With the playoff picture narrowing by the day, Matt Martin gave me a call yesterday afternoon to discuss some playoff hockey as well as to take a look at the Islanders as they prepare for next season.
Martin is currently waiting for a new contract with the New York Islanders and has been training a lot this off-season in preparation for 2013. He set an NHL record in 2012 with 374 hits in 80 games played to go along with tying his career high of 14 points. Along with his explosions along the wall, Martin has become one of the biggest fan-favorites for the New York Islander. In fact, his hard work, fisticuffs and willingness to stick up for his teammates earned him the Bobby Nystrom Award for 2012.
But apparently all that hard work takes it's toll. The guy didn't even do to much for his 23rd birthday that just passed on May 8th.
The release of assistant coaches Scott Allen and Dean Chynoweth by the Islanders has led to speculation that Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson will be joining Jack Capuano and Doug Weight behind the teams bench. I hope this is not the case for three very good reasons. First, I think that coach Capuano should be allowed to select his own assistants and can’t think of any successful organization that doesn’t allow their head coach to do the same. Secondly, as remarkable a job as coach Thompson has done in Bridgeport, he has not finished his work here. Lastly, I am a selfish Sound Tigers fan and don’t want to lose him. (Okay, maybe that’s only two good reasons.)
After allowing seven goals in an onslaught of a hockey game, the final buzzer at the Nationwide Arena would not only sound the ending of a massacre, but also signify the end of what was a disappointing season for the New York Islanders.
It was a disappointing year for many reasons. With the rebuild entering its fourth season, many expected this team's fortunes to change. For plenty, that meant making the playoffs instead of falling into the draft lottery. For yours truly, that meant climbing out of the cellar but not high enough to reach 8th place. I am sad to say that we were both wrong. The Islanders finished the year out of the playoffs and 27th overall in the league, giving them the fourth overall pick going into Tuesday night's draft lottery for the second year in a row.
On paper you can call the 2012 season just the same as any other. At 14th place in the Eastern Conference, the Isles finished the season with a 34-37-11 record with 79 points. That's only a six point improvement over last season and the SAME exact record as the year before that in 2010. It would almost appear that the rebuild has established a trend of not going up or down, but rather staying put.
In this edition of The Couch - Erol Bal wraps up the 2011-2012 New York Islanders in a segment he loves to call - The Good The Bad and The Ugly. In true Sergio Leone fashion we break down the highs and lows of the season.
When it rains, it pours; that has been the mantra of the New York Islanders this weekend. Yesterday the Isles let up six goals in a loss to the Boston Bruins that mathematically eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Today, they continued their struggling ways in a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, who were without both Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson.
"It was pretty horrible on our part. They were missing two of their top players and we couldn't take advantage of it. The way we played, we didn't deserve to win, that's for sure," said Islanders captain Mark Streit after the game. He would be the only Islander to be credited with a goal tonight with a John Tavares pass going off of his skate and behind Senators net-minder Craig Anderson.
It's hard to predict the roster for 2013 when 2012 hasn't even finished yet, let alone the fact that Garth Snow hasn't decided which of his impending UFA's will be brought back. Free agency is still a far away fantasy as well. But for some hockey players currently wearing Islanders uniforms, the immediate future has been fresh in their minds for quite some time.
Players like Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom, Dylan Reese and Nino Niederreiter will be looking to make some lasting impressions on the coaching staff over the next seven games that will close out the Islanders' season. The first three will more than likely be sent back to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers once the NHL regular season ends in order to assist the farm team with their playoff run.
Josh Bailey has been an incredibly inconsistent contributor for the New York Islanders. Bailey is playing in his fourth season with the Islanders, he played his first game back in 2008-09. He missed the first fourteen games of his rookie season with a lower-body injury; he would play his first NHL game on November 11, 2008 at home versus the Philadelphia Flyers. Josh recorded his first NHL point just one game later on November 13 in Ottawa when he assisted on Kyle Okposo’s game tying goal. The Islanders went on to win the game 3-1. Bailey recorded eight more assists on the road to his first goal, which came on January 2, 2009, in the same game as Doug Weight’s 1,000 point, against the Phoenix Coyotes. The game was bittersweet for Bailey, who was enthusiastic about his first goal, but disheartened by the 5-4 loss. He went on to record 25 points in his rookie campaign finishing with 7 goals and 18 assists. (Photo Credit: thehockeyjunkies.blogspot.com)
Many were immediately calling for the removal of head coach Jack Capuano at the start of the season once the New York Islanders' record began to slip from 3-1 to way below .500. However, there were some, like myself, who argued that it was premature to blame the coaching staff for the poor start due to the fact that the roster from last season hadn't changed much and for the other simple fact - the season was still young. (Photo Credit: Robert Kowal/Flickr)
Since then, the Islanders have managed to be a consistent below .500 team for the year. They have come close on a few occasions from jumping over the hurdle but would then find a way to take two steps back after taking one step forward. This past week has been the most disheartening of the year for Isles fans in relation to how the team has continued to perform. Not only have they lost games, but they have done it with such depression that even the U.S. economy cringed.
Three of the last eight games saw the Islanders either blow a three-goal lead or lose the game in the final few minutes of the third period. It started when the Islanders went into the second period against the Washington Capitals with a 2-0 lead on February 28th. The Caps would score two goals in the final three minutes of the game and then go on to have Alexander Ovechkin score the early game winning goal in the extra frame. The Islanders also had a 1-0 lead against the New Jersey Devils just this past Saturday, only to see their opponent score two goals just 14 seconds apart in the final two minutes of the hockey game. And most recently, the Islanders blew a 4-1 lead last night against the Caps to lose 5-4 in the shootout.
Some twenty-five years before the Bridgeport Sound Tigers became a team I, and many others enjoyed the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is one memorable scene in that movie that represents this years’ team showing their heart and determination to win.
In the film, King Arthur (Jack Capuano) is travelling through a forest when he enters a clearing and observes a fight taking place between a Black Knight (The Sound Tigers) and a Green Knight (insert team) by a bridge over a small stream. Arthur congratulates the Black Knight for his victory and offers him a place at Arthur's round table ,but the Black Knight only stands still, holding his sword, and makes no response until Arthur moves to cross the bridge. The Black Knight then refuses to stand aside. Reluctantly, Arthur fights the Black Knight and, after a short battle, the Knight's left arm (David Ullstrom) is severed.
It's still a long shot, but the Islanders have pulled themselves back into playoff conversations with a 1-0 win yesterday over the New Jersey Devils that has put them within five points of the last spot in the Eastern Conference. But even so, there are plenty of questions that surround the New York Islanders hockey club, ranging from the uncertain future of the arena to whether or not Tim Horton's will ever return to the concession stands. The most important questions, the ones that impact the immediate future, are the ones that need to be answered first; GM Garth Snow has to figure out where certain players will fit on his roster as the rebuild pushes forward.
I've already talked about the possibility of Evgeni Nabokov re-signing with the Islanders, as well as teammate P.A. Parenteau returning in an orange and blue sweater. But Snow will have to take a long look at some of his current regulars and decide where they fit with the team long term as some young, fresh faces are pushing for NHL jobs.