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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Always fear the year after signing a contract, because the focus on
playing for the contract is now over.
7. The “4th
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 ?
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
At least the defense is in good shape…kind of. Feel free to click on the link and go to the defense section.
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.
So who with a long term guaranteed contract sits down for
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
State a problem
Explain cause of problem
Explain how others handled similar situations
Discuss potential solutions
Use case studies, histories, and current trends to
come to a research based conclusion instead of scream like some ignorant
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:
Pay both of them
Ride out the season
Let’s explore the pros and cons of all of these options.
Pay both of them
Pro: They stay with the team for the rest of their effective
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.
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.
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
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.
So far, here’s some on the money predictions from last September:
Lee cam nowhere near 40 goals without Johnny Snake,
The Islanders took my advice and resigned Eberle. My mistake was that he took a DISCOUNT to stay.
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.
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.
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…
Here’s why April is the greatest month in sports. I know
there is no NFL in the month of April, but look at all the other sports going
on. First off, right from the start of April, it’s Opening Day for baseball.
Second, the first Sunday in April, the Road to Wrestlemania has finally. Then
the exact next day after Wresltemania, you have the March Madness finals. After
that, the following weekend will be The Masters. Then, while all that’s going
on, you’ll have the NBA and NHL going on throughout April. Finally, at the end
of the month, you’ll have your taste of the NFL season with the NFL Draft.
Plus, how could I forget, all the UFC fights that’ll happen.
Think about it. This is a month we’ll see Mike Trout,
Rory McIlroy, Seth Rollins, Zion Williamson, Sidney Crosbey, and Roger Goodell
getting boo’d, in action all in this one month. You literally couldn’t ask for
anything better. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for April.
Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.
Usually you don’t open with the closer, but in this case, it
could be a description of the pre-game atmosphere. In case you were living
under an internet free rock or were in a sports avoidance coma, on February 28,
2019 the Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to roll into the Barclays Center to
face the New York Islanders.
In a rare moment of customer service, the NHL decided to
move the game to Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. This guaranteed a sell out
on a Thursday night, which is a rarity in Brooklyn. More importantly, it meant
that John Tavares would have to face a crowd of people he promised that he
would play his entire career for, include asking not to be traded, only to sign
with the Toronto Maple Leafs by lunchtime of the first day of free agency.
The details are clear. $77 million reasons to go back home to his Mommy. Tavares put up his picture of himself in Maple Leafs pajamas as a child to defend his decision.
Maple Leaf fans were so happy that they couldn’t understand how a fan base could feel betrayed by lies. But boy, did JT lie. As I likened it, JT had a public Twitter- the one where you can read what he says, but also a private Twitter- the one you use to be sneaky and dishonest and hook up on the sly.
Here’s some catch up reading for you, if you’re not too familiar with the situation:
I added those links for ignorant Toronto Maple Leaf fans who are like “you’re all just salty he went home to Mommy.” Hey guys, he already lied to you as well. He said you were going to compete for a Stanley Cup.
Not only did he lie, but on the way out he insulted future former teammate Mathew Barzal by not mentioning by name “the kid that won the Calder.” Think Tavares was a little envious that HE didn’t win a Calder? HE LOST TO TYLER MYERS. Tyler Myers SUCKSSSSSS.
Not only did he lie, but it’s widely speculated that he moved back to Toronto because his wife wanted to. She had even taken a job in early 2018 in Toronto. Umm, if my wife made $80K a year and I made $11m? We’d live where I want. And if she had an issue it’d have already been covered in the pre-nup.
The Islanders had previously played the Maple Leafs in
Toronto on December 29, 2018 and handed them a complete ass whipping. Before
the game Islanders coach Barry Trotz told his players (I’m paraphrasing here) “John
Tavares looked around this locker room and decided that he didn’t want to be
teammates with any of you.” Final score? 4-0 Islanders. And the kid that won
the Calder dropped 3 goals on JT and his crew.
But this game was different. Debates raged on line as what
would be an appropriate response. Sports writers and talking heads wondered how
classless would Islander fans be, or what would be acceptable dissent.
Islanders management made pleas to be respectful. But in the long run, none of
What mattered was that John Tavares had made himself a heel.
He was the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff from the 1980’s. He was the 2000’s
New York Rangers. Shit, he was the 1994 Rangers.
There would be a pound of flesh. Or in the case of that
robotic cuck, a pound of pride.
50 years from now, this accounting will be a primary source of Islander history for future fans sitting in traffic as they leave a run down Belmont Arena headed towards home while the MTA is on year 32 of the renovations at Belmont train station. It’s a modern Anne Franks diary, where Islander fans are Anne Frank and the last 30 years of ownership and management were the Germans.
Upon arrival, fans were taking pictures of themselves
tearing apart a Toronto John Tavares jersey at the area in front of the box
office/main entrance. There was a different than usual air to the atmosphere.
Normally people will have their beers in plastic cups to avoid justifiable police
harassment. Nah. 12 packs sitting out in plain sight. People drinking from cans
right in front of 4four police cars. Not one or two people. Hundreds. If cops
started to ticket people, they would have gotten carpel tunnel syndrome. The
attitude was clear.
It was safe to assume that there would be no fucks given
After some milling around, my crew headed in. And this is
where the carnival kicked into full gear.
Understand that for the past 9 seasons, John Tavares was our
bright spot. In some of those years he was our ONLY bright spot. You can only
do so much with Matt Moulson and Mark Streit and Garth Snow. So there were fans
buying Tavares jerseys for nine years. Kids. Youth. Teens. Young adults.
Adults. Seniors. Tens of thousands of jerseys. And what did that create?
Tens of thousands of canvases.
Some of them looked like this:
Others looked like this:
But that’s not all. Expression can be written a well.
And of course, expression can be verbal.
The booing started with the scoreboard doing something as
audacious as merely listing the game roster submitted by Toronto. The booing
continued when the Maple Leafs came out for a warm up skate. And so did the
signs. As did the rubber snakes.
One of my favorite chants broke out before any anthem was even suggested. As the teams sat in their respective locker rooms, 13900 voices (give or take) warmed themselves up with a unified chant of “ASSHOLE! ASSHOLE!” Some people were chopping their arms karate style as they did such, to my wonderment. Why are we chopping assholes? Is there a firewood shortage?
Next on the agenda was the national anthem. The first on the
table was “O Canada.” I enjoy that anthem. It’s patriotic, it’s easier to sing
than the Star Spangled Banner, and it’s subtle. People were afraid that Islander
fans would shit on “O Canada.” Instead? We sang along with it. Someone asked me
if I was Canadian because I don’t even need to read the words, I’ve heard it so
Next up was the more rambunctious “Star Spangled Banner.”
First off, there are not many other national anthems- if any- that let you know
that if you come and fuck with us, ROCKETS AND BOMBS WILL REIGN ON YOU. Also,
it’s a hard song to sing well. And yet, 13,900 were all in.
Finally, gametime. The Islanders send out their 4th line against Toronto’s first line- a line without an $11 million player. The fans wait like the calm just before the storm. Finally, out steps 91. The booing begins.
I’ve never been booed by 14000 people. Yes, there were less
than 14000 fans, but I’m sure the concession people were booing, ushers were
booing, vendors were booing, and outside of the arena a police horse took a
noisy shit that sounded like a boo.
More to the point, I wonder if after that shift Tavares
returned to the Maple Leafs bench and thought “well, they got that out of their
system. Now I can focus on playing some hockey.” IF that went through his mind,
he learned nothing in his nine years here, part of the infamous “12 Years of
Failure” of Garth Snow’s design.
It wasn’t just his first shift. It was every shift. Booing
with the puck, “JT sucks” without it. After a long run came the first TV time
out. Usually a red light goes on to let you know you have a moment to get up
and take a leak or grab a snack. For this game they kept the camera rolling for
the video tribute of John Tavares.
Tavares was a good guy in his time on Long Island. He showed
up to every promotional event they programmed him for. He went to hospitals to
try to learn what humanity was like. He looked at little kids and wondered how
they upgrade. The video tribute I’m sure had some kind of “thank you” song to along
I have no idea because I couldn’t hear shit over all of the
booing. EVERY SINGLE SECOND WAS BOOED. The booing was supported by chants of “JT
Sucks” and “We don’t need you!” Tavares, as his programming dictates, can do no
harm to humans, so he raised his stick to the crowd. Some players would be
moved to tears to see their 18 year old self score a goal in his first NHL
game, to break a 25 year playoff drought with a game winning goal, to…well, that’s
about it for his highlights. But does A.I. cry?
Something else interesting happened at this point. As the
video tribute ran, Islanders players tapped their sticks out of respect to
Tavares. Except Mathew Barzal. He kept his in his hands. As did Ryan Pulock. I
sense there was a caste system in the Doug Weight locker room, and JT was on
top, like Skynet.
Toronto drew first blood in the game, as Zach Hyman scored for Toronto. I find it very ironic that just like in nature, Toronto placed a Hyman with a vagina. There was an uneasy silence from the crowd, considering that the last time the Isles played Toronto the Leafs failed to score at all. Maybe they caught some video? Maybe they’re better prepared?
Those doubts went away 3 minutes later as Anthony
Beauvillier tied the game. Fans booed lustily for the rest of the period as the
teams exited as they entered: tied.
During the first intermission, I felt emotionally exhausted.
I hadn’t had a stake in an Islanders game this big in years. I was out of
shape, fanwise. Fortunately my resolve was fortified by fans asking to take pictures
of my customized Tavares jersey.
The second period came and delivered the first non-obvious chant. Anders Lee scored and the roof blew off of the building. First off, it was a lead. Secondly, who scored it? THE CAPTAIN. Well, there was now a need for a new chant! “That’s our captain!” Another dig at JT. Oh, so tasty.
That pesky Hyman scored again, but a review showed it was 2 or 3 strides offsides. I’m not sure why they don’t allow replays in arena of the play, but the arena waited in suspense for the results. Fortunately for us, the NHL sent superstar referee Wes McCauley to officiate, and he did not disappoint.
The arena blows up again!
The next goal decided the game long before the score was
decided. Casey Cizikas singlehandedly forced his will upon a Toronto power play
that was completely buzzing. Cizikas and Valtteri Flippula pinned the Leafs into
their own zone. Seriously, Toronto looked defenseless against their will. The
crowd was already cheering the effort when Cizikas took a Cal Clutterbuck pass
and came in to score a shorthanded goal, something the Islanders rarely do.
Oh, the “We don’t need you” chants reigned down. What made
it worse if you’re a Toronto fan is that Filppula scored soon after on a strong
pay by of all people Andrew Ladd, who looked energized, and there was joy in
Mudville. There was booing. There was JT sucks. There was “We don’t need you.”
There was “Barzy’s better.” But the best was yet to come.
After the second period, I had a headache. My voice was on
life support. My crew was well lubricated, but I wanted to experience this
moment and truly savor it without any filters. No, this was beer free hockey
for the first time since our star player was Mariuz Czerkawski and going to
Islander games forced you to drink.
I stood at the stairwell for the start of the beginning of
period 3, because I have hockey manners, when I watched the Islanders scored
another one. 5-1. I think there’s a stat that says if the Barry Trotz Islanders
score 3 goals in a game then they can’t be beat. They were most certainly not
As I returned to my seat, an older gentleman behind us
started chanting “We want chili.” For those too young to know what that means,
the dynasty Islanders had a promotion tied in with the local Wendy’s
establishments in which if the Islanders scored 6 goals in a game and your
brought your ticket stub to Wendy’s, you got a free bowl of chili. As an aside,
one night in 1979 against the Rangers, your ticket stub got you double chili.
Try to figure out the score there. Hint- it was more than nine.
At this point, the chanting lasted for the entire rest of the game. I kept a list. “Who’s your Daddy?” was lustily chanted. “You can’t beat us!” “Our team’s better!” “First Place!” “Barry!” When Ryan Pulock manhandled JT in the offensive zone, the place went nuts. When Mathew Barzal drove JT in to the boards as best as he could, the place went nuts. Even fan favorites like the chicken dance went rogue.
Halfway through the third period, the “Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey
Hey Goodbye” chant started. With ten minutes to go, that’s normally tempting
fate. Just not on that night.
The fans then started to get personal. More personal than
asshole? Yup. “You’re a liar!” and “Please don’t trade me!” were in reference
to Tavares asking not to be traded at the deadline last year, and his constant
assurances that he was an Islander for life.
“Past your bedtime” and “Where’s your jammies” were just
fantastic references to his lame attempts at justifying his turning his back on
a fanbase that did nothing but accept him, circuits and all.
There was a moment where Johnny Boychuk took a skate to the face and had to leave the game, but he returned for the third period because he’s a tough S.O.B. If he played for Toronto? They may have had a national day of mourning, but more on that later.
“Thanks for leaving” and “It’s your mistake” are references
to the Islanders being in first place and having more points now without
Tavares than they had in all of last season. To be honest, I predicted 82
points in the preseason with this roster, so this game was my reminder to serve
me up some crow as well.
Brock Nelson closed the scoring with his 20th of the season, and gave a nifty little hand spin to celebrate what would have been chili, much to the dismay of Mr. Taggart. At that point it was a party. The booing was countered by standing ovations for every Islander shift change. It was an atmosphere that quite frankly you’re not going to find in most modern giant NHL arenas, and probably with fanbases nowhere near as rabid and betrayed.
Even the post game was awesome. The players gave a shortened
“Yes” chant to the fans, probably figuring that we were exhausted. Fans weren’t
exactly filing out, however. We needed to praise our heroes. The 3rd
star of the game, goalie Robert Lehner came out pumping up the crowd by raising
the roof, then threw a puck and his stick to the crowd. If anyone thinks Lehner
doesn’t want to return here next season, they’re crazy. If he doesn’t its all
on his agent, rest assured. Fans love him, and he loves them back.
The first star of the game was Casey Cizikas. He came out
and was interviewed but I have no idea what he said, because the crowd was
overpowering the PA system. This happens often at the Coliseum with a packed
On the way out I ran into a few more deliriously happy fans
As we sat in 25 or so minutes of Coliseum exiting traffic,
we fans got to engage in a Long Island tradition that we are deprived of in
Brooklyn- HONK HONK HONKHONKHONK.
Tavares was not his usual soulless self in his post game
presser. He voice synth sounded agitated. He was defensive. He let down the
guard for a second and said the equivalent of what an out of control teen says
on the Maury Povich Show: “You can’t judge me! You don’t know me!”
Um, I don’t know you but I do know this: You’re going to make
$100 million and more in your life playing a kids game. Grow a pair, Nancy.
Granted, for me the night wasn’t perfect. I tried and failed
repeatedly to get a chant of “Snake! Snake!” going, but alas.
But the best was yet to come.
The Mayor of Toronto was so concerned for the Hectoring of
Tavares by his former fans that he wanted to declare a John Tavares Day in
Toronto. The next home game ScotiaBank Arena set aside a “John Tavares Appreciation”
Can you believe that shit?
I’m not a hockey expert by any means, but I do know this: if your psyche is so frail that you cave in and need social and emotional support from an entire city just to bounce back and beat on a bottom half NHL team? I don’t foresee you doing all that well in the playoffs. And for Toronto, your window is NOW. You think Tavares will be faster in 3 years? That Mitch Marner isn’t going to want his $10 million RFA payday, too? That a rebuilding team with cap space like the New York Rangers wouldn’t mind giving up a few late first round picks to shore up 7 years of Marner? That if the Leafs lose repeatedly in the first round for the next few seasons that Austin Matthews isn’t leaving after his shorter than need be taken deal is up? That you won’t be “salty” if Matthews leaves in the exact same way? That the salary cap is going to double?
No, Toronto, your window is now. As is Tampa Bays. Never
mind those guys, because you can’t get through the Boston Bruins. And do you
want to know why? Because your prize possession can’t take being booed. Imagine
what every arena will sound like for the postseason? And the worst case
scenario? You get the Islanders in the playoffs. In that case, my prediction- another
Hands down, this was the best Islander game I’ve been to since the game 6 2002 playoff game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe even better.
On Friday, March 1 2019 I was wearing my Islanders swag
around town like a proud peacock, complete with my awful scratchy voice still
not close to recovered from the lusty boos and the joyous chanting. I
completely random person stops me and says “Hey Islander fan, did you see that
game last night?”
She goes on “I’m a Rangers fan, but I enjoyed the shit out
of that game. You gave him what he deserves for what he did. I’m glad you
kicked his ass and rubbed it in. Our season is over, but I hope you guys go a
Normally I’d say Ranger fans are classless douchebags. But
that lady in the supermarket had more class in her pinky than John Tavares had
in his whole chassis.