The Islanders are rolling though the preseason schedule in typical Barry Trotz team fashion. An enjoyable thrashing of the Rangers, then the usual games won or lost by a goal. Beating the Rangers always feels good, be it preseason, regular season, or post season.
I am thankful for Barry Trotz as our coach. For the past two seasons, Trotz has taken the Islanders to the Eastern Conference finals. People say the Islanders playing style is boring. They also said that about Lou Lamoriello’s teams in New Jersey, who bored their way into three Stanley Cup championships. And I firmly believe that if the Islanders had won either series against Tampa, they would have won that elusive 5th Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Additionally, I am glad that the Islanders added Erik Gustafsson on a PTO after the removal of Nick Leddy and his contract to the Detroit Red Wings. Anyone reading my tweets knows how I was endorsing that move weeks before the Islanders made it, and I’d think most Islander fans wouldn’t be aware that the last time the NHL played a full season, Gustafsson put up 17 goals and 60 points. He can not replicate that performance in a Trotz system, but also, the knock on Gustafsson is his defense, which is something a Trotz tutorial can fix. The job Trotz did with Scott Mayfield is amazing, and he absolutely transformed Sesame Street Count looking Adam Pelech into a Norris Trophy candidate, though probably not a Norris winner due to his lack of offense.
Lou did a very good job at keeping salaries tolerable. Palmieri at $5 million gives you Jordan Eberle production at a 10% discount. Sorokin’s deal is 20% lighter than the one for Varlamov, whose job he will take over the course of the Varlamov contract. Anthony Beauvilier is a tad of an overpay, but he is young, plays hard no both ends, and scores, so there’s that. Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise are signed at what’s expected to be NHL minimum wage. The Adam Pelech deal was $750,000 below the expected rate, and has shown to be an even better price with newer deals being signed. It will also force Ryan Pulock to take a similar deal, or become the next Tavares.
The Casey Cizikas deal maybe was the best of all of his deals. It was a steal in three ways. One, he got his player to take roughly HALF of what he was allegedly offered from other teams. Two, the savings on the Cizikas deal allowed the Islanders to add Zdeno Chara or Zach Parise with cap neutrality from the prior season. And three, it means Clutterbuck will take a pay cut next year, like Matt Martin did last year to set the precedent for the “Identity Line” to retire together as a group.
Getting Richard Panik in the Nick Leddy deal was an interesting call. Panik is a bottom 6 player that can sub in and provide a little bit of offense, but seems better at defense. That Detroit is keeoing half of the cap hit over two seasons makes Komarov even more tradable, especially since Komarov has a phantom cap hit backed up by a lower than cap salary.
That’s the praise section. Now here comes the unbuckling of the pants, the lowering of the trousers and underwear, the right angle knee bending squat, the unpuckering of the anus, and the delivery of a fiber laden, corn pocked SHITTING on the most obvious factors facing this team.
The Islanders ended their last season being shut out. Twice, actually, in a 7 game series. The Islanders had one offensively dynamic player on the roster. The Islanders ABSOLUTELY LARGEST NEED this past offseason was an offensively dynamic forward to pair with Mat Barzal.
The result? Keeping Kyle Palmieri, aka Smaller Anders Lee.
“But what was available?” #IslesKoolAid would say. Lets take a look.
Sam Reinhart was traded for a 1st round draft pick and a prospect. Reinhart had 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games on a horrible Buffalo Sabres team.
Jakob Voracek was traded for Cam Atkinson. Atkinson had 41 goals the last time the NHL played a full season. Since 2012, Voracek has been close to a point a game player.
Seth Jones was acquired in a trade. Jones scores at the same pace as Kool Aid legend Josh Bailey, except Jones is a defenseman. Same holds true for Oliver Ekman Larsson. Or Rasmus Ristolainen.
We all know the St. Louis Blues have been dangling Vladimir Tarasenko all summer. Cup winner, 30+ goal scorer when healthy.
Project and 2nd overall pick Nolan Patrick was available. Not an elite player yet, but would have been nice to have that kind of potential in the organization.
Taylor Hall was an unrestricted free agent. Hall had 14 points in 16 games for a good team last year, after having 17 points in 37 games for a bad one. 31 points in 53 games is… close to the 35 points in 54 games of Islanders legend Josh Bailey playing for a cup competing team.
There’s also the usual disgruntled Patrik Laine rumors, and Pierre-Luc DuBois, in the last year of his deal and whom Hockey-Reference.com compares his career trajectory with Jerome Iginla. Like we need any of that, right?
That’s just what was traded, signed, or expiring. Shake a tree and even more things fall out.
There’s also the ABSURDITY of the rumors coming out of training camp saying Oliver Whalstrom will not make the team because he has waiver options. So we’re holding a spot for the expiring career and contract of Leo Komarov in the top 9 for him to get outskated all season? To repeat his performance of one goal over 52 regular season and playoff games?
There’s also the absurdity of the potential to lose Keifer Bellows from the organization. Bellows scores goals. He has 5 in 22 career games getting 3 and a half minutes per game. Bellows will be a 20 goal scorer in the NHL when players like Komarov or Ross Johnston aren’t eating his game minutes. The current Islanders leadership seems to have no idea about how to handle an offensively talented forward, which will be compounded when Josh Ho Sang makes the Toronto Maple Leafs roster this season. The lack of scoring depth in the organization is problematic, to say the least.
As is the lack of youth on the roster. You think resigning Andy Greene was keeping too old of a player around? Welcome, Zdeno Chara! I’m not saying having experience on the blue line is entirely bad, but wouldn’t just Chara have been ideal? I totally wanted to add Chara and also Zach Parise to add experience, ability, and lower minutes role playing to the roster. But I’d be lying if I said I would have preferred that to instead seeing a Sam Reinhart in the top 6, moving a lesser player into the bottom 6 role. Or even better, Whalstrom in the top six. Also, Robin Salo and Sam Bolduc aren’t NHL ready? You have to break in rookies one a t a time. Having old players like Greene and Chara would be the time to add a kid to learn from their mentorship.
Did I mention the lack of goal depth in the organization? As we see a training camp with an ailing Seymon Varlamov, fans are surely glad that the goalie of the future is here in the form of Ilya Sorokin. But the first callup is Cory Schneider? And there isn’t exactly a lot of free agent goalies to rush in to service, which really is a failure of drafting- something that has been an issue for the Islanders for about a consecutive decade. JF Berube was recently waived. The Islanders are one injury away from that being a real option. Maybe Lou can talk Brodeur into coming out of retirement?
To summarize, as the Islanders presently stand:
They’re old. They’re a win now team that used the offseason to get OLDER.
They have very little injury depth. A key injury- See Anders Lee- derails this season in a big way. imagine a Barzal injury? Lottery.
They don’t draft well. Taking Aatu Raty was a no brainer, but the system lacks young, promising offensive players. This again makes them a win now team.
They probably should add a kid on defense, if they aren’t going to sign Guftasson to a minimum wage deal.
Noah Dobson is the Nick Leddy replacement. He’s a smarter player. So you need to figure out who is the 6th defenseman.
This is a team that ABSOLUTELY needs to do the same thing they’ve done the past two seasons- make a fantastic trade deadline move.
This team will need maintenance days, especially on defense. There needs to be a taxi squad. As an aside, the Bridgeport Islanders screwed up by signing in Bridgeport for a decade and not moving to the Coliseum and be 6 miles away from the majors.
The 4th line is already showing the damage that injuries create. This will be the story of line 4 over the next 3-6 years, as the Clutterbuck, Martin, Cizzikas, and Johnston contracts expire. No one on line 4 will play 80 games this season. You can bank on that.
Line 3 needs to be as dynamic in scoring as the first two lines, and needs to play better defense than line 4. Tampa rolls 3 dangerous lines. We need to do the same.
If Anders Lee isn’t back to form, they should Tampa Bay his ass, claim his leg fell off, and LTIR $7 million to improve the team.
I get that this is a preseason, pre announced roster edition. But I also sense that the roster is already set in the minds of Islanders management. This team is a cup contender, and could be a champion with a tweak or two.
If so, the hopes of this team fall on two things. One is the cohesiveness that Coach Trotz can create with his system and his team, which need to regroup after a summer of trades, expansion drafting, signings, and time. The other is a trade deadline deal, which Lou has gone two for two in the last two seasons. Maybe that’s where the elite talent comes in, because we know it’s not presently here. And without that move? It will be what it always is, which is more of the same.
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.
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 24 jersey numbers.
The most recenf ECF against the Lightning? What did Bailey produce? What, he had 20 points in the playoffs? 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 the 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. For cash.
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.
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.
Want to make sports more exciting? Welcome to Playoff Drafts!
COVID brought all sorts of new ideas to sports. It may be the ultimate legacy to a botched public response to a global pandemic- new sports rules. Like? A baseball double header lasting 14 innings. If it goes extra innings? The inning starts with a guy on 2nd base. Everyone gets a DH, like the games are played in Oprah’s studio.
As a sport, baseball was way ahead of its rivals. They made fundamental short term changes to the game in order to have something that looked like a season. Football? Showed its true mentality. “SMASH! RUN!” was the Commissioners reaction grunt to how football would deal with fans and corona.
Two sports thought of a bubble. One thought of one without prostitutes, which may speak to the long run difference of being raised with one parent versus two.
But there was one change I would have liked to have seen be introduced in every sport. And not just this year, but going forward forever. That idea? Playoff drafts.
What’s a playoff draft? I’m not sure it even exists, so I get to totally create this new and brilliant idea. In theory, a playoff draft is a way to make playoff sports more interesting and exciting. How does it work? It goes like this:
Team A beats Team B in the playoffs. Fuck you, Team B, you pieces of shit! After A dispatches B, depending on the sport, Team A can harvest players off of Team B’s roster. How many players? Easy.
A smart team would select other players to cover for weaknesses. Is your running back average? Steal the better one! Did a star player get hurt? Take the equivalent?
Think back to when the Jets beat anyone in the playoffs. In 2010 Tom Brady would have been a Jet. That’s a big wow factor, no?
The player additions are also a per round total. If your baseball team wins the play in and the wild card? You have 4 new guys on your team.
Forever? No. You get the player back on your team after the postseason.
Do you have to take other players? No, its up to your GM and coach.
You may say “Since we won, why would we take a player from the other team?” The better question is- Why wouldn’t you? What, you think by sharing how you’re coached a guy or two will have the keys to your weaknesses? They just lost to you, so if they couldn’t figure it out then, one player wont break a code in an extra week or two. The only thing he may figure out is that his regular coach sucks.
No, this is about rewarding winning. About adding excitement for the fan. About offering the best product that you possibly can. Plus now you get multi city appeal. Derek Jeter on the 2004 Red Sox? New York will be watching that World Series.
For the players, it’s like a free agency window. You get to check out other teams operations first hand. Players should love that because it will push wages up when they jump ship for teams that they liked.
What if there is an upset? Holy cow is that a game changer! Say The LA Lakers lose in the semi finals. Suddenly you have LeBron James or Anthony Davis coming off of your bench in the next round. That’s sudden interest in an underdog team. And the more LeBron, the more ESPN exists.
What about the guys that they replace? Those guys get put into suspended animation on your roster. New guy gets injured? Fuck off. You’re down one. You have to give the suspended animation list a positive sounding name so it doesn’t sound like a punishment. Call it the “Recent Reserves” list.
The 2020 New York Islanders and their awful power play beat the Capitals. Top 5 bust Michael Dal Colle goes on the Reserves list, add Alexander Ovechkin to your lineup. Power play issues solved, maybe the Islanders beat Tampa Bay and add Braden Point to their team at forward, and Victor Hedman on defense. But Tampa won….bet Josh Bailey wouldn’t be in their top ten players to poach list.
Reunited with Trotz? Power play solved.
Players you take in a playoff draft? They get playoff money shares, a title ring, but their name isn’t added to your team history or on the Stanley Cup. Their stats however are added to their personal history. Say Pete Alonso is taken by the Braves and hits 4 playoff home runs? That’s all Alonso stats, not the Braves.
The Celtics beat the Sixers? Suddenly backing up at point for the Celtics? Ben Simmons! Makes the game more interesting, and the team stronger. This year in the NBA Kawai Leonard would have been picked up by Denver. How would that change their approach in the next round?
Plus, the selection process itself would be super exciting. All sports leagues make a big deal about amateur drafts. Imagine the headlines of a professional draft? It would be interesting to see who would get picked. Sorry, choking ass Clayton Kershaw!
And if you chose a player who was a bum? The second guessing would make a whole new world of sport talk what if’s. “Imagine how it would have turned out if the Yankees took Ichiro, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito in 2001? They win 6 World Series in a row!”
Think about the revenue opportunities available for sports teams. Sport leagues keep making money off of TV ratings. Why would they want to water down a product?
Could players throw games? Absolutely. That makes the selection more exciting- it’s the chance you take as a franchise. Plus, couldn’t a player throw a game in the playoffs anyway, or was John Starks that god awful bad versus Houston?
This idea is most definitely outside the box, and will insult sports purists. However, if would create dream teams in each sport, and that’s what fans want to see, right? So come on big leagues, time to grow a pair and start the playoff draft!