Under first-year assistant coach Scott Gomez, the New York Islanders’ power play unit has sputtered and stalled.
Scott Gomez’s power play has been an unmitigated failure. Worse, in fact, than anything that has proceeded it.
It isn’t unusual for the Islanders to struggle out of the gate on the man advantage. In previous years, we explored how Doug Weight’s unit was one of the worst in the league at the start of the season. But this is different. The Gomez experiment has been a colossal failure, and the Isles as a team are suffering as a result.
This offseason, the Isles stripped the interim tag off of Weight and elevated him to full-time head coach. Accordingly, the organization gave him full control over his staff, which he swiftly rearranged.
Among the key moves that he made: tapping Gomez, his former teammate in Edmonton, to run the power play. He was effusive in his praise of the 37-year-old when asked by the team’s official website.
“Scott brings an immense amount of hockey knowledge to our coaching staff. His offensive instincts, expertise on the powerplay and the way he could control the game with his skating and smarts, are all key elements that we want implemented into our group.
“He played in the league as recently as the 2015-16 season so he can relate to today’s NHL player in an effort to bring out the best in each member of the team.”
Gomez, 37, was a generational talent on the man advantage. He had terrific speed and vision and was equally skilled at passing the puck as he was shooting it. In fact, a whopping 34 percent of his career points came on the power play — a matchless clip.
But Gomez had never been on the other side of the bench before, and supreme playing talent doesn’t always translate into supreme coaching talent. If the first few weeks of his job are any indication, then no, supreme playing talent certainly doesn’t translate into supreme coaching talent.
Following the Islanders’ 6-4 loss in Minnesota on Thursday night, Weight ripped into his unit. Per the Associated Press (via the New York Post):
“The power play, just lethargic, lax, soft. Zero battle. Decisions, execution, little flip passes, half speed breakout, just really unacceptable.”
What was he so upset about? Somehow, the Islanders allowed two shorthanded goals on the night. They’re now up to five in that category — just two less than they gave up all of last season.
There are a number of problems with the Islanders’ power play, besides for the obvious fact that just two goals in 10 games aren’t going to cut it. Like this stat: the Isles have given up three more goals than they’ve scored on the man advantage. And this stat: John Tavares, the franchise’s all-world point producer, has eight PP shots in 10 games. And this stat: Despite demonstrating that he can quarterback the unit in the AHL, Ryan Pulock has played a total of two games this season.
With so many things to fix, and not so much time to fix it, one question is more important than the rest: Will Gomez be able to right this ship?
The Islanders season hinges on it.