New York Can't Win the Atlantic, Says Who?

New York Islander Fan Central | 8/07/2008 07:29:00 AM |
You read some of these professional writers in cyberspace who are essentially outsiders who like to play insider maybe once a month as they come down with selective amnesia when that point comes about how the Isles have beaten their club head to head the last few seasons or how competitive they have been overall and you have to wonder where they are coming from when they automatically put the Isles out of any realistic contention in 2008-09?

Have they learned anything yet?

The New York Islanders have made the playoffs four of the last six season and even did it in 2004 with Oleg Kvasha centering the first line for the second half of 2004 with Weinhandl and Czerkawski on the wings and Steve Stirling as a rookie NHL coach.

If these experts do not follow the Isles at the very least they should be able to
remember the real reason the Isles dropped out of contention based on head to head games against their own clubs which for last season meant only writers from Boston, Florida and Montreal should have something to say about the Isles not having a chance.

The Canadians were the only club that had elements to their game where the Isles seemed overmatched last season by a club with speed and skill, still even then the Isles had a forty five shot loss against the Habs which even had Mike Sillinger questioning the media after one game.

Claude Julien's Bruins for the first time in about six years finally beat the Isles at their own game with his club's grit and character outplaying the Isles in four games and it was very impressive but not dominating.

Florida had the Isles number in four games but what can you say about a team that takes fifty shots and losses to backup Craig Anderson? That is not being overmatched.

Sure it fell apart in March last year for New York because a lot of things finally caught up with them (including four hundred man games lost to injury and a lot of veterans playing hurt) but by reading from some of these so-called hockey experts you would never know the team was in a playoff spot most of last season or had a six game winning streak that pushed them back to two points out of a spot at the trade deadline or despite it's obvious scoring problems/poor trends most of the time were around five games over break even.

New York did not even start losing until the flu decimated the club in January despite being the lowest scoring club in the NHL with a roster deep in red numbers for plus/minus and despite very poor special teams that had them next to last in pp goals with only forty eight and first in powerplay goals allowed with fifteen.

Last year New York was the lowest scoring club in the league with only a hundred eighty nine goals.

Still, even with all that they rallied with a six game winning streak in February sparked by Rick DiPietro's outstanding play capped by a 1-0 shutout against Tampa Bay and some overdue scoring.

So why will New York be out of contention early?

It must be the powerplay?

Kyle Okposo cannot match Satan's five powerplay goals in his spot? Doubtful.
No one will match Ruslan Fedotenko's eight powerplay goals? Possible but unlikely.
Mark Streit cannot match M.A Bergeron's eight powerplay goals? Not buying.
Trent Hunter will not match his two powerplay goals from last season? Nope.
Mike Sillinger cannot improve on his three powerplay goals?
Mike Comrie will not improve on his four powerplay goals?
Bill Guerin does not have another seven pp goals in him with Weight setting him up?

What's scary is you look at the Isles pp and it's virtually impossible to be worse given Bergeron's eight pp goals tied for the club lead with Fedotenko.

The plus minus will finish them early?
Because Kyle Okposo who led all forwards in plus/minus will get more time?
Or Sean Bergenheim (-3) and Blake Comeau (+1) will receive even more minutes on a roster where minus three was a great season.
Frans Nielsen for his limited minutes was a plus one in sixteen games.

No one will be able to best Bryan Berard's minus seventeen or Satan (-11), Fedotenko (-9), Bergeron (-14) Really?

Jeff Tambellini at minus nine you can make a case for being a problem but how much worse can he do with some minutes?

New York cannot score so they will not have a chance?
New York was the worst scoring club in the NHL a year ago and were in a playoff spot for most of the season even when they scored two goals fourteen games in a row almost when completely healthy in November-December.

Most of the forwards had stretches of twenty plus games without scoring or longer, is this mix of prospects who are only improving and veterans going to do any worse?

This group of kids and veterans cannot match last year's roster that had only eleven first period goals all season in mid-December? It would be tough not to match it or surpass it unless everyone struggles badly again.

New York defense simply not good enough?
On paper last year's group cut it's shots against by almost two hundred and had many high shot games against down the stretch. With Brendan Witt healthy, Sutton's strong finish, Meyer playing very well on defense, Martinek playing shutdown defense on Ovechkin and several top players with Campoli & Gervais a year better added to Mark Streit this group should improve dramatically if they can stay healthy.

If not Jack Hillen may be a very good alternative in a lot of areas.

Rick DiPietro not enough in goal?
Outside of Brodeur and despite Newsday's Greg Logan not being much of a DiPietro fan
who could not bother being around for the all-star game but referred to him as headstrong on 3/20 is the second best goaltender in this division until MA Fleury in Pittsburgh can carry his club for a full season, despite his solid playoff or Henrik Lundqvist can prove he can carry a team not playing a trap.

No goalie in the east faced less shots per game than Henrik Lundqvist last season
and still for three months in front of a trap went through a stretch from mid-December to mid-February going 10-10-4, with a .889 save percentage, if he was on this club the season would have been over by Christmas. Martin Biron had a respectful first season and a fine playoff for Philadelphia but still has not taken any step where he is a standout franchise goaltender but his upside could be in front of him.

So New York cannot compete in this division?

New York cannot beat Pittsburgh?
You would never know from some of these writers New York outside of a Brendan Witt bounce off his pad late in a tie game or a fifty shot loss would have beaten Pittsburgh head to head with a Georges Laraque shorthanded goal the difference in another Pens win combined with the infamous Simon stomp game which was 2-1. Isles ran through Pittsburgh 4-1 late in the season like they were the only club on the ice.

Not as if Crosby or Malkin put on any Bossy-Trottier displays and won any single game 8-1 last season outclassing the club and seem painfully short on the wing unless former Isles Fedotenko or Satan have big years to offset the losses up front unless Jordan Staal shifts position. A good chemistry mix on defense that displayed an ability to play the trap required when needed down the stretch and in the playoffs but not a dominating group of name players on the backline outside of Gonchar who is not getting younger or Whitney who has some solid upside.

Nothing to add on goaltending that was not written above.

New York cannot beat Philadelphia?
Flyers were the Atlantic team that had New York's number a year ago but most of the Flyer wins were the byproduct of some very poor special team play by New York and a good powerplay by the Flyers but most of the losses were self-inflicted which stopped some strectches where the Flyers looked like a club in freefall.

A good example of this was the January 19th game the Isles led 3-1 after the first period which had Ted Nolan furious at how poorly the club was playing (while leading) as some bounces off the unfriendly Coliseum boards led to some key Flyer goals that turned the game. Most of the late games had the early game trends, a five on three powerplay goal for Philadelphia followed by more powerplay goals or a mistake shorthanded by New York that turned the game in the Flyers favor.

Philadelphia's moves this summer on paper will not scare anyone outside of locking up Jeff Carter and they lost some core players. Coburn on the backline is a very good player but the Flyers have a defense prone to poor stretches with a club that is winning a lot of games in a row or losing a lot of games in a row that had to scramble to qualify and looked helpless at times and in freefall. Jason Smith's loss does not help. Their younger forwards should be improved but Gagne, Knuble have questions and Briere struggled with consistency.

New York cannot beat the Rangers?
Considering New York won twice late last season at Msg with it's team of prospects in March and April with Dubielewicz in net and dominated the early games things should not change much here. Bergenheim seems to save his best games for the Rangers and Okposo hardly looked lost his last game at Msg with Comeau setting him up to open the scoring.

Losing Ted Nolan could be a problem because he seemed to have Tom Renney's number head to head but the home team seems to have problems adjusting to the by-partisan crowds in both buildings in this series for several years. The Rangers despite the usual p.r spin about acquisitions have some major issues breaking up a defense that allowed the least shots per game in the East last season for a declining wildcard in Wade Redden or Dimitri Kalinin who struggled in Buffalo combined with losing it's only franchise scorer in Jagr with a general manager who sounded like he's tired of Tom Renney's trap and wants more offense. Straka's loss and the club's record with Avery speak for itself with the later commenting he knows he's on a better club now in Dallas as he said in his press conference.

Sure Cablevision can write a frontloaded contract for Sundin and subtract some prospects adding him to an aging Naslund but that seems like the old strategy that never worked and moves away from their strength which would be to go with Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes or Ryan Callahan. They already altered their strength which was the defensive chemistry that protected Lundqvist well last season when he struggled for months, now I guess the Chris Drury era begins in full which did fail on other NHL clubs. I guess Cablevision will find some cap space so Shananhan can talk to the media and they have a quotable player for their limited media space but that's a step backwards on the ice also at this point.

New York cannot beat the Devils?
New York only won six of eight games last season against the standard bearing club in the Atlantic for success with New Jersey winning only a forty seven shot game 2-1 in overtime against Joey MacDonald late in season combined with the game that snapped the Isles six game winning streak for the Devils first win of the season against on February 23rd. Fair to write there is no reason New York cannot compete again with New Jersey head to head given the current changes to both rosters.

This summer Devils again shook the mix and it can be argued Bobby Holik is hardly a better upgrade than Doug Weight (with Holik older by a few days) aside from past lineage unless Brian Rolston at his age will dramatically improve the Devils lack of scoring and questions on the backline.

The acquisition of Bryce Salvador to another Lamoriello head-scratching contract along the lines of Dainius Zubrus does not look promising but David Conte always has a few hidden gems that carry the club and after the success of a franchise talent like Parise with Gionta and Zajac the pundits pulling for a Devils downfall usually come away disappointed given the regular season results and the club's ability to get games to overtime and secure points.


The idea this club will not be in competition for a playoff spot does not seem realistic or a rush to judgement until they hit the ice and we see what flaws they have. If the veterans struggle some of them will be out of here quickly and Garth Snow has a lot of cap-space to make changes to the veteran core along with two second rounders. A few prospects are not going to have a spot either with prospects like Joensuu, Figren and Marcinko getting closer and will be available in deals because there is simply too much depth given the group of prospects following the ones already here.

Given everything I have reviewed if the club can stay healthy, if the veterans give them a little more on offense with Bergenheim, Comeau, Okposo progressing up front with Campoli, Gervais stepping up on defense with DiPietro providing his usual strong play anything can happen next season based on how the Isles match up against their Atlantic Division counterparts.

Including the New York Islanders winning the Atlantic.