Our standard at the time of a winning or losing season was playoff qualification in 2011-12.
This blog in subsequent entries late in 2011-12, gave total support to Charles Wang because he signed all of Garth Snow's core players last summer long term.
We also had separate entries supporting Garth Snow, and endorsed the return of Jack Capuano as head coach.
Today we look at why the team lost.
1-Pressure on Management vs. Expectations Pt II:
Make no mistake a general manager who said a year ago the expectation was to win and that everyone has to be better, who fired his choice for head coach is under pressure to win next season. It could mean he presses the wrong buttons whether it be rushing young players vs making a trade that hurts the core.
It was not a trade, however signing Staios with a returning Eaton, Jurcina, Mottau, was a bad mix or the wrong button. I'm not sold Niederreiter was rushed because he was injured into December but by then the club should have sent him back. Reasoner was also hurt/unproductive as Pandolfo was moved to center for the first time in his career. By contrast deHaan was only called up for one game, who was drafted three years earlier.
The support for the club in the stands may well dictate what the gm does to keep his team winning next season.
The trade market in this league during the regular season is almost non-existent, unless you offer up a top player on your team so that never played a role. Would Islander fans have felt better taking Kaberle's contract off Carolina's hands after what Jim Rutherford said about his 13m dollar signing upon departure?
Most media locally and in Canada will work the other side and do everything possible to create a negative culture in the press to drive away fans and most of the uninformed viewpoints will not care about injuries/man games lost or tell you much about current team.This was a losing team far healthier than previous seasons that deserved much of it's criticism, however the players who did very well did not get the credit which does happen in Toronto, and on other losing teams with standout players.
2-The Even Strength Scoring Was Mostly Grabner and Moulson:
Plus/minus is sometimes misleading but last years long scoring drought that caused the club's free-fall the numbers screamed the club could not produce at even strength early beyond Matt Moulson's regular production. Graber's second-half production at even strength was a big part of turning many of those early one/goal open net regulation loss to wins or overtime points. So what happens if again Comeau, Nielsen, Parenteau and most of the other forwards cannot score at five on five early (Nielsen is not an even strength scorer), what if Okposo's second half does continues into next season or Bailey does not take a step forward in development? What if Tavares, Moulson take a step back or Grabner struggles or if Trent Hunter is healthy can he produce after three years of struggling?
Some names changed, but most of those players did not produce early as they did in the second half of 2010-11. Grabner started well but never had the extra step after his Dec groin injury. Even with Tavares dominating January, and eighty one points, it was a big part of the story.
3-Core Players Not Ready For Prime Time:
You go around the Eastern Conference/NHL and you know the veteran talents or rising stars that can take a close game and produce the big play to end a losing streak or change the momentum. In 2011-12 who's ready to become those players in New York? Five twenty goal scores/two thirty goal players are great and a good sign it can happen, but until they can take that step and players emerge who can take over a game or put the team on their back in critical moments that decide a game it's just numbers.To a small degree this team was able to break it's free-falls, sitting in a box between five hundred, or six games under, but that's not a step forward. This was a poor team with a lead, terrible closing out games, that gave themselves very few easy nights. That game up 3-0 in Colorado where a player yelled at his own team, with the momentum changing told us a lot.
Of course anyone watching could see major problems beginning with opening night, which looked no different in the season finale.
4-No Hiding From Injuries/Past/Players Returning From Injury:
Being due for less injuries or good luck mean nothing. What can be realistically expected from Mark Streit, Trent Hunter, Mike Mottau, Mark Eaton, Andrew MacDonald, Rick DiPietro, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and others who have lingering health issues or missed a large amount of games? Can these players stand up for 82 games much less the grind of a playoff chase? Who's going to get hurt among the few players who were not hurt for extended periods?We got our answer, Streit not only returned but was given Steve Staios as a partner. Outside of MacDonald, many returned, and hurt the chemistry created during the second half of 2010-11.
5-Does December/March Record Last Season Really Matter?
As written a year ago, part four answered this question.
Reality is also many of the free agents are a risk and available because they have struggled on the teams they were playing for or have health issues.Which is how it played out on this team, or around the league in most cases. Jay Pandolfo played to the maximum of his ability at all three forward positions, so did Staios.
7-The Right Coaches Pt II:
What kind of coach will Jack Capuano be without the interim tag and the expectations high with prospects being worked in? Will the seemingly light touch he displayed be there or will we see the coach during some stretches who threatened ice time last season as he pressed his players? Can he get pp to be more consistent and balance goaltending with injury/contract issues? Will the young core improve and what veterans can he lean on as a buffer to the players?We did not see a light touch, we saw Capuano stick to his lines almost to a fault, he benched core players, took away ice time, then moved many from their natural position which may hurt them even though Josh Bailey/Matt Martin did not see it that way.
Steve Stirling posted a 38-29-11, ninety one point playoff season out of an injured club with Czerkawski-Kvasha-Weinhandl in the second half of 03-04 as his first line. Why should any less be expected of Capuano, even without Yashin, Peca or Mark Parrish in 2011-12?
Capuano's assistants (beyond special assistant to Garth Snow/Doug Weight) were not retained despite middling special teams. Some of his young core improved at times, a few veterans like Nabokov played well, but ultimately most of the veterans played to the trends of their career resume which is all you can ask of a coach.
Al Arbour was not getting more of out some of these players.
That is why this blog endorses Capuano's return, he proved he was a capable coach in 2010-11 during the second half going through 620 man games lost to injury, he took a team thirteen games under, and got it back to four under before even more injuries became too much.
He had the wrong mix from day one which began on defense.