I feel like Peter Jackson. Not because I’m fat and furry, but because I’m telling a story that suddenly has grown into at least 3 parts, and is going to be more likely six parts regarding the Islanders off season in 2021.
How did I do? I mean, some writers suggest or say or infer ideas or rumors. I predicted EXACT EVENTS. My Islanders foil Kool Aid Rob critiqued me saying that if I was so smart, why wasn’t I an NHL GM, and my family should be disappointed in my not raking in NHL GM dough. Based on Garth Snow, that dough is Cookie. But he’s probably right.
But he does have a point. Why can a layperson see so many obvious things that a professional can not.
Now, when I say professional GM, understand that a professional GM is not exactly the same thing as a professional teacher or doctor. Those jobs have qualifications.
But hockey GM? Before he had the New York Islanders playing “Smaht” and “Haard”, Jack Capuano was a hockey GM. So how hard can it be?
But I digress. The gist of the article was that the Islanders needed to do more than just add one new player.
I suggested Vladimir Tarasenko at forward, Zdeno Chara to replace Andy Greene, and to promote the most deserving AHL player at 6th defenseman to be budget conscious.
So far I’m 67% exactly precise with the moves Lou Lamoriello has made. But I think there’s a better ending to my predictive ability and actual NHL Hall of Fame GM foresight. And it’s right in the face to be snatched up.
Don’t get me wrong, Tarasenko is still a possibility. It’s just that the bait to get him has changed. The bait however will still be by trade. Unfortunately, Islander fans have two ideas in mind about what a trade means. Anything on the Islanders roster has no trade value. Also, anything on the Isles roster is invaluable. Example?
“Who would want Leddy? He sucks. We’d have to include 4 1sts to move him.”
Reality? Contract moved to the EXACT TEAM I predicted, and the return was a 2nd and a player with Detroit retaining half the salary.
#IslesKoolAid the usual zero, #IslesRealists for the win.
“Ladd is untradeable.”
Reality? Ladd moved for 2 draft picks going the other way, which is very fair.
“Bailey unprotected? We’re fucked.”
Reality? No GM in the NHL WANTS Bailey. Not without inducements to take the zilch preventing the Islanders from winning a Stanley Cup. So technically, #IslesKoolAid is right on this one. We are fucked, because Seattle didn’t pick Bailey and the Isles are still stuck with him.
“Komorov is untradeable.”
Realty? You’re going to be wrong on that call, too.
As per my thesis in this piece, the Islanders can not take a step forward without a better infusion of new blood. By new I don’t mean teenagers. By new I mean guys who did not get to the highest stage of their career and fail. Parise is baby steps toward that. Tarasenko – a cup winner – would help that. Dunn – a cup winner – would help that.
Wait, did you say Vince Dunn?
Whereas I predicted the Isles reuniting with Chara, my mistake was Lou’s ties to the New Jersey Devils. Hello, Palmieri and Parise? Greene is done, but Lou is looking to fulfill something on a personal level that most people have no understanding of. It’s called loyalty. Old school. Respect.
But I did predict Tarasenko. And I’m feeling Dunn would be something interesting. But why would the Seattle Kracken trade Dunn?
Well, anyone watching Seattle’s expansion draft would be underwhelmed. Seattle needs contracts to reach the league floor. And Dunn is a restricted free agent. Dunn can hold a new team hostage for an overpriced contract. So what would help everyone?
Trade Josh Bailey to Seattle for Dunn.
Seattle benefits. Bailey and Eberle can combine to form….something. Maybe Seattle can become the best #IslesKoolAid first line in the NHL, and Bailey will prove how amazing he is. My guess is about as amazing as arena food Seattle gets contract security. They acquire a “top 6” forward for a defenseman that may bend them over. Seattle hits the cap floor. Joy! Just…don’t hold your breath waiting.
And the Islanders? They wrap up the defensive acquisitions that they need to and waylay a rookie from joining the league for one more season.
And Tarasenko? After the St. Louis Blues management trash talked VT, they ruined his asking price. So if I’m the Islanders? My offer is salary offset and a 1st. So see ya Komarov, Hickey, and a 1st. Next years first will be 32rd anyway, as with the removal of Bailey from the top 6? The Islanders become instant Stanley Cup favorites.
But Tarasenko has a messed up shoulder! He can break? True. 100% true. So what to do?
Make the trades. If Tarasenko does go down with an injury? You have $7.5 million to replace him. For this season and probably next season, if the team is smart. You know what you can acquire for $7.5 million?
Here’s an example: Patrik Laine. He just signed a 1 year deal with Columbus, which has a history of losing trades for good players. A pick and a prospect gets that deal done. Also, anyone else that has a cap hit under $7.5 million and is productive. That’s a long list.
And you want to know what else? The Islanders with Komorov, Hickey, and Bailey gone can roll 4 productive lines. Looking back at the Tampa Bay elimination series, what line could you call effective? The first one? 2 goal scorers on line 1 is not effective. The second line? One goal each is not effective. Did Tampa’s second line only score 3 goals in 7 games? Isles third line? No goals whatsoever? Ouch. Isles 4th line? They don’t score, they break balls. And they did…although there was zero significant, momentum changing hits from that entire line over 7 games. But at this point, they are the identity line. Sadly, our identity is almost aggressive enough hits, and low scoring.
You may say, why do you want to unload Bailey? In the playoffs, his game always steps up. Statistically, that is true. So let’s do a fast review of Bailey’s “stepping up:”
First two playoff series ever? Isles lose. Losing isn’t stepping up.
Then Florida? Thomas Greiss and Fuckface Scumbag puts the team on their back. Isles win, then promptly get destroyed by Tampa Bay. Amazing that Tampa Bay has been competitive since 2016. We have 2 competitive years out of 20 and we want to retire 23 numbers.
The most recenf ECF against the Lightning? What did Bailey produce? What, 20 points? How many came in the Eastern Conference Finals?
Reality says, when the going gets tough, Bailey is wet toilet paper. Smears shit all over himself, does nothing for his team. Ask Yanni Gourde, who was assited on his game winning short handed goal by I Josh you not Bailey. #Elite.
If assists to opponents counted, Bailey would be the next Wayne Gretzky.
Also…that’s it. Baileys first decade in the NHL was 4 playoff series, 3 losses, 1 miracle. What changed since then? Bailey? Or the coaching staff?
It is insane to think that Bailey is a catalyst.
To wrap this mini reality lesson up., Bailey is absolutely replaceable, and is overdue to be replaced. Look at hockey reference for his modern counterparts, production wise. Most of those guys were on 4 or more teams, because they produced as much as Bailey, which means they were unimportant.
The Islanders are a team that is built for the playoffs. They are the second best playoff team of the last 2 seasons. The issue is that those seasons were shortened.
So if the Islanders roll the same team in a shorter season, when that late season decline starts, the team can in reality fall out of playoff position. And a playoff team that doesn’t make the playoffs is kind of like when a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to see that tree fuck up.
In short, the Islanders made one significant change. On the third line. The need a significant first line change, and a significant top 4 defense change. And could make a cap saving statement in goal, but I don’t think Lou or Barry Trotz trusts Ilya Sorokin that much yet. Thus, they have no free salary cap money to sign free agents. Personally, if we are not promoting young talent, I would like Sami Vatanen and Vince Dunn to fill out the defense at the expense of Greene at Bridgeport, but cap space is cap space.
But here is what I do know. With the offseason moves of Tampa Bay acquiring Brent Seabrook’s dead contract? They have the funds to reload the bottom six that left, and they have locked up Brayden Point for the productive part of his career.
Some people think that Bailey should retire with the Islanders as a career player. If Bailey was a true Islander? He would gladly leave the team so that they could win a Stanley Cup two, and then sign a one day contract at the end of his disilustrious career to truly become an Islanders legend.
You telling me that’s an improvement? If so, I have a bag of dogshit you may be interested in acquiring.
The Islanders went from losing in 6 to Tampa to losing to 7 in Tampa. Trotz went from being run over by Hedman, Kucherov, Pointe, and Vasilevski to just being destroyed by Pointe and Vasilevski.
Tarasenko and Dunn for Bailey, Hickey, Komarov, and a draft pick. Less than that? Next season is going to be more of the same.
The New York Islanders have peaked as a team in its current form. And they face a serious issue, thanks to the global pandemic and a frozen salary cap, but also an even bigger issue with the overpay of many, many contracts on the present roster. It’s ok, though. I’m going to tell you how to fix this.
Overpaid contracts, you may say? Didn’t the team just make it to the conference finals for a second year in a row? How is that bad?
Fair questions. And here’s the fair answer. It’s not bad at all. It’s just not good. Being in 3rd or 4th place, depending on how you look at it, isn’t something you aspire to. Yes, last season’s unexpected bubble playoff run was fantastic. Going to a game 6 in a conference final was a very needed step forward for this organization.
But the 2021 season? I have no idea how Lou Lamoriello won GM of the Year. In case you missed Lou’s moves? I’ll help you out:
He traded away young defenseman Devon Toews for a pair of second round draft picks.
He made a move to acquire a scorer after the leading goal scorer had a season ending injury, giving up a first round pick to do so.
That’s it, folks.
Now, if Lou brought in a goal scorer LAST fall to bolster the team for a whole season? I’d be impressed. Instead, he rolled out basically the same team that lost in 6 games, only to see them lose in 7 games. The excuse will be “We didn’t have Anders Lee!” True. And if you did? You don’t have Kyle Palmieri and his playoff hot streak.
Going from wining a round of playoffs before going home versus two games away from a cup is an impressive step. Going from missing by two games to missing by one game? And losing to the same team? It means you need changes.
Don’t believe me? Look at the recent 2 cups in 3 years trip of the LA Kings. They had 6 different starters and a 33% turnover on Defense the year they won the first of two cups compared to the year before. The Pittsburgh Penguins followed the same plan, and did 2 cups in 2 years with 6 different starters from the year before when they lost in the payoffs.
But the Islanders have a problem. They have good players, absolutely. Mathew Barzal is stifled a little in Coach Barry Trotz’s defensive minded system, but preventing a goal is the same as scoring a goal in the end run. Anders Lee grew exponentially against Washington in the 2020 playoffs as a clutch player. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech have become a legitimate top defensive pairing.
BUT THE CONTRACTS. HOLY SHIT.
Lou is bad at contracts. Take, for instance, his first Islander negotiation- John Tavares.
Lou offered Tavares 8 years at $11 million a year. You may say “That was the market for a scumbag,” and you would be right. Allegedly the San Jose Sharks offered Tavares $13 million per.
So is it a bad contract? Ask Toronto. The vast majority of their fans started hating that contract last year, only to be confirmed with this season. And there’s still 4 years to go.
Would John Tavares help this Islanders team? Absolutely. Would his salary fuck the entire team like he’s doing in Toronto? Undeniably.
The same thing applies to the Artemi Panarin deal. Panarin is, in my opinion, a better player than Tavares. More speed, sneakier….and overpaid. Lou was in on that as well. And I’m not talking overpaid because he has an 8 figure annual cap hit, although that helps.
No, I mean NHL overpaid. Because the last time I checked? No team paying a guy an 8 figure salary has ever won a Stanley Cup. Not a single one. Shit, one player from Buffalo hasn’t even made the playoffs for that 8 figure deal.
Now, despite their trying, the Islanders have no players making an 8 figure salary. But they have a lot of guys punching above their weight class.
Take, for instance, Anders Lee. Lee is a 20 goal scorer. It may be 21, it may be 25, but he’s a 20 goal scorer. Sure, with Tavares at center he was a 40 goal scorer, but there’s no Tavares here, and I think that his playing two years now with Barzal shows Barzal is no Tavares either. It’s easily arguable that Barzal makes no one better, whereas Tavares got Lee to 40 goals and Bailey to 71(!) points, totals that they will never touch again.
Anders Lee makes $7 million dollars a year to score 20 goals. Is that an overpay? Absolutely. Not even looking around the league but at their own roster? It’s an overpay. Why isn’t Brock Nelson being paid $7 million a year, except for the fact that he’s not worth it?
If you look around the NHL, Anders Lee’s stats look an awful lot like Mike Hoffman. An outlier of a goal scoring year, but a 20 goal scoring power play guy. And Hoffman? His highest cap hit ever was basically $5.2 million. That means Lee is overpaid by 1.8 million dollars, and that’s just the beginning.
Another Lou contract- Brock Nelson. Islander fans may remember how soft he was before Trotz came around. They may recall his very soft 2021 playoff series vs. Tampa Bay. But they may have forgotten that he gets paid $6 million a season.
You know who else gets paid $6 million a season? Nathan McKinnon. $6.3 million, to be exact. And if I asked you “Hey, would you trade Brock Nelson straight up for Nathan McKinnon?” The only people saying they wouldn’t do it are true #IslesKoolAid, or brain damaged. Yeah, Brock Nelson is overpaid by league standards.
I’m not even finished.
JP Pageau. He was a 1C on the Ottawa Senators in a season where a 1C in Otawa is a 3C on a playoff team. And that’s exactly what he was for the Islanders. Now, I like Pageau, but when the Islanders extended him for $5 million a year? During the COVID crisis? Knowing the cap was frozen for a few season? Bidding exclusively so no one could influence your offer?
Pageau’s best season for goals was 24, and points was 43. Those bests were NOT in the same season. But you know whats funny? The Edmonton Oilers also made a COVID signing when just like the Islanders they were bidding against no one. And you know what happened?
Ryan Nugent Hopkins got paid $5.125m. RNH’s best seasons for goals and points? 28 goals and 69 points. In the same season! And he followed that season with another 60 point season. 69 is 50% more than 43, and yet they’re paid the same. RNH has 4 20 goal seasons, would have had a 5th in 2021 if it was 82 games, was 1 short in a season where he missed 2 games, and 2 short of 20 in a season where he missed 20 games. That’s a combined 7 20 goals seasons compared to 1, and a best year that was 67% as good as the guy making virtually the same money.
“But Pageau plays defense!” Yeah, I saw that defense versus elite forwards two years in a row now, and I’m not impressed. Regular season isn’t playoffs. Selke up Brayden Point, jerkoff.
“Are you going to attack Mat Barzal’s contract?” you may be wondering. No, no I’m not. Mat Barzal is a guy that would be a 20-60-80 player on other teams in this league. He was on pace for 20 goals in this shortened season DESPITE having Leo Komarov as a wing. He was the Islanders best player against Tampa, and the ONLY player who elevated his game versus the champs.
But that fucking Komarov? A minimum wage player eating $3 million.
Matt Martin came off of a deal paying him $2.5 million, but took a hometown discount to stay with the Islanders. Wait, who gave a 4th line grinder with no offensive output $2.5 million? Lou Lamoriello!. And then traded for him when Lou came to the Island!!
Maybe this trend started with Garth Snow giving Josh Bailey $5 million a year to score 13 goals a year- which is his career average of 13 years and 162 goals. Or maybe it was that Casey Cizikas taking $3.4 million to score 9 goals and be a part of the highest paid 4th line in the NHL. No wonder they call it the “Identity Line.” The entire line is overpaid. They all need a Martin correction to stay with this team, or else they’re hurting it. Two time and soon to be three time cup champ Patrick Maroon does that exact same job with maybe better statistics for $900,000. So Cizikas is a million dollar player, statistically. And Maroon has not only Cizikas’s intangibles, but the experience of 3 cups, compared to zero for CC. And CC. And MM. All overpaid.
Yes, I know Cizikas had a 20 goals season. So that makes Bailey even MORE overpaid, as he’s never done that entry level top 6 achievement in 13 seasons. Bailey compares points per game to Craig Smith in Boston, who makes $3.1 million although Smith has a few 20 goals seasons under his belt as well.
Let’s talk goaltenders. Seymon Varlamov is being paid $5 million. Yes, he was a Vezina finalist, but by this point if you don’t realize that it’s Trotz’s defense first system and the incredible goalie coaching that helps these guys out, I don’t know what to tell you. But ;ets talk about Varlamov’s stats when he received that contract.
The Islanders signed Varlamov to a $5 million a year for 4 years deal coming off a season where his GAA 2.87 was and his save percentage was .909. Hmmm, there was an Islander goalie recently that was coming off of a season with a 2.69 GAA and a .913 save percentage and was given a 3 year deal for $3.3 million. And that same guy- with a much worse team- put up a 2.70 GAA and a .913 save percentage for…$3.6 million dollars just this last season.
Yeah, that was Thomas Greiss. Who is just about the same skill set as Varlamov. And makes $1.4 million less against the salary cap.
So, if Lee is $1.8 millon overpaid, Nelson at LEAST a million overpaid, Bailey almost $2 million overpaid, Komarov $2.2 million overpaid, Varlamov $1.4 million overpaid, well folks, that’s over $8 million dollars in salary cap money that can improve the team and retain key players. Lou, by giving bad contracts and not trading away issue contracts, has created a roughly 10% inflation rate on the Islanders cap hit.
And I didn’t even bring up Andrew Ladd and Thomas Hickey. Two complete waste of money deals because neither guy plays, but they eat over $5 million of the salary cap for the team while in Bridgeport.
What could the Islanders do with $8-$13 million more? Field a team that can beat Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup.
But that’s the #IslesKoolAid “Land of If’s.” We have to deal with reality. And the reality is, there needs to be some changes for the Islanders to get to the next level. Want some ideas?
Vladimir Tarasenko is a very recent Stanley Sup winner. I tend to like guys that win Cups. It’s the experience that the Islanders are lacking in, as they shop from teams like Ottawa and New Jersey. So to start, you can offer a Jordan Eberle- a top line offensive player until Trotz- and his $5.5 million contract to take back Tarasenko and his $7.5 million deal. Maybe St Louis even eats $1 million of that deal to facilitate it. That’s a net $1 million add to the Isles cap.
Next, Detroit has said we will take salary from you if you send us defense. Hey Nick Leddy, its time to go. And we’ll even throw in “veteran leadership” with Leo Komarov and the last year of his contract. Plus, Komarov is being paid less than his cap hit, which is always a plus for the team acquiring him. We can take a 3rd rd draft pick in return. That’s a net -$8 million from the cap.
The Edmonton Oilers always seems to lose important games. I’d bet its because they roll out Islander castoff Mikko Koskinen as their starting goalie. The Islanders have a goalie of the future in Ilya Sorokin, and he needs to get paid. Varlamov as a $5 million backup is crazy. But $5 million as a starter with playoff experience? Here you go, Oilers. We’ll take a 3rd round pick in return. That saves $4.2 million on the cap.
There’s also an expansion draft. Wouldn’t a team that’s new LOVE some veteran leadership? Here you go Seattle- take Josh Bailey. We’ll throw in that 3rd from Edmonton to ensure that taking. Savings? $5 million on the cap.
How do we replace Nick Leddy? That should be Noah Dobson. Or, you COULD play Thomas Hickey and honor the bad contract Lou gave him. But I say be creative here. First off, the Andy Greene era should be over. But if you want a veteran at minimum wage And a feel good story? Zdeno Chara. He forms half of the bottom pair, has a homecoming, the fans can cheer a hall of famer who started and maybe ends his career on the Island, and he is absolutely coming in at minimum wage. Add $800k to the cap.
That’s still only 5 defensemen on the roster, however. So I’d look to promote either Bode Wilde or Sam Bolduc as the 6, and have Chara teach them like he did in Boston with Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy seems to be pretty good, and gave Chara a gigantic hug on the handshake line when Boston beat Washington in the 2021 playoffs. That speaks volumes to his tutelage. And a rookie deal? $800K.
If you’re doing the math, that leaves the Islanders $15 million to retain Kyle Palmieri, resign Pelech, Cizikas, Sorokin, and Beauvilier, and to add a backup goalie- Pekka Rinne maybe at a minimum deal? – which should be more than enough money to make that happen. Especially is Cizikas takes a Martin deal- time over money. That’d save the team $1.5 million.
Also, there’s rumors that the Minnesota Wild are looking to buy out Zach Parise. If they do? A Father-Son homecoming, at a league minimum deal. Or dare to dream and add cup winner Blake Coleman to your roster in between $3.6 million per season, a 100% raise for the player.
What’s the cap hit for this lineup? Well, that’s a tough one. Lou is bad at market value. But the knowns? Line one is $21.5 million. Line 2 projects to $11m. Line 3 projects to $9-13 million. Line 4? $7 million. That’s $49.5-52.5 million at forward.
Defense? The knowns and minimum deals combine to $9.5 million. Pelech getting $4-5M? $14.5 m on defense.
In goal? Sorokin should come in between $3-4 million, as he is a restricted free agent and there’s no need to pay hi like a king without seeing him perform like one. And $1m for a backup makes goal AT MOST $5 million.
Total cap hit? $69 – 72 million dollars. Leaving the Islanders $9.5 -$12.5 million under the cap. And an arguably better roster. And future flexibility. And this lets Hickey’s contract fade away in that season to free up another more than $2 million or make him a in season trade option on a cheap expiring contract on a defenseman, which is an asset in this league. Clutterbuck needs a pay cut as well after this season. And if Ladd goes fishing again? You add over $5 million in LTIR to chill with Boychuk’s $6 million that’s already there, giving the Islanders a total over $20 million of cap space to Tampa up the roster. Ovechkin, anyone?
The above is a deeper team at forward, a similar team at defense and goal, and a team that has a financial future which will be needed with all of Lou’s draft pick trade aways. It adds cup winners, experience, youth, speed, and subtracts nothing. It follows the trend of teams making serious moves to get over the top. It adds guys with power play experience. It creates a top six spot for their top offensive prospect. And I can absolutely guarantee you this- no team with Josh Bailey in the top six will ever win a Stanley Cup. This lineup fixes that.
Or, you can wait for Lou to trade another good, young player to make sure you pay the same team minus one part to compete against the two time champs. More to the point, do you think that having Toews on the blueline instead of Greene gets you the same results? You know, a speedy guy who had 6 goals and 28 points with Trotz and followed with 10 points in 22 playoff games compared to Greene’s last 2 playoffs combining for 5 points in 40 games?
Another guarantee- unless there’s some substantive changes on this team, you’re going to see the return of the same roster, only slightly diminished, and probably a second round loss versus Carolina. Or at best? A third round loss to Tampa Bay. Again. Or as we say a lot around here, more of the same.
This is the story of the 2021 New York Islanders hockey season. And maybe the 2024 Islanders season. And possibly the 2027 Islanders season.
The 2021 New York Islanders season on the surface was an excellent run. With a shortened regular season, we won’t spend too much time discussing the day by day or month by month progress of the team. That was not the goal of the Islanders. They were built for the postseason. Rather, we will explore two aspects of the regular season that helped shape the Islanders postseason, and will help shape both the near and distant future.
I’m sure you can predict that one event for consideration would be the Anders Lee injury. Lee’s torn ACL was a giant setback for a team that struggles greatly with offense- especially the powerplay, which is the most important aspects to Lee’s game.. This setback also hurt Matt Barzal as not only did he lose a twenty goal scoring wing, but that wing was immediately replaced with a two goal scoring wing. The decision to play Leo Komarov on the first line of the New York Islanders is absolutely the biggest NHL mystery of the 2021 regular season or postseason.
The next aspect of the regular season I wanted to discuss were the trade deadline acquisitions. Adding Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, and Brayden Coburn was the equivalent of adding Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri was the only player of those three to make any significant impact due to having two excellent playoff rounds. You can point to Zajac preventing a goal during the playoffs as maybe something worthwhile as well, but ultimately in acquiring Zajac and convincing the New Jersey Devils to retain salary on both players, the cost to the Islanders was a first round pick – something they have not had a lot of in the last two years. More on this later.
The main focus of an Islander retrospective needs to be on the postseason. The series against the Pittsburgh Penguins it was fantastic. It was enjoyable, it was exciting, and if Pittsburgh had competent goaltending they might have won that series. When Josh Bailey is lighting you up for goals you know you’ve got goalie issues. Personally, I did not expect Pittsburgh to win that series and made it known to everyone I could that the Islanders would win that series in six games. If only there was sports betting in New York…
The Boston series was a bit tougher for me to predict as I didn’t see much of Boston during the regular season except against the Islanders. After watching two games of the series I was fully confident that the Islanders would win because Boston is a one line team, even with the addition of Taylor hall. Boston’s time is clearly fading away. Their title was a decade ago. Getting rid of Zdeno Chara was just one of the many required dismantling moves that the team will need to make in order to stay competitive. Boston has to rebuild their forward ranks as even with Hall they had no effective line after the first one.
the Islanders returned to the Eastern Conference finals, site of last years single handed dismantling and manhandling by Victor Hedman. And to make it worse, this time Tampa would have the services of Steven Stamkos, who had missed last year’s playoffs against the Islanders due to injury.
Was this series closer than last year’s series? Yes. absolutely. Did the Islanders perform marginally better than they did last year? Yes, as they played in seven games this year instead of 6. But there was something about the way that series ended that left a bad taste in my mouth. That being the final 16 goals of the series, 13 of which were scored by Tampa. That is an overwhelmingly oppressive statistic.
Shockingly the Islanders were two and two in that span, as the first two of those 16 came after the Islanders built a three goal lead in game 4, ad needed an amazing play at the end of the game to keep Tampa from hitting virtually empty net. This was followed by the worst playoff loss in franchise history in Game 5. The Islanders needed overtime to win Game 6, only to be shut out for a second time in a 5 days in a game seven defeat off of a power play goal, except the team with the power play didn’t score the goal. This is nothing new to any Islander fan that watched that series. They knew that the Islanders were the underdogs just like they were in the first two rounds, but it’s something entirely different to be the underdogs against the Champions.
Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders saw a multitude of players stepping up on different nights to be heroes. And that’s kind of a problem. When a team is relying on Scott Mayfield for game tying goals and Matt Martin for game winning goals? There’s a failure in the execution of your top six forwards. I do understand that Tampa Bay has a perennial Norris trophy candidate on defense and a former Norris trophy candidate on defense as well as an up and coming young defenseman who is already very good making up half of their blue line, but not everyone on the Islanders is guarded by a Norris trophy defenseman.
Take, for instance, Islanders forward JG Pageau. Pageau is the Islanders third line center but just a season ago he was the Ottawa Senators first line center. Pageau was not often facing Norris trophy winning defenseman, even though Pageau has in done such in the past as a 1C. Pageau had zero goals against Tampa Bay.
Kyle Palmieri also did nothing offensively against Tampa Bay in either goals or assists despite two strong postseason series against Pittsburgh and Boston. Travis Zajac did nothing in any scoring category at all against Tampa unless you count plus minus as a scoring category, to which he was minus 3. Those three players we’re not facing Norris trophy defenseman and yet they did nothing. if you want people to step up and be heroes from unusual places, a good place to look would be from guys you acquired in trades who were top line players on other teams. And also, Travis Zajac.
Why does this matter? Because in acquiring both Pageau and Palmieri the Islanders gave up multiple draft picks. Three picks for Pageau, and 2 picks and 2 prospects for Palmieri. And while it’s true that the Islanders went to the conference finals in both of those seasons, if one scans the Islanders roster and looks at the ages of the players in the top six they threw out against Tampa Bay, you’ll notice that when the next time this team takes ice only two of their top 6 is on the right side of 30. Speaking of a top 6, let’s address that now.
The Islanders first line of Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov combined for four goals. Three of those goals came off the stick of Barzal, and zero of those goals came off of the stick of Leo Komarov. This begs to ask the question “How is a player who only has two goals in 60 career playoff games on the first line of a team that you expect to win the Stanley Cup?”
There is no good answer to that question. A better question would be “Say there was a player you could have rotated in to that spot who was one of your leaders in power play production during the regular season. Would you do it at the expense of the guy that doesn’t score?” The reality is that there was a better option, but the stubbornness of a defense first coach who refused to consider that option on any meaningful level ultimately diminished the production of every other player on that first line.
Now am I saying fire Barry Trotz? Not at all. Without Trotz this team doesn’t make the playoffs, nevertheless the Eastern Conference finals. But can you question Trotz and his decision making process? 100% absolutely yes. Trotz even gave us evidence of his thinking when he pulled Semyon Varlamov out of goal against Pittsburgh to let NHL rookie but very experienced goaltender Ilya Sorokin take over goaltending duties. All Sorokin did was win every game he played against Pittsburgh, to be mothballed after one bad game versus Boston. Who scored by the second shot of every game in which they faced Varlamov.
Let’s look at that second line. The production of Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson combined equaled the output of Matthew Barzal by himself. While I’m not expecting much production from a fourth line I won’t forget that Matt Martin had the game winning goal in game 4, and that in seven games line 4 scored one less goal than lines two and three combined. I guess line 4 didn’t face elite defenders. Oh, they did?
By the way, isn’t the second line of a conference finals team supposed to be excellent? Yep. Wouldn’t you expect any team going to the conference finals to at least have two lines? We certainly know Tampa had two lines because after the Islanders finally stopped the first line from scoring in every game of the series, a different line scored. That Brayden Point’s individual output on Tampa was more than half of the Islanders team output in goals is a pressing issue.
Not to beleaguer the playoffs any more than I have to but I do want to come up with one final point regarding the 2021 season and end of the Islanders playoff run. Could the Islanders have beaten Tampa Bay? A fair question. The Islanders had a dominant game one in Tampa, the Islanders lost game three by a goal, and the Islanders lost game 7 by a goal.
Of course the Islanders also won game one by a goal, game four by a goal, and game 6 by a goal in overtime. Also game four will be remembered for the Islanders almost completely blowing a three goal lead without a superhuman play by Ryan Pollack. If Tampa scores in that game 4 at that point in time I would bet my house at the Islanders lose in overtime. There would just be too much momentum after coming back from such a huge deficit.
So when we come back to the question could the Islanders have beaten Tampa Bay , my answer is in two parts. One part is an old theory that I have that is still 100% right to this day , and the other one is a theory I developed about seven games ago in the Islander season. The first theory- that a team with Josh Bailey in your top 6 will never go to a Stanley Cup finals- is now both 100% correct and on a 13 year “Dan is right“ streak.
The second part of that answer is this- if Leo Komarov is your answer to replacing Anders Lee at wing, you will never make it to a Stanley Cup final. That was the theory I developed with the intense research f watching Komarov play 19 games on the first line in the playoffs and never score a goal. Which was predictable, because last year we watched him play 17 playoff games on a third line and only score one goal against weaker defensive competition. So if you factor in Komarov competing against better defenseman that one would become zero. In Komarov’s Islander career he has two playoff goals in 44 games, going one, one, 0 for those three entire post seasons. 1,1,0. Komarov’s new nickname? Binary.
The next part in this retrospective is the what’s next section. The 2021 Islanders already have a glimpse of what’s next thanks to the 2020 Islanders. After the 2020 game 6 loss to Tampa in the conference finals, the Islanders had to part way with Devon Toews from their defense and also were gifted with the injury retirement of Johnny Boychuk just to hold the remaining players together.
The Islanders face a steeper cliff this offseason. The Islanders have eight players who need new contracts. Some of these eight players are clearly replaceable, such as Travis Zajac, Michael Dal Calle or Andy Greene. Even if all those are ejected from the team? That’s not much of a savings as those players weren’t making that much money.
Then there comes the hard questions. Casey Cizikas is a UFA. Kyle Palmieri is a UFA. Both were key in this Islanders run until they ran into Tampa Bay. The question you have to ask is “are these players worth the money- which for both of them will be north of $4 million per year- to come back and if facing Tampa Bay in the playoffs do absolutely nothing again?”
On this question I would say one of those players is definitely worth keeping and that would be Kyle Palmieri. No offense to Casey Cizikas. He has been a lifelong Islander, an extra hard player, a guy with a tainted back story who came here kept his head down and worked hard to make himself rich. And if he wants one last contract making big money in his career? God bless him. Let him go and play 60 games out of 82 for some other team for $4 million . And if whoever that team is shows up in a conference finals, understand that Cizikas will not score a goal, as he has no goals in 13 conference finals games. He only scores about 9 per regular season anyway.
I’d rather see a Blake Coleman take a spot on this team- a guy w cup experience, a gritty game, 20 goals seasons, and did I mention the very recent cup experience? Remember how vast the changes were to the Islanders culture with the acquisition of Stanley Cup winners Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk?
The next two players that are restricted free agents are must sign players. Why? Because they are under 30 and the team still has some control on what they get paid and how long their contracts are. This means that they can be had on some level of a discount compared to being on the open market. Anthony Beauvilier and Adam Pelech our players that are key to the Islanders future. They’re young, there is still a level of control over them, and frankly the team is barren of prospects, which gets to the next point in the what’s next section- which players to protect in the expansion draft.
Personally? If you’re making more than $3 million for the Islanders and if you’re over 30 you would be exposed in the expansion draft. The only player in that criteria I would even consider keeping is Anders Lee. Lee is the team captain and he is a productive player, but he’s also coming off of a major injury and isn’t getting younger. Also it’s the type of injury that could make you slower, and Lee’s game was already pretty slow. In short, if Lee was exposed, would anyone even take him for $7 million a year for the next half decade?
Ideally the Islanders would negotiate a trade with Seattle in which they would send a predetermined player to Seattle for salary cap relief and maybe add an additional asset of a third round graph pick, or even a second round draft pick. Why? Because lately the Islanders have showed no regard for draft picks. They are absolutely a win now team , as our discussion of 67% of the top two lines are players 30 and over. And that trade away the future for the now problem? That problem will fully reveal itself fully when in two years Brock Nelson, Andres Lee, and whatever is left from these 30 year olds are slower and there’s nothing immediately there to replace them. GM Lou Lamiorello is already on that path, and it seems can not be stopped despite common sense, so why not go all in?
One thing I kept hearing during these playoffs is that Tampa Bay was cheating on the salary cap. Did Tampa cheat the cap? No. They exploited a rule that let them accumulate a $99 million dollar payroll. Another team that also took advantage of that rule for almost $10 million dollars? The New York Islanders. If you think Tampa cheated the cap, then so did the Islanders. Some say that if you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t trying. I’m OK with that.
Barry Trotz is on record saying that this team was special, and will look different next year. You have to expect that based on the expansion draft, the frozen salary cap, and the inevitable decline of aging players or injured players. However, let’s talk about how Tampa Bay handled that exact same situation very recently.
A Tampa Bay Sidestory in How to Create Success
In the 2003-04 season, Tampa Bay’s young forwards Vincent Lecavlier, Brad Richards, Martin St Louis and defenseman Dan Boyle led Tampa to their first cup. After a lockout and a few unsuccessful playoff runs, Tampa traded away Richards. The team did not play well and ended up drafting 1st overall in 2008. While Islanders fans cheered over Josh Bailey, Tampa Bay was taking Steven Stamkos. They traded away Boyle after finishing year one of a deal he had signed for 6 years. The reward for that trade? Drafting Victor Hedman.
As the Lightning improved as a team? They made a move that was brilliant- the bought out the contract of Vincent Lecavilier. Not because of his play, but because his cap hit of over $7 million a year until 2020 would hurt the team’s development at that time.
When St. Louis demanded a trade to the Rangers, Tampa took back Ryan Callahan and gave him a healthy contract extension. Tampa Bay returned to the Stanley Cup finals that season. And when Callahan started to deteriorate, traded him to Ottawa for almost $3 million of cap savings.
Tampa traded starting goalie Ben Bishop for cap concerns, replacing him with 2012 first round pick Andrei Vasilevskiy for a much smaller paycheck and a return in talent. They ignored a 2015 trade request from top offensive prospect Jonathan Drouin, but complied in 2017 after he proved his value in the NHL. The return? Montreal Canadiens top defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev.
When 2011 2nd round pick Nikita Kucherov had a breakout season? The Lightning took his breakout linemate Vladilav Namestnikov and traded him to the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonough.
In short, back in 2014, Tampa came off a few seasons of successful playoff advancements including a Stanley Cup championship, and their management looked at their asked themselves “can they do it again?” And the front office looked at that team and said no. The result?
A 2019 Presidents Trophy, a 2020 Stanley Cup championship, and a 2021 Championship defense. And the willingness to trade any player at any time to any place for pretty much hopeful returns, as no player is bigger than the team.
Even in building this 2021 team, Tampa Bay acquired players to put on that injured reserve to exceed the salary cap. On purpose! And what are those teams demand for you taking millions of actual dollars away from their ownerships during a pandemic? They demanded that you also take their draft picks. So when acquiring $4 million of cap spacee from Ottawa, Tampa Bay also acquired the second round draft pick from Ottawa for that service, meaning Tampa Bay will be drafting somewhere in the twice somewhere in the between 30 and 35 in the upcoming NHL draft. Or maybe bunching those two picks to move up into the top 20 in the NHL draft.
As an Islander fan, I’d like to see the misery of John Tavares suffering as he makes $11 million a year in Toronto. The thing I love to pick on is at Toronto has invested over $40 million of salary cap space more than 50% of the salary cap goes to four players. Toronto uses that for four forwards all of which are talented scorers. I had this theory that bas based on Toronto, which was that you cannot invest half your cap in four players and expect to be a championship team.
Which it was why to my surprise it was to my surprise that Tampa has about 50% of the salary cap invested in four players. The goalie Vasilevsky, maybe the best goalie in the world, Victor Hedman – one of the best defensive players in the world , Steven Stamkos- a team leader and who’s been there from the lows to highs, and Nikita Kucherov, whose 9.5 million this year was hidden under the injury clause of the salary cap to allow attempt to create the first 9.5 of the 18 million or so dollars they violated cap space with. So I guess Toronto’s mistake wasn’t paying for guys half a cap it was paying one position half a cap.
What do I share this story? Because if the Islanders do not break into champions next season, it would be time to sell high on your “core” players, and to redefine what the core is. You make the core players Pelech, Pulock, Barzal, Beauvillier, Sorokin. You give legitimate auditions to Bellows, Wahlstrom and Dobsons . Auditions like actual time on ice playing. You try out the kids you have in your system like Bolduc, Wilde, Jenkins, to see what you have. If you’re not willing to do that? Then you trade those players to fill immediate and long term needs.
If you don’t sell high? Look at the shitshow that happened in Chicago. Or the shitshow that happened in Los Angeles. Or the shitshow happening in Pittsburgh. With good management, good scouting, good drafting, good trading, and good coaching? It seems that the Tampa way is the way to not get bogged down in the past at the expense of the future. And different than the Oiler way, where players get paid AFTER they achieve something.
My foil on Twitter is a man that #IslesREealsits call Kool-Aid Rob. KAR will throw his remote control into a wall over a lost game, and maybe even a lost faceoff. To me, that is a respectable fan. But recently KAR said “This season is over. We don’t have to worry about the roster again until October.“ For a guy that loves hockey so much? That is a horrible take. Do fans influence a team managements decisions? I would argue yes. Remember all the clamoring for Miroslav Satan to play with Alexei Yashin? Remember the calls for the Islanders to acquire Michael Peca after his personal strike against Buffalo? I love that when fans clamored for Thomas Vanek, they got Thomas Vanek. Thankfully Vanek isn’t good at betting and turned down 49 million guaranteed dollars when that contract was offered in 2015, because it would have run out last Friday.
But I don’t blame KAR for his view. His view is issue I call the mistake of the fan that has never seen success. The fan that has to root for individuals because the team was so bad. I was there back in the day for Mariuz Czerkawski dropping 35 goals playing with Ted Donato and Mats Lindrgren, so I get it. Sometimes fans like individual players so much that they can’t bear to see them traded.
However, I would argue that those are not true fans of a team.
When a fan base looks at the success of successful teams, they see teams often trade popular players for other players. Case in point- the New York Islanders . When the Islanders were moving toward a Stanley Cup they traded Billy Harris and Dave Lewis- 2 popular players- for Butch Goring. Hard to argue about the results there.
When the Charles Wang Islanders were looking to be respected? They traded future Hall of Fame defenseman Zdeno Chara to acquire Alexei Yashin. Sometimes you trade players people like. Players know that. Which is why players will always tell you it’s a business. When fans wish players would take a home team discount? They are not thinking about the players perspective at all.”Stay here for less money, which makes me more tradable?” Even if a player likes a location, a smaller deal will help insure that it’s a temporary visit.
In fact, the last Islanders player to take a home team discount was Jordan Eberle, who took less money than his previous contract to stay with the others. And the fans now want to see him traded. Keep that in mind when the Casey Cizikas negotiations happen…and expect CC to have a different crest next season. Tampa Bay has becomes MORE successful with frequent purges of expensive plyers from rosters. Good drafting helps that along, so maybe don’t be so hasty in trading away those first and second round picks?
The reality is, the Islanders are a win now team. But winning just one more playoff game than last season? That’s not the type of growth you need. The growth the Islanders needed this year was to make it to a Stanley Cup finals. If they lose in the Stanley Cup, THAT’S the learning experience. Losing to the same team in consecutive years in playoffs? They already got that lesson.
And as KAR points out, its really hard to go to three consecutive Eastern Conference finals. Odds are they won’t get there again. And if that’s the case? That’s when you 100% know it’s time to sell.
The problem with selling however, is twofold. Fold one is- will Barry Trotz coach a rebuilding team, or is he too far along in life to you want to start from scratch? Trotz has a history of not playing young players in important situations, which can stunt their growth in the short term. See the handling of Noah Dobson in the 2020 postseason, and the handling of Whalstrom in the 2021 post season, and the overall handling of Keifer Bellows. The Islanders do not have time for short term growth stunting.
The other aspect with this team is the brand new arena that opens at Belmont in time for the 2021- 2022 season. If after one year at Belmont the Islanders go into a rebuild, the owners are going to shit a brick. They want that arena full for 40 years. The only way that’s going to happen? An annually competitive product. And the only way a competitive product is going to happen annually is with honest raw player assessments and frequent turnover of non key players.
So to conclude this very long 2021 season wrap up, as the New York Islanders are seeing their championship window closing, they have this one off season to short run redefine their team and gear up for one more deep playoff run, and hopefully stay healthy to have a full team coming into their first postseaon at Belmont. After that? Having not had a first round draft pick in two years? And the one from three years ago already a bust? They better stay friendly with Josh ho sang, because in the long run they may actually need him.
Mathew Barzal is an asshole. I don’t say this with any firsthand knowledge of Barzal as a guy to hang out with. Which is my first indicator of assholism. I’m fun to hang out with. Yet never an offer from MB.
No, my assessment comes from Barzal’s “Me First” attitude. Are you unfamiliar? Let me explain.
On Barzal’s first shift of his first career NHL game, he took a penalty. As that penalty expired, he handled a puck while in the penalty box, leading to his second penalty even before he took the ice. Since he never played hockey ever before until he magically appeared in the NHL, he obviously didn’t know that was a penalty.
Oh, he played for years before that? And knew that was wrong since he was 8? Oh, well then…asshole.
Maybe he was crying because he felt de deserved more playing time than anyone else. As a guy with a two games of NHL experience, that makes sense. In two games played, Barzal was a -2 with 6 penalty minutes. And when asked for his opinion? “I thought I played well.” https://sports.mynorthwest.com/210204/barzal-reflects-on-time-with-islanders-return-to-t-birds/
A year later Barzal was rookie of the year. As was Bryan Berard. Was anyone REALLY impressed with Berard, outside of Mike Milbury’s daughter?
The same year Barzal was named Calder winner? Team captain John Tavares left the Island for Toronto. Tavares was DYING for help on the Garth Snow driven into the ground Islanders. And when he got help? He looked where there was more and had his career year.
And without Tavares? Unlike Tavares, Barzal watched his points per game decline significantly.
Sure, you could blame Barry Trotz and his defense first system for his decline. But Barzal didn’t exactly play defense either, and Trotz benched him for his….SELFISHNESS. Trotz even called him out, a very not Barry Trotz move to make. Which goes to show you how much of an asshole Barzal is.
Fast forward a season later, where Barzal again led his team in scoring….not goals, but at least he is a real playmaker, unlike that overpaid fraud Josh Bailey. So what does one time 20 goal scorer Mat Barzal want?
To be the highest paid player in the NHL.
Ovechkin? Crosby? Doughty? Kane? All champions. Half of them overpaid.
And Barzal feels that 1) he is on the same level and 2) he deserves to get paid as much or more.
For that, I can’t exactly blame Barzal. The NHL has fallen into a pattern of paying very young players with no accomplishments aside of scoring points in the regular season salaries that are highly detrimental to the team that signs them or the overall health of the sport.
Is Buffalo Sabre Jack Eichel worth $10 million before he MADE a playoff series? Connor McDavid $12 million? Matthews $11+m? To borrow from both Moses Malone and Amy Winehouse: No, No, No.
Do they score? Yup. Play a little D? Yup. But do they win? NOPE. So…why pay for not winning?
Do fans buy seats for losing teams, except at Madison Square Garden where it’s a tradition? Pre COVID, hockey draws a lot less fans than more sports. Hockey has a larger revenue share for small market teams than most sports – about 3% of the top level of the cap just for existing – but does that demand winning from those club to keep that funding? $5m is also 10% of the cap if you spend to the floor. Why would a winning team want to give a losing team 10% of a cap unless it ensures you have a patsy to beat ass on?
And what would be worse? The patsy would squander the money. Add the playoff series won by Matthews, McDavid, Eichel, Trouba, Laine, and Barzal. What’s the total? 6? And 3 of those are just from Barzal’s teams.
But who were the heroes in those Islander series?
Brock Nelson. Thomas Greiss. Anthony Beauvillier. And to a lesser extent, Josh Bailey, Devon Toews, and Mathew Barzal.
So, back to a non-prime time, Josh Bailey equivalent player asking to be paid like an all timer. How is that selfish?
To the player, it isn’t. In fact, a player could argue that by gunning for the most money possible, they uplift the salary structure of the entire league. Except we’re seeing that such a premise isn’t true. In fact, it created the era where old timers rode out to the sunset on overpaid contracts, those same guys are getting close to minimum wage deals. Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza come to mind.
Remember the time where the Colorado Avalanche traded for Ray Borque to push them to win a cup? Or one of those #chuk’s in Tampa? Or any other veteran to get a team over the hump?
Now it’s a market where you can’t get a star player at the deadline because you’re tied down to paying kids who could use leadership but the team can’t pay. Even the Islanders acquisition of JG Pageau – a playoff performer for sure- doesn’t mean he was a veteran playoff performer with a pedigree. It means he was available for a trade because Ottawa didbn’t want to pay him, and because he was an unrestricted free agent.
So, how does this all relate to Mat Barzal? Because he is a selfish asshole. After the Islanders went to the Eastern Conference finals and put up a valiant fight versus Tampa Bay? The league knew that the Islanders issue was lack of offense. So lets talk about a tale of two players.
Defenseman Ryan Pulock- a top pairing defenseman on the Islanders- was facing a free agent decision. He chose to sign a short term contract at a reasonable rate. This helped preserve the eastern conference finals team.
But Barzal? FUCK THE TEAM. I WANT MINE. The result? Devon Toews was traded for a pair of draft picks. Toews was Barzal’s regular season overtime buddy. Now that he’s gone? You can absolutely subtract overtime wins from the Islanders lineup. 100% guaranteed. Which affects playoff seeding. Great teammate.
If toews went to Colorado and signed a $7 million contract? Good riddance. But he didn’t. He signed for less than Josh Bailey, and is worth more.
Howabout the unrestricted free agent Mike Hoffman? Hoffman scored goals. Especially on the power play. Hoff and the Islanders shared a mutual interest, but the Islanders could never make an offer to Hoffman because their salary cap was tied up with Barzal’s greed. Hoffman took a Player Try Out in St. Louis because…he wanted to?
And Barzal? The Islanders placed heart and soul guy Johnny Boychuk on the LTIR due to his injuries to create $6 million for Barzal. Add the million Barzal made last season and it would be a $7 million offer to Barzal with a zero gain on the salary cap. And Barzal said no. Costing the Islanders a teammate with which he had chemistry.
In case you’re having trouble keeping score? Barzal’s assholishness cost the Islanders Mike Hoffman, Devon Toews, and all of their cap space. And within 48 hours of training camp, still has left the team in limbo by not accepting up to $9 million dollars.
Now, if the roster change makes theIsles win a cup? It’s not because Barzal cared about the team. It’s because he blackmailed them into trading the roster. If they win a cup, I’d eat half a crow. They won despite the greedy infant.
The last time we had such an insufferable asshole? Money hungry Pat LaFontaine. Maybe the best American born player in NHL history. Wanted to get paid like the best Canadian born player, just without the resume. Did Patty ever win a cup?
Mathew Barzal is a selfish asshole. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Here’s a preseason guarantee- without the Islanders making a major move?. They won’t repeat last season. Maybe it’s time to find the Pierre Turgeon we’d need and move on from Barzal. Let him suck a salary cock somewhere else.
We have a matter to clean up here. There is some kind of debate as to what is more important in the NHL- goals or assists. That some people even make this a conversation shows the desperation they have for you to like a player that they like who doesn’t contribute a lot to their hockey team.
To this question, there really is no debate, if you use your head. To see which is more important, Just look at the scoreboard. There’s no assist board when the Islanders play the Rangers. The only thing that determines an outcomes are goals. And when you have more than the other team, you win.
The assist is a relatively limited stat in its application. For example, there is no way to get an assist in the NFL. If an entire sport can exist without an assist? I’m sure they’re not alone. When football was invented they determined that at a touchdown pass is not an assist for a touchdown reception. Why? I don’t know. But it makes sense. If you disagree, you can dig up the father of football – Walter Camp. Be sure to blow him so his zombified body doesn’t immediately eat your brains, Then ask him why there are no assists, and watch him eat you for wasting the time of the undead just to ask them a stupid question.
The three sports where assists are most common are baseball, basketball and hockey. Baseball assists are unique in that they’re about defense, and probably have a bigger impact on a game day in and day out than any other type of assist. They even have two versions of an unassisted play- a strikeout, and a play handled by one fielder by himself. It’s important to note that pitchers do not get assists on groundouts or flyouts.
Regarding assists, in some cases, baseball assists are the most impressive, but basketball is where you see the offensive assists impact a game directly, and it varies greatly from how you get assists in hockey.
In basketball, you get an assist when you directly assist in setting up a player to score. To get an assist you have a period of roughly 2 seconds after you pass the ball for a teammate to score to get an assist. When the rules of the game were originally created, players receiving a pass weren’t even allowed a dribble before scoring before a player could be credited with an assist.
But the assist in hockey? You can pass the puck to someone else, watch that guy skate 100 feet away, watch them pass the puck to someone else, then watch that guy shoot it in and BOOM you’re in the box score! For a whole lot of watching and non-involvement! Passengers, Capuano style.
Now, I get the people defending the mythos of the “hockey playmaker,” the guy that compiles assists on the back of others work. That type of player exists in abundance, and we’re going to discuss the player I call the “Coat Tails” player later on.
Don’t get me wrong, there are genuine playmakers in the NHL. Anze Kopitar comes to mind. Jumbo Joe Thornton. Cindy Crosby. A playmaker is probably in the top 50 in assists in the NHL for current players, especially if they have a decade plus in the league. If not, you have to question if they’re a playmaker.
“Why limit a list to 50 players?” you may ask? Fair question, 50 players would be more than 2 full teams, making up almost 10 percent of the NHL.
A playmaker is not just about assists. What makes a playmaker REALLY effective is if they can also score goals. If it’s a 2 on 1 and you know that the playmaker is always going to pass, you can break up the play way more easily than if the player with the puck is a goal scoring threat.
In short, I will accept that a playmaker makes assists argument, if and only if the playmaker can make a play for himself as well and light the lamp. If a player has never scored 20 goals, they are not a playmaker. Also, if you have scored 20 goals, it doesn’t mean you’re a playmaker.
Beyond that, lets talk about the way hockey awards an assist. It’s a misleading statistic. Why? Because a goal can be unassisted, but there is no assist without a goal. Meaning? The assist is the participation trophy of hockey. And any unnecessary statistic is unimportant, and as you will see, it is absolutely damaging.
Not convinced? Lets set up a little scenario on the value of statistics.
Team A plays Team B. Team B gets 6 assists. Team A gets two assists. Final Score? 4-3, Team A wins.
“HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?,” assist fans say.
Easy. Every goal scored by Team B had 2 assists. One guy made a pass and then went into the locker room to take a shit. Meanwhile someone skated between 5 defenders, drew a penalty, then passed to the extra attacker who was staring at an IPad before he was pushed onto the ice by the bench coach to score the goal.
Another play had a guy grind a puck from the corner, then pass to a guy that dicked around for ten seconds at the point, then shot it at the goalie. On the way, the shot hit a guy in the ass as he skated in front of the net and went into the goal.
Last scoring play for A? On a 3 on 2, there was a crisp passing play that took all of 2 seconds, resulting in a goal.
For team A? One guy got into a passing lane, stole a pass with a fine defensive play, got a breakaway and scored. The next goal? A successful penalty shot. Next, a player chipped a puck past a defenseman along the boards allowing his teammate to swoop in unopposed to score a goal. And the game winner? A 2 on 1 break on a coughed up puck at the point- think Lee and Eberle on the overtime ECF game winning goal in game 5.
I’m not saying that as a concept assists are invalid. But assists can invalidate individual efforts, which make them a misleading statistic, which is bad. But we shouldn’t always focus on bad. Here comes some good.
The FIVE Best Assists in all of Sports:
Outfielder throws out a guy at home plate. Pumps up the entire team, the fanbase, and Youtube content makers. Outfielder does roughly 90% of the work, maybe more now that the play at the plate is non-contact.
The Alley Oop. I think that’s French for “Jump your mother behind a building.” A player throws a ball in the very close vicinity of the basket, where some 6’9” guy puts his arms out and jumps a few inches to throw the ball directly into the basket. All skill goes to the guy making the pass.
The one timer. Named after your sex life, but not your girlfriend’s. This should be the standard for NHL assists.
1-2-3 double play. Pitcher throws, catches, throws again. Catcher throws. No one scores, the asshole that hit it back to the pitcher is out for sucking, and his teammates trash talk him for being useless.
Magic Johnson. Not specifically an assist. More like an assist machine. Highest career Assists Per Game in basketball regular season history, which is an assist per game lower than his highest APG in NBA playoff history. As the game got harder he got better. Known to say “whoo whoo!” as he broke down 40% of the defense singlehandedly and then toss a ball to a 6’10” guy a foot from the basket for an easy 2.
The problem is that the NHL hands out assists like candy, padding the stats of many mediocre players. This is a BAD IDEA. The sport lives in a salary cap world. And not like the NBA salary cap, which has gone up on average of $10 million a year each year over the last four years. You can have players with stats that look something like a half point a game of productivity while actually impacting the scoreboard and outcome of the game about 10% of the time looking to get paid on par with the people with similar surface stats who impact the scoreboard 150% more frequently.
So, how should the NHL reform the stat of assist to make it like the NBA- a direct impact on the scoring- without destroying their salary structure and without rewarding marginal talent?
Let’s start with changing what an assist is and isn’t.
An assist should clearly cause a goal. Like a chip pass to a guy sneaking behind defensemen. Or a one timer pass. Or a saucer pass over a defemsemans stick that someone takes to make a deke and score a goal. Or a passing play where one guy feeds a cutter who collects the pass and rips a wrist shot past the goalie. Like these:
It should not be when a guy makes a pass and goes off for a change to watch a goal get scored. You’re not even on the ice, so how did you affect the play?
It should not be when a guy that passed from the circle in front of his own goal to the guy in the other circle, who then skates singlehandedly across the length of the ice, dekes all defenders, and scores a goal. The fans had as much impact in that play as did the first pass.
As a whole, secondary assists should almost entirely not exist. No other sport does secondary assists. Why? Because they’re stupid. There is only one way a secondary assist should be allowed to happen. Player A hits player B with a pass who immediately hits player C who shoots and scores. Entire play takes 2 seconds. Then maybe you can make the case for everyone being involved contributors. But a guy who skates around, then hits another guy with a pass who skates around, then shoots it at goal to have it redirected? One assist.
A goalie makes a save on your shot on goal and someone tucks in a rebound? That’s not even a fucking pass. No assist at all.
Puck hits you in the ass and goes in? No assist. Puck hits the opposing team and goes in the net? No assist. Accidents aren’t assists.
What would you find from these changes? Let’s take a couple of players to study, shall we?
Wayne Gretzky had over 100 assists in a season 11 times. Is he a playmaker? Fuck yes. Why? Because Gretzky also has 894 goals. Not counting the 46 more from the WHA. Defend the pass, don’t defend the pass, he’ll still fuck you. One of the most dominant players in any sport ever. Think 99 would have been less great if you added more strict assist rules? Nope, because he scored 900 fucking goals.
Too high a standard? OK, lets take it down a notch. Ziggy Palffy.
12 year career. 684 career games- that’s a 57 game a year average. 329 goals, 384 assists. More than a point a game. If you made assists less frequent? Still a 500 point player in the NHL. I find Palffys last two seasons in the NHL interesting. Here’s why:
16-25-41 in 35 games, then a retirement, followed by a year off, and then his second and final NHL retirement year of 11-31-42 in 42 games. He couldn’t stay NHL healthy, yet he came back at a point a game pace. After Palffy’s second retirement from the NHL? he played 5 more pro seasons in Europe at a pace of almost two points a game, Into his 40’s.
Stat lines like 16-25-41 and 11-31-42 remind me of a certain player….hmmm….can any reader guess whose full season totals I’m thinking of?
An average of 12-20-32 over a full season for 8 years in a row. Anyone calling that elite? Now, add in tougher assist rules and you’re looking at a roughly 20 point a season player.
Welcome to 2008-2016 Josh Bailey, ladies and gentlemen.
Bailey is the player that is often called elite by #IslesKoolAid, who are often cultish in defending the players that they like. So lets start with Ziggy Paffy. Is HE a 20 point a season player with tougher assist rules? Hell no. Is Anze Kpoptiar? Or Patrick Laine? Hell no.
No, Bailey is a different type of player. He’s a coattail player. When others score, he gets points. And that is a problem in a salary cap sport- coattail points.
Because Baileys stats look productive, he is paid like he is productive. But research shows? A drastic overpay- almost 100% over valued.
This is TERRIBLE for the sport. It causes skilled players to ask for even more money because coattail players are getting rich. This ties up the salary cap for a team, locking them into a win now mentality as they can’t pay today’s coatails and today’s RFA’s. Salary caps are tied up with players getting contracts in career years, and from padded stats, damaging teams and fan bases. Frans Neilsen in Detroit, anyone? Bobby Ryan in Ottawa?
Wait, what’s that I’m hearing from coattail fans and #IslesKoolAid? What about Baileys coattail prime year hanging around 40 goal scoring Anders Lee and 36 goal scoring John Tavares? Sure, lets look at Bailey averages for career phase two:
15-41-56 over a full 4 seasons, including 15% of his career points coming in one outlying glorious coattail year. “HOW CAN YOU CALL THAT COATTAILS!?,” #IslesKoolAid screams. Here’s how:
Anders Lee scored 34 then 40 goals playing wing next to Some Piece of Shit. Since those years? A 20 something goal scorer, just like before those years. Also, Lee played the 2018-19 season with his same linemate Bailey, just without his center King Douchbag. What happened? Lee saw his goal scoring output drop 30%, back again into the 20somethings. Anders Lee gets paid $7 million a year to score 20something goals. That’s who he is.
And Bailey? Without Snake, his points total that first year dropped over 20%. So…how could both Bailey and Lee have production drops if one guy was such a great playmaker? And why did that “playmaker” drop in his point total another 10% in the season after that? Because the real playmaker is in Toronto. How do I know?
Because one guy was 272-349-631 in 669 games, and the other was 154-322-476 in 865 games. Judging by those two stat lines, which is the playmaker and which rides coattails? Now factor in tougher assist standards and which seems to have more value?
Also, how impactful was that outlier year for Bailey? Without it, Bailey’s FOUR SEASON average drops 10% to 14-37-51.
Look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bailey was the Islanders leading scorer with 20 points, breaking down as 2-18-20. The team that won the cup was led by Braden Point who was 14-19-33. Imagine the difference in the Islanders season if Bailey had 9 more goals to go with all of those coattails? Shit, although Nikita Kucherov had 26 assists in the playoffs, he had 350% more goals than Bailey.
Defensemen even had larger impacts on goal scoring than an elite forward. Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was 6-20-26 in the playoffs, dwarfing the offensive output of Bailey in goals and grabbing almost 50% more points on the power play. And very deserved playoff MVP Victor Hedman? 10-12-22, 13 power play points, 3 game winning goals including one in overtime. GAME WINNING GOALS. I don’t see any category for game winning assist, however. Because there shouldn’t be.
This isn’t a knock solely on Bailey. Many teams have a Bailey. Kyle Turris in Nashville. Vladislav Namestnikov in Colorado. Ryan Strome on the Ranjerkoffs are some examples of the guys who bring something to the table, but take way more off of it.
Hockey needs to reassess how it hands out its participation awards. It would be healthy for the sport and would keep parity among salaries for the elite, the good, the average, and the bad, which would benefit the fans by maximizing their entertainment value. It would both externally and internally manage a salary cap, and there would still be actual playmakers in the game, not guys who are called playmakers who do not rank in the top 50 in active players for assists after a decade in the game. Those guys are coattails. Feel free to use that when discussing hockey. It’s on me- call it an assist.
Based on its revenues, hockey needs to be a sport of penny pinchers. It need not pay players that watch others players play hockey like any fan can, just from better seats. Paying people for shit that they don’t do is never a good idea. Hockey needs to reinvent how they credit assists, because not doing such will lead them into a greater financial crisis than they already face, which is the most dire of professional sports. Consider this my assist to the league.
*This piece was written without help, so it was unassisted, which was my goal.
It’s impossible to be a New York Mets fan and not have heard the good news. The Wilpon family-who have been majority owners of the New York Mets since 2002 and part time owners for years before that- sold the team to billionaire investor and probably criminal Steve Cohen for a sum reported to be $2.4 billion dollars. Can you imagine buying a car and spending three years cleaning it, while the other fifteen years you spend your time shitting in that same car?
To think, back in 2002 the Wilpons said “For $400 million we can buy this team, do a horrible job managing it, have three decent seasons over 18 years, and we can sextuple our money when we sell it. During a global pandemic. While all the while we draw income from the team for ourselves, and also get ourselves a new arena paid for by the public AND get ourselves a TV channel so unpopular that no other regional area sports team wants to play on it, largely because they know we won’t pay them.”
We’ve all read about the winding down of the Wilpon Mets era. Well, the winding down of the majority of ownership. They’re still 5% owners of the team, meaning they still have an over $120 million share of the organization, and will partake in 5% of profits, assumedly. Nice pay out for failing.
But this isn’t meant to rehash stuff you’ve read about the sale or the team or anything else. Until Major League Baseball approved the sale of the Mets- and yes, the owners will approve the sale of the Mets because it makes all of their franchises more valuable because major sports teams only gain and never lose value – this is all conjecture. But I expect one thing to happen after the sale of the NY Mets: the sale of SNY.
SNY is the cable channel you can find the Mets on. And that’s about it. It’s one of the shittiest channels on TV, hands down. What brings me to that conclusion? Let me share with you what would happen if I watched SNY from the time I’m writing this through the next roughly 24 hours. Would you find the following programming captivating?
Amateur boxing from 9 to 11 pm
The same 30 minute long sports show from 11 pm until 2 am. One debut with 5 identical repeats.
Paid infomercial- 2:00 am to 2:30 am
Air fryer infomercial- 2:30 am to 3:00 am
Infomercial on medicine- 3:00 to 3:30 am
Different Infomercials 3:30 to 4:00 am, 4:30 to 5 am, 5 to 5:30am, 5:30 to 6 am
Condensed Mets game (they lost by 10) 6 am to 7 am
7 am to 9 am- the same 30 minute highlight show from the night before run four times in a row. Disgusting.
Four 30 minute infomercials 9 am through 11 am
Condensed Mets game (they lost by 10, but at this point it feels like 30) until noon
ANOTHER HOUR of the 30 minute sports highlight show. So far that’s 12 shows of that shit in 16 hours.
1 pm- 3pm Mets Yearbook, for the 1962, 1963, 2015 and 2018 seasons. Three of those years were washouts.
3 pm to 6 pm- A Mets game.
6 to 6:30- Game recap
6:30- 7:30 Documentary on the 2015 trade deadline. They’ve easily shown this shit 400 times
7:30 -8:00pm. Documentary on baseball in the Dominican Republic.
8:00 to 11pm- a replay of the entire game where Wilmer Flores hits a game winning homerun after he was traded and rescinded, but before he was released a few years later.
This is some shit. Who the fuck would buy this? 6 hours of informercials? 25% of the days programming are fucking infomercials. 6 hours of the same 30 minute sports show. Another 25% of the day repeating itself.
3 hours of historical shows. I’m fine with that, actually. 2 hours of replaying a beating they took at the hands of a better opponent. 3 hours of a new game, and 30 minutes of new discussion on the probable loss. 3 hours of a 5 year old game that was a turning point that the team almost didn’t have. And a 30 minute documentary that I’m sure has been repeated 200 times itself.
17% of the day has new material. 25% of the day are infomercials. How is it that Cohen would have to pay for this? You’d think that the Wilpons would have to pay him for taking a pile of shit off of their hands.
And yes, of course the Wilpons are in debt on the TV channel. Allegedly those infomercials and the lack of original content bring in $150 million a year of revenues. I’d bet the largest part is from being packaged as part of a basic cable package, a thing the Mets were 20 years behind the 8 ball in doing. You’d think if you own the team and bring in $150m in revenue you’d be ok? Nah. AMNY reports that the Mets are $850 million in debt in SNY. Meaning gthat the Wilpons are bleeding money out of the TV channel.
Understand that the Mets are partial owners of SNY. So the Wilpons are dragging other people down with them. This matters. SNY is valued at a billion dollars, but has $850m in debt. Mathematically, SNY is worth $150m. Which is more than what Cohen should be paying for a money loser that’s going to perpetually bleed as less and less people watch sports via a cable package and turn to the internet instead.
The Mets are unique at how late into the game they arrived for getting their own channel, and how late into the game they are at content, and how amazingly unprofitable they are at TV, but most of all, they’re just fucking stupid at running a business. Why?
Compare the 26 hour SNY TV schedule with any other viewing option you have. Are you tuning into the same 30 minute talk show 5 or 10 times a day? To the point, lets look at how other local teams handle this same scenario.
The Yankees share their channel in the offseason with the Brooklyn Nets. There are multiple MSG channels for the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. NO LOCAL CHANNEL HAS JUST ONE PRO TEAM. You would think the Mets would say “Jets Islanders Mets fans should have a home…let’s go get the hockey team with our colors for the winter and have a connection with the team we used to share a stadium with, so we’re not running so many shitty infomercials!” But that would mean the Mets would have to top the $25-30 million that the Islanders get for showing up on MSG Plus 5. And when you lose money at every turn because you suck? Well, you’re probably just going to lose more because you suck.
Cohen doesn’t seem to mind spending money. Allegedly he spent as much on a single piece of art as the Wilpons did on the entire Mike Piazza contract. Let that sink in as to what this would mean for the Mets. So while I make it a habit of telling others how to behave professionally in order to look, you know, professional? And I get how Mets fans are so Stokholmed Syndromed to accept losing that everything I write has the impact of a genocide? Yeah, it’s time to expect more. Actually, that time was back in 1988. Like SNY becoming a channel, you’re late to the game for Mets fans who enjoy losing, but it doesn’t mean that you’re losers.
In the end, Cohen will be in negotiations for SNY. That’s great, I guess. I know my cable bill will go up for it. But Cohen needs a separate negotiation first. He needs another pro team, and I have just the one for him: The New York Islanders.
The Islanders have a nice deal from MSG because the Islanders Rangers rivalry was so hot in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that at that point the 25 year old channel of MSG (told you the Mets were late to the game) gave the Islanders a very rich TV deal. The Rangers owners expected the Islanders to continue being competitive, and that never happened, so the Islanders were using that TV money to prop up a team that was so underpaid that the NHL instituted a salary floor to try to guarantee a product for the fans despite the owners being terrible. Looking at you, Charles Wang. Tim Thomas was an awesome Islander…cap hit.
You do know that at one point under Wang the Islanders had a national TV deal for $13 million and a local TV deal of $25 million on a team payroll that was $43 million and claimed a $20 million loss. If you’re bad at math I’ll help. $38 million of TV money, $43 million of payroll. This NOT considering advertising, the Canadian TV deal, parking lot revenue, T shirt sales, hot dog sales, beer sales, and OH YEAH ticket sales. But if all those streams never existed? $38m is NOT $20m less than $43m. Oh, and then with the NHL adding $5m to the Islanders budget for being a small market team? $43m is the same as $43m. And the Islanders had phantom cap hits not being paid. If you’re concerned with a Cohen organization being fined for insider trading, understand that the Islanders were 20 years ahead of the curve. And the owners got approved, even with one headed to jail.
Oh, does that Wang era and those statutes of limitations! How far we’ve come. There’s even rumors that if the Cohen- SNY negotiations somehow fall apart, the New York Islanders are looking to buy the channel. How far they’ve come.
But with Cohen? He can say to the Islanders- “We make $150 million a year. You can be $50 million of that revenue. It’s nearly double the MSG deal. You stop being on MSG 5 or C-SPAN. You get a home so that no channel surfer has to guess what channel the game is on every night. We get winter ratings without having 5579987 reruns of the David Wright story- which I am certain has been shown more times than we have viewers. And we can sell advertising at higher rates while having live sports, so it won’t actually cost us $50 million. Plus, we look like a legitimate sports channel.”
A second team a must. Lets face it, the Knicks and Rangers ARE MSG network. The Yankees have made the low rent Nets their 5 boroughs partner. The Jets and Giants are major channel properties and unbiddable as a headliner. So what’s left? The orphaned franchise with the same color scheme playing 10 miles away from the newest mess that needs cleaning up.
And the Islanders absolutely need their own TV identity and home. It’s a no brainer.
Cable TV is a changing climate. Thanks to the Netflix model, channels will continue to go ala carte. SNY with one sport can not be a subscription service. SNY needs the Islanders- and probably more than amateur boxing- because the 45 actual classic Mets games will not fill another winter.
And a channel maybe losing money? That may actually help Cohen. For instance, say Cohen’s capital gains and taxable income is $300 million a year. But the Mets lose $300 million in that same year. Well, Cohen is effectively paying no taxes. The Mets can be a cost sink and Cohen will actually make more money from it. Also, sports teams themselves do not lose value, so even if Cohen somehow lost every dollar he has, he’s still a multi-billionaire.
This idea only works if Cohen gets SNY for pennies on the dollar. I’d think assuming the Wilpon debt may be enough to get the deal done. That type of thing never happens you say? Hmm. Didn’t the Islanders buy their practice rink for15% of the cost of actually building it? Yes, yes they did. Sometimes when people are desperate, you take advantage of it. The Wilpons are clearly desperate. They quibbled over keeping a $120 million stake of the Mets, which tells me $120 million means a lot to them. And it may be more than enough cash Cohen may need to buy a TV channel.