all scenarios. Lose the players for absolutely nothing. Not as impactful as the rejection by John Tavares, but maybe more impactful in the overall standings.

If these are the options, which choice would you make? I’ve already made mine.

I trade Anders Lee. Lee’s skillset will make him injury prone as a contract unwinds. Also, his lack of foot speed will become a greater detriment as time goes on.

What would I seek for Lee? A 1st round pick and a legitimate NHL defenseman- think 3rd or 4th defenseman. If you package Lee with one of our middling defensemen maybe that 40 goal veneer gets you a #2 defenseman. Maybe. But if Lee could get you Mattias Ekholm and a 1st from Nashville would you say no?  Not me. I may make that move for just Ekholm.

Why not trade Eberle? His raise won’t be as dramatic, so it will have less of an impact as the $8 million a 40 goal scorer would command. Eberle also seems better equipped to move from line to line and still play his game, whereas Lee sees lesser production with lesser centers. Also, if Barzal is going to be a first line center, we’re going to see if his two linemates can also step up against the best defenses in the NHL.

Now, there are factors that can change my mind. What if Lee is willing to sign a deal similar to Josh Baileys- 6 years at $5 million? Or even 5 years at $6 million? That would be something that would make things interesting. Or what if Eberle pulls a Boogie Cousins and takes a pay cut so he can pick his team?

Or what if Carolina offers the Islanders Sebastian Aho for Eberle? How can you pass up the Aho to Aho potential! Alas, Aho is much younger with similar offensive statistics and at a much smaller cap hit. And based on the research I’ve done, trades like that just don’t happen.   

So as we approach training camp, the countdown to two major decisions begins. As will the constant questions and distractions about negotiating a contract in season, about two sides in communication with each other, and about what to do at a trade deadline with a UFA. Just like last season, or as we often say around here, more of the same.

POSTSCRIPT:

So far, here’s some on the money predictions from last September:

  1. Lee cam nowhere near 40 goals without Johnny Snake,
  2. The Islanders took my advice and resigned Eberle. My mistake was that he took a DISCOUNT to stay.
  3. The field of players with Lee’s history are earning between $7 to $9 million per season. My prediction was that Lee would seek $8 million.
  4. I overestimated Eberle’s stats, mainly because Barry Trotz plays a more defensive minded system and Eberle actually adapted his game for it which I didn’t expect to happen. Eberle did find his offense against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and was lethal.
  5. I called Lee slow. Anyone watching the Islanders playoff run could not validly disagree. One empty net goal in eight playoff games? Yikes.

On the verge of NHL free agency, that’s all I have Islander-wise for now. Hope you all watch the NHL Entry Draft tonight and enjoy the speculation as to what the Islanders are going to do. Rumor has it that there’s a trade or two in the works…