The New York Islanders have ended their 2014 season by finishing 26th in the league, good enough for the fifth overall pick in this year's draft lottery and a 34-37-11 record.
At this time last year, the Isles were 24-17-7, a record that was good enough to place them eighth in the Eastern Conference and allow them to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in a first round playoff series match-up.
Clearly, this was not the direction that the Islanders and their fan-base expected them to travel this year.
Regardless of their unexpected success taking them into the playoffs last year, there were many areas that the Islanders needed to improve coming into the current season. The core of the team was established, but among many other things the defensive corps was a major concern and the departure of captain Mark Streit only made things worse.
The Islanders look to finish up their homestand Sunday afternoon on a high note as they take on their Metropolitan rival Columbus Blue Jackets 1pm at the Nassau Coliseum. It will be the third of four matchups as Columbus has taken the first two, including the Islanders’ home opener. In what was a sign for things to come, the Islanders blew a 2-0 third period lead before falling to Columbus in the shootout 3-2. The two met again in Columbus in November where the Blue Jackets scored three times in the third period to win 5-2. (Photo credit: paul.hadsall/flickr).
Tonight, the Islanders led most of the game. As is the norm, it was the first line of John Tavares, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo who led the way.
After defenseman Thomas Hickey forced a turnover with the Pens skating into the Islanders’ zone, the Isles top line skates into the Pittsburgh zone. Tavares hits Okposo with a pass and the forward skates up the left wing. Okposo then backhands the puck on net where it ricochets off of Pitt defender Olli Maatta and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
On the day that the Islanders revealed their new threads for the Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium, they will look to get back to their winning ways in front of their home crowd. The New York Islanders will be taking on the Winnipeg Jets, who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. On the other side of that, is the struggling Isles who has won just 2 of their last 10 contests. They have only walked away with 4 of 24 potential points. These losing ways have the Isles resting rather uncomfortably in the basement of the Metropolitan Division with a measly 19 points.
It's been repeated dozens of times before: the Islanders defense is not as good as it needs to be, and the goaltending between the pipes is a major area of concern. But what hasn't been acknowledged is that the Isles offense, which has more or less been excused, needs improvement as well (Photo credit: THEFANBLOG/Flickr).
There's no denying that Matt Carkner's play has been less than superb, and that Matt Donovan has continued to make the expected rookie mistakes. Both of these players have led to Travis Hamonic and most notably Andrew MacDonald being forced into accepting more minutes and responsibility that is perhaps too much for this duo to handle on a nightly basis.
Add that Lubomir Visnovsky's veteran leadership has been missing for quite some time now and you have every hockey pundit saying "ya think?!" when asked if the Isles defense may be one of the reasons why they have slid in the standings.
But see if you can answer this: aside from John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Thomas Vanek (while healthy) and Frans Nielsen, where has the offense come for this team?