Last season was the Islanders best season in a long time as they made the playoffs for the first time since 06/07. So naturally, coming into this year expectations had rose to a point that they haven’t been at in a really long time.
Early on, it seemed like that the Islanders would meet those expectations as they started the season 2-0-1. However, after that, it quickly became apparent that the teams flaws were worse than they anticipated as they started to fall and have struggled to recover.
The biggest shortfalls for the team have been on defense and in goal. Following the summer loss of captain Mark Streit, GM Garth Snow did nothing to replace him except promote rookie Matt Donovan from Bridgeport. This was viewed as suspicious by some fans because it didn’t seem wise to expect a rookie to step right in and replace Streit’s offensive production on the back end. What has compounded this even more is the October 19th injury to Lubomir Visnovsky. During that game, Visnovsky suffered a concussion and is just now beginning to resume any sort of activity. The loss of Visnovsky has really hurt the team’s power play, and at even strength to. His loss has caused guys like Andrew MacDonald to get increased ice time which has hurt his productivity and effectiveness. Fans have been screaming for the team to acquire a defenseman not realizing that there really isn’t one out there to acquire that would fill the need the team has.
Another issue for the team has been in goal. Over the summer, after a few attempts at acquiring goalies like Cory Schneider who was traded to the Devils and Jonathan Bernier who was traded to the Maple Leafs failed the Islanders resigned goalie Evgeni Nabokov to a one year contract. Last season, Nabokov really struggled in the playoffs after being one of the key players in the Islanders getting there. Compounding his struggles with his age caused some to be weary of the Islanders bringing him back. Thus far this season, those who were fearful of bringing him back have been proven right because even though the defense hasn't exactly been up to par his play hasn't either. Before getting injured, Nabokov had registered a 3.30 GAA and a .892 save percentage thus far this season. Those numbers rank among the lowest in the NHL for starting goalies. Meanwhile, Kevin Poulin has proven to not really be any better than Nabokov putting up a 3.24 GAA and a .887 save percentage in 13 games this season. Then there is Anders Nilsson who was called up after Nabokov went down has seen limited action so far only starting 3 games and replacing Poulin in one. In his limited action, Nilsson has looked pretty good but it is still to small a sample size to cast any sort of judgement.
Some fans believe coaching is another central issue for the Islanders. While there might be some merit to that not only with head coach Jack Capuano and his sometimes questionable decisions. Also, with Doug Weight and Brent Thompson given the extreme struggles both the power play and penalty kill have suffered through thus far this season. Some think we should fire Jack Capuano. While I understand that rationale, I don't think it makes any sense. If they were going to bring in a coach from the outside to replace him I would be more inclined to agree with those people. However, the fact is that if Capuano is fired, Doug Weight will likely become the teams new coach. Given the fact that Weight is already heavily involved with the team I don't think making him coach would lead to the desired change everyone is seeking.
If the Islanders want to meet the expectations they and their fans alike had for them coming into the season, they need to get to work because the season is only so long. You think you have all this time left so you take your time and before you know it, its the trade deadline and there is only one month left.