For many people, myself included, this season for the New York Islanders ended in a failure by them not making the playoffs. However, before I start with the negatives about all the things you already know the Islanders did wrong, I want to talk a little bit about what the Islanders actually did well this season.
First of all, their offenses ability was not in question, especially the first two lines. Many of the Islanders forwards had career offensive years including: Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Pulock and rookie Matthew Barzal. To no one’s surprise, all of these players will be playing for their respective countries in the International tournament coming up. A little fun fact about the tournament is that it looks like Josh Bailey will be playing on Canada’s first line with Connor McDavid.
From all of the offensive prowess that the team had, (I didn’t even mention John Tavares) this team probably should have made the playoffs even if the defense and goaltending were mediocre. Instead, our defense and goaltending was amongst the worst in the league, and for yet another the season the Islanders missed the playoffs. This leaves a lot to be desired for next season, and the even bigger issue is that the team could change a lot just during this offseason. Not only is John Tavares able to leave, many other players will be able to leave. What is even more concerning is that even if the Islanders do resign Tavares, they will have to find the money to pay players like Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee.
Obviously this is a huge issue, and no one else can be to blame but our GM Garth Snow. He has handed out some of the worst fourth line contracts in the league, and now is reaping the consequences by not having enough money to pay our actually skillful players. As a fan, this is even more concerning because it makes the years to come even worse than they are now. Again, I haven’t even mentioned another issue the Islanders will have to fix if they even want a chance at the playoffs.
That problem is goaltending. The only goalie under contract next season for the Islanders is Thomas Greiss. Greiss has now proved to us that he cannot handle the role of a starting goaltender and will get burnt out if he plays more than half the games in a season. Jaroslav Halak will probably test the free agent market, and his resigning destination will probably not be the Islanders. While Halak had some great moments for the Islanders in his career, this season proved that he isn’t getting any better. Christopher Gibson is not under contract, but will probably be resigned by the team this summer. Gibson showed a couple flashes of true NHL goaltender ability, but was not consistent enough for the Islanders to go in with him as the starter this season. Unfortunately, the free agent goalie market does not look good right now with maybe the only viable option being Carter Hutton. Therefore, the Islanders may need to look to the farm system for Linus Soderstrom or Ilya Sorokin. Soderstrom looks to be coming to the AHL to begin the season, and if he plays well he may get his shot on the Islanders next year. Sorokin just renewed his KHL contract so chances are he won’t be with the Islanders anytime soon. Obviously, this does not look good for the Islanders next year, and if they cannot finding a starting goalie, next season may be worse than this one.
Now, the Islanders need to make some decisions. With two draft picks in the first round, the Islanders need to decide if they want to trade them for help now, or make the picks for later. They also need to find a starting goaltender, while trying to keep John Tavares. If Snow decides to make a lot of changes, we as Islander fans might be looking at a very different team next season.