Kevin SchultzAfter last season’s playoff push saw the Islanders finish in style with an 11-2-4 record at the end of the regular season, en route to a first round playoff date with Pittsburgh, there was reason to believe that maybe this November they would put aside the demons that have haunted the franchise after Halloween in recent years. After losing six in a row and 11-of-14 overall in the month, it’s clear that November continues to torpedo the Islanders. The season isn’t dead yet, but we’re only two months in and it’s already on life support.
Three Novembers ago, it was a 0-9-1 run that cost then-head coach Scott Gordon his job (and eventually extended itself to 1-17-3 under replacement Jack Capuano). In the years following under Capuano, the team has still fared poorly in November despite playing well, and playing average, at other points.
It feels like with a somewhat similar group of players and the same management, it all goes back to that horrendous November 2010. It seems like it is that specific November that sticks in fan’s minds so much. The Islanders actually had pretty decent Novembers in the years prior to the 2010 one-win-in-21 games scenario with much worse teams.
But while that team in ’10-’11 wasn’t expected to do too much, this year was quite a different story and the blame for this particular November collapse is complicated and spread over a lot of different areas.
The coach has made questionable lineup decisions, which have been documented on this blog. But at the same time, he deserves a bit of slack for not having viable replacements for the injured starting netminder, as well as Brian Strait and, more importantly, Lubomir Visnovsky. Not only that, but the specific needs of this team that were obvious over the summer — defense and goaltending — were not addressed at all. Even the small free agent signings (Bouchard, Regin) were spent on the forward corps. When not addressing needs combines with the bad luck of injuries, it’s a tornado of bad jujube for the team.
Not addressing those needs falls on the GM for not having viable replacements, and trading a first round pick (this year or next, depending on how things go) for offensive help rather than someone who either stops pucks or patrols the blue line. Thomas Vanek is better than Matt Moulson in my book, but the team’s terrible record in the weeks following the trade thanks to awful D and G seem to be some bad karma.
But then it’s also on the players, who are part of the league’s worst penalty kill, slumping power play, and 28th worst defense. Players who went the whole or nearly the whole month without a goal that had showed such heart and more importantly contributions in a ferocious playoff charge last season but have struggled to but forth such an effort for more than a game or two in a row.
Through 27 games the Islanders have won in consecutive contests only once, an example of the lack of consistency. Maybe they’re tired of the coach, but they don’t say as much, so who really knows.
The problem this year is that there’s a lot of blame to go around. Everyone’s a little bit responsible, as is usually the case when a business fails. Sure, you can jettison the coach, and that may — in fact it likely will — change systems and lineups for the better. But does that really change the attitude of the players? Forward Matt Moulson was jettisoned, and that was deemed a wake up call, but that hasn’t done much of anything to change the results on the ice.
The problem is that there is not one answer, it’s a whole long list of problems that need solving, and it’s another long November for the Islanders.
2012-13: 4-9-1 (actually February)
2010-11: 1-7-3 (Gordon fired on 11/15/10)