Point Blank's State of the Season Address


The Islanders now head into a six day break for All-Star Weekend festivities. John Tavares is headed to the show this weekend. It’ll be nice to see the Islanders young face of the franchise taking part in the limelight on Sunday. With a goal against Toronto Tuesday night, Tavares is 20-29-49 in the season’s first 48 games. There hasn’t been such a deserving Islander in the ASG in quite a while. By the way, check out this short story on how following JT’s attitude can work toward changing the Islanders’ and it’s fanbases’ attitudes towards the team, each other and the game. And it’s really true.

In youth, I was a swimmer and there was a clear divide between the kids on the school team who were recreational and those that were on hard-practicing private club teams (as is probably true in many youth sports). The rec swimmers didn’t care how they did, stayed up late and ate as they pleased. The exact opposite was true of the club kids — all military attitudes and sticking to strict diet and lifestyle plans. Tavares is the epitome of the kids from the club teams; many days walking into practice with a backpack on and protein shake or water bottle in hand, he’s focused on the task at hand and understands the ‘all encompassing’ nature of the hard work he needs to get to where he wants to be. Whether through yoga, eating healthy or working out, he follows through on everything off the ice to improve on the ice. That attitude clearly pervades through every aspect of his day. If only that could be bottled up and passed around to everyone, organization and fans alike. But now I’m getting side-tracked…

PLAYOFFS?
The team has earned 45 points in 48 games, putting them on pace for around 76 points this year and 10 points out of eighth place. That’s well short of what they would need to make the playoffs — that would be somewhere in the 89-94 range — and should be sellers at the trade deadline. Whether or not they have any parts worthy of selling is a whole other can of worms (one we’ll cover in later posts).

As for the playoffs, it’s not looking good. Throughout posts in January I’ve been setting the bar at 92 points, a modest estimate, and I’ll continue to keep the same goal for this exercise. That means in the final 34 games, they’ll have to earn 47 points. How do you get 47 points? Here are a few examples:

23-11-1
22-10-3
21-9-5
20-8-7
19-7-9

Those are just a few of the ways. All are technically possible but all are also highly improbable given what the team has shown thus far (19-22-7). No matter what, it looks like the Islanders will have to win twice as many games as they lose in regulation. They have 19 wins in 48 games on the year. In the final 34, they would need another 19 and a whole bunch of OTLs. As much as I would like to write about a playoff team, it’s not happening. Barring miracles, the Islanders will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year and sixth out of the last seven.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
There are two ways to root for the rest of this season to play out. You can either hope that the team continues to falter and ‘Fails for Nail’ (Nail Yakupov being the odds-on favorite for to go #1 overall in June) or, you can root this team to as many victories as they can muster. It’s a very pointy double-edged sword.

Last year, we saw the high expectations from fans and lackadaisical front office over the summer that a successful finish created. I’m sure both parties wouldn’t fall prey to the same mistakes with another go-around but it would still be hard to deal with another false-positive. On the other side, we’ve all been witnesses to what can happen when a team gets the first overall pick and has a franchise player fall into its lap. But that’s easier said than done in the draft lottery.

Personally, I believe it’s in the best interest of the franchise to continue forward and improve on the ice as well as with any transactions that can be made in the summer (although I do understand the benefits of and am not directly opposed to obtaining Nail Yakupov). The Blue Jackets already have a commanding 13 point lead in the Nail Sweepstakes. A second to last finish is easier with Edmonton only four back of the Isles. However, for the franchise and the rebuild (now nearing half a decade!) to continue to move forward, the team must move forward on the ice. Even if that means something like an 11th place finish. It will be a small step in the rebuild. Another small, painful step in the arduous journey.

Part of this process through the season’s final few months should be evaluating the talent in Bridgeport and giving a few of the players a shot with the big club. David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas, Rhett Rakhshani and Matt Donovan all come to mind (the goaltenders should be kept in the AHL for now). These players will all get their fair shot at training camp but with veterans on the roster who will clear waivers with flying colors, there’s no better time than now to get these kids low-pressure NHL experience.

Here at Point Blank, we’ll do our own kind of playoff transition. We’ll move away from the game action and more towards the off-ice issues surrounding the team; the rebuild, free agency, the draft, arena issues. We’ll give those topics the attention they deserve, as we’ve put them on the back burner during the season. Here’s a small look ahead at each off-season point.

LOOKING AHEAD: TRADE DEADLINE
Well, I guess I let the cat out of the bag on this one a bit. The Islanders will certainly be sellers again at the deadline. Whether or not they have pieces to sell, that’s another story. There are no Bill Guerins or Mike Comries on this team that can bring back a solid price. Training camp tryouts turned starters aren’t going to be tradeable assets. There is a particular goalie who is an interesting story, which we’ll get to next week.

The one curveball that could come is if Garth Snow determines that someone needs to be Campoli’d. Also known as a decent young/middle aged player who the team no longer has a use for but may fetch a decent price on the open market or in a package deal.

LOOKING AHEAD: THE DRAFT
We’ll have all the requisite coverage to get you ready for this year’s draft. Right now, it’s still a ways away especially with the log-jam in the Eastern Conference. A mere five points separate 10th from 15th in the east. That’s a lot of room for Nail failing for whichever teams head in that direction. As the season draws closer to an end, we’ll ramp up the coverage in this department.

LOOKING AHEAD: FREE AGENCY

This may be the Islanders’ biggest story of the off-season. They could very easily be drafting outside of the top five (they’re sixth right now) and that would eliminate all hope of obtaining an ‘NHL ready’ player. So there is work to be done and spots to fill. The two most important tasks for Snow this off-season will be determining which players in Bridgeport are ready/not and what he can get in the free agent market to improve the team.

PROGRAMMING NOTE
We’ll be taking Friday and Saturday off this week, letting this post simmer on the top of the blog. Of course, I’ll scamper right back if anything newsworthy happens, but there is likely nothing to come with the hockey world in Ottawa for a scrimmage. IPB returns on Sunday with coverage of JT and the All-Star Game.