The 2017-2018 season is quickly falling short of expectations for both the New York Islanders and Rangers, but the way that one organization is handling it simply out-classes the other.
If the current trends continue for both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, it will be the first time since the 2009-2010 season that no New York-based team qualifies for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There is a huge difference in how both organizations have handled that grim reality. Earlier this month, the Rangers organization issued a statement to their fans explaining that the organization had the intentions of blowing the whole thing up and starting over, saying “Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.”
A Message from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton. pic.twitter.com/Q56CXS8vDc
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 8, 2018
Meanwhile, Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow held a press conference to address some concerns facing the organization. After all, the Islanders are on the cusp of a playoff spot (but not occupying one) and have to convince their captain and superstar center John Tavares to re-sign after this season and to not walk for nothing.
So how does Snow respond? By announcing that the Islanders will not trade John Tavares, that the Isles will likely not be active at the trade deadline and will not rush to deal high draft picks, and puts the blame squarely on injuries for the Islanders defensive inabilities.
Evidently, media pundits, the fans, and others undervalued what Nikolay Kulemin — the fourth line penalty-killer being paid $5.25 million this season — and Calvin de Haan, the defenseman who took the Islanders to arbitration and made out with a one-year deal, meant to the Islanders’ overall stability.
For the Islanders:
All sarcasm aside, there’s no doubt that the absences of de Haan and Kulemin hurt the Islanders and they’re valuable players in their own right. But to make the claim that injuries are to blame for the shambles the team’s overall defense was left in before and after their absence is a laughable attempt for Snow to pat himself on the back — and nobody’s buying it.
Not that it’s needed, but to recap exactly how poor the Islanders defense has been, here are a couple of reminders.
The New York Islanders lead the NHL in the following two categories: Average of shots against per game (35.8) and goals allowed overall (213). They also run the second-worst penalty kill with a 73.1 percent kill rate.
These issues are not news to anyone familiar with the Islanders organization. From puck drop on October 6, the issues plaguing the blue and orange were defense, defense, and defense. The Islanders dealt away their best defenseman in Travis Hamonic during the offseason and continue to hang onto the return he fetched of one first round pick and two second-round picks.
Rather than using those assets to turn around and improve his team, Snow stood pat like he’s done on several other occasions during his tenure and relied heavily on three rookies whose combined career totals in NHL games played (heading into this season) didn’t even add up to two full seasons.
As 2017-18 played out, and as it continues to, these issues only made themselves more and more emboldened. Yet moves did not come, just as the three-headed goaltending conundrum buried the Islanders in 2016-17, it seems that a combination of both defense and goaltending are destined to do the same this season.
Only Jaroslav Halak seems to have come around for the isles in net, and now it seems Weight is intent on riding his goalie into the ground to get the Islanders over the hump and into the post-season because he feels he cannot trust his backup.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it should. The same happened to Thomas Greiss in 2016-17 when Weight couldn’t trust J.F. Berube.
Once again, with the issue of goaltending as broken as can be, there was no move from Snow to signal a desperately-needed change.
For the Rangers:
Heading into the season, the Rangers had a bolstered group of defense that was ready to help make Henrik Lundqvist‘s increasingly difficult job easier. That, however, has not worked as intended.
After landing the big fish in Kevin Shattenkirk for four years, along with adding defensive wizard Lindy Ruff as an assistant to Alain Vigneault‘s bench, the organization’s aspiration was to gracefully see out Lundqvist’s era as a Ranger with as much contention for him as possible.
For obvious reasons, things didn’t quite work out as planned. The Rangers haven’t made Lundqvist’s job any easier as they don’t trail far behind the Islanders in shots allowed with about 33.9 allowed per game, and waiving a defenseman who was signed to a four-year, $4.35 million deal this past offseason wasn’t exactly a world-class move (the man was waived on his birthday too, ouch).
After taking a close look at the Rangers squad, Jeff Gorton and Glen Sather decided that it was time to call it quits and finally went all-in on a decision that should have been coming soon for the Blueshirts anyway — a full-on rebuild.
Only when the Rangers decided to admit defeat, they faced failure straight in the eyes. There was no shying away from the tough questions. Management delivered a clear, concise mission statement they owed to their fans. After all, it’s the fans who are the reason management is able to cash its paychecks at the end of the day, if anyone is going to be owed an explanation, it’s them, right?
The bottom-line is that when the Rangers faltered in their expectations for the 2017-18 season, this was seen as unacceptable and a solution was put into action immediately, even if it’s to begin the arduous process of a rebuild that their fans haven’t seen in quite some time.
While Gorton addressed his team’s concerns head-on, Snow continues to look on from the comfort of his office of what will be 12 years on July 19. Once again, the Islanders were out-classed by their crosstown rivals and there is no sign of changes coming.