As the holiday season approaches, PHR will look at what teams are thankful for as the season nears the quarter point of completion. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We take a look at what’s gone well in the first month and what could improve as the season rolls on. Yesterday, we examined the Colorado Avalanche.
What are the New York Islanders most thankful for?
A solid start to the 2017-18 season.
The Islanders, who are doing everything they can to prevent star John Tavares from leaving their team when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, have gotten off to a solid start and look poised to make the playoffs. The team is 12-7-2 coming into Friday and are currently third in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. If they can continue their success, the team should have a solid chance to make the playoffs, something they failed to do last year when they were one of the worst teams in the league at this point a year ago. A second-straight failed playoff appearance wouldn’t look good to a player who should have numerous playoff teams pounding on his door in June.
Who are the New York Islanders most thankful for?
Their offense. The Islanders rank second in the league in goals scored as the team has managed to give a lot of help to Tavares. Linemates Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have thrived around Tavares to form one of the top lines in the NHL. Bailey has five goals and 21 assists so far this year, while Lee has 11 goals and 10 assists. Oh, Tavares is doing just fine as he’s second in the NHL behind Nikita Kucherov with 15 goals. Throw in others like Jordan Eberle (seven goals), Brock Nelson (six goals), and rookie Mathew Barzal (five goals) and offense isn’t really a problem. Even defenseman Nick Leddy is getting into the action. After starting with just two assists in the first nine games, he’s put up five goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games to put himself among the top scoring defensemen in the league.
What would the Islanders be most thankful for?
A long-term commitment from Tavares.
The entire franchise seems to be focused on locking up Tavares who has said he wants to wait before committing long-term to the franchise. While many believe Tavares is waiting to make sure the Islanders find a legitimate home at the Belmont Parks site, there is plenty of confusion and worry about what might happen to the franchise if the team fails to re-sign their star player. To make matters worse, there is no word when a decision might be final on whether the Islanders will find a new home. However, if the team can get that commitment from the veteran, perhaps the team can move forward and focus on other key areas in the future.
What should be on the Islanders Holiday Wish List?
More success from their youth. One thing the team always seems to have a lot of is young talent. While Barzal has five goals, he still has stretches of inconsistency and the team would like to see him develop more. Other players such as Joshua Ho-Sang has been up and down between New York and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to find more consistency with his entire game. Young defenseman Ryan Pulock, who many felt might be able to supplant Travis Hamonic after he was traded, has struggled to get into games (11 games played, 10 healthy scratches) due to his struggles on defense. Anthony Beauvillier has just two goals in 17 games so far this season. The team must continue to develop their youth if they want long-term success.