After kicking their season into overdrive by ascending up six spots in the standings, the New York Islanders dropped every home game this week. With their backs against the wall and with Tampa and Toronto biting at their heels, maybe missing the post-season can help the Islanders in the long-run.
The New York Islanders and interim Head Coach Doug Weight have done an admirable job to make the rest of the 16-17 campaign competitive. The free agency additions are panning out well late in the season (Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd) and the team is on an overall upswing in play.
Despite these factors, it could be for the better of the team if their season ends on April 9.
While the team has done a great job roaring back into contention, there have been many flaws primarily on the defensive end of the puck that have cost them precious points. The Islanders are battling the Lightning and Maple Leafs for the same spot, and particularly Tampa has a lot of momentum since their ascension in the standings.
In a hypothetical situation, what will happen at the conclusion of this season if the Islanders make the playoffs? Realistically speaking, there’s a slim chance they are able to make it past the powerhouse Washington Capitals. They had a chance, and it slipped by after 14-15. Matching up both teams man-for-man exposes numerous weaknesses in the Islanders lineup and sheds truth to an unfortunate reality: Does it really matter if the Islanders make the playoffs?
Weighing Out Options
In the long-run you always want the youth on the team (Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Ho-Sang, etc.) to be exposed to post-season hockey. The 12-13 series the Islanders endured against the Pens was more of a pre-cursor to the 14-15 Caps series, and of course, the experience helped their series win over Florida in 15-16.
On one hand, giving Ho-Sang, Beauvillier, Shane Prince, and all the young guns playoff experience is exponentially beneficial. Getting a taste of the show at that age helps fuel a player’s drive and is beneficial to their development. If things go perfectly smoothly for Doug Weight and company and the Islanders honorably bow out in six games, it’s likely the coaching job is his.
While Weight has done a great job with these Islanders overall, the inconsistency on the defense and the perpetually failing specialty teams are two huge factors that have not improved in the coaching change.
In fact, according to sportingcharts.com, the Islanders powerplay ranks at 25th overall, and the penalty kill, at 15th overall. Yikes.
This week the Islanders faults took center-stage after they took just three of eight possible points. Doug Weight’s tenure has been admirable, but not the solution they were looking for just yet.
The Islanders missing out on a post-season berth after setting expectations sky-high in October will likely put the finishing touches on a firing that’s long overdue: that of General Manager Garth Snow, who after 11 years as GM has but one playoff series victory to show for it.
Snow has been on thin ice since the Islanders stumbled to a rocky start, and has helped dig numerous holes for the team along the way (three goalies and a failed vote of confidence to name two). It is likely he is gone either way, but for the better of the organization, it’s better to not postpone the inevitable.
Missing out on the playoffs could be the medicine the Islanders need.