Islanders 2016-17 Season Recap
As I get older and become more encapsulated by each NHL season, I have found that every season has its own turning points, highs, lows and moments that make you say “Oh My God”. Frankly, every season is special, and every season is a rollercoaster ride.
The 2016-17 season for the New York Islanders has been a Coney Island Cyclone ride from hell. The disappointment began at the beginning of the season, most notably on the road. The Islanders did not get a win on the road until November 22nd when they beat Anaheim 3-2 in a shootout. They did not get a regulation road win until December 1st.
The first sign that this season was a disaster was December 30th when starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak was sent down to the minor leagues. To begin the season, the Islanders maintained their “Three-Headed Monster” including goaltenders Thomas Griess and J.F. Berube. Earlier in the season Halak’s agent, Allan Walsh, made comments criticizing Garth Snow’s handling of the three goaltender system. And honestly, who could blame him? These comments started a whirlwind of trade rumors which had Jaro landing in Calgary, Los Angelas and Dallas. Halak’s stock however continued to drop with his poor play. So much so that when the Islanders waived him at the end of the December he went unclaimed. His stat line was just as bad as the Islanders 14-15-6 record. At the time of his demotion Halak was averaging 3.23 goals allowed per game with only a .904 save-percentage.
The next juncture came when Garth Snow axed long tenured Head Coach Jack Capuano. The date was January 17th and the Islanders were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with only 40 games remaining in the season. Then something remarkable happened. Assistant GM and Interim Head Coach Doug Weight led the Islanders to a hot winning streak starting his coaching career with a 5-0-1 record. The Islanders were in the hunt and also in the rumor mill.
This time the Islanders were buyers instead of sellers. The Colorado Avalanche were in the midst of a nosedive season poised to certainly land them the number one overall pick in June’s draft (so they thought). The constant losing in Colorado sparked speculation that one of their star players, Matt Duchene, was on the market. The Islanders were in pursuit and it seemed to be almost certain that the team was going to make a splash. The splash never came. Colorado General Manager Joe Sakic and Islanders General Manager Garth Snow could not reach an agreement and the deadline passed without a trade transaction.
Many fans saw the trade deadline as a disappointment because of a lack of a blockbuster trade, but the Islanders received a cancelation prize worthy of excitement. His name is Josh Ho-Sang and the game he plays is dangerous, exciting and sometimes even mesmerizing. Ho-Sang is a former 1st round pick known for his playmaking ability and his sometimes cocky confidence. He did not disappoint.
The infusion of lightning rods Ho-Sang and Head Coach Doug Weight propelled the Islanders back into a playoff spot. In the back half of the season the Islanders endured a grueling nine game road trip that the team handled with precision finishing with a 5-3-1 record. The Islanders continued to skyrocket and on March 24th the Islanders beat the big, bad, Pittsburgh Penguins in their own barn. The shootout win left the Islanders in the last Wild Card sport with a game in hand over the Boston Bruins, who were tied in the standings with the Isles.
This leads us to another fall on our Cyclone roller coaster ride. The game against Boston had a playoff-like atmosphere. The crowd at the Barclays Center was rocking and their cheers were answered by a highlight reel goal from the captain John Tavares. The game however was decided by an unlikely hero, Riley Nash, who netted two goals and the win for the Bruins. This was a tough loss for the Islanders but definitely not insurmountable. They followed up their strong performance with a 3-1 loss to Nashville and then finally an absolutely embarrassing loss against the Philadelphia Flyers.
On that Thursday night in Philadelphia the vibe on “Isles Twitter” was that is was a must win game after dropping the previous two. The players must have thought otherwise. The team came out flat and surrendered five goals in the first period. Thomas Griess started the evening and left after just 8 minutes, allowing four goals. That night felt like an end to the Islanders season as Toronto and Boston moved closer and closer to clinching.
Our roller coaster ride was not done just yet. Just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse superstar John Tavares took a nasty spill and injured his hamstring in a 2-1 win, that felt like a loss, to the New Jersey Devils. It was announced that his injury would keep him in the press box for the remaining five game of the regular season. The Islanders weren’t mathematically eliminated but the season was a failure. They made it interesting, winning those remaining five games before a Toronto win in Pittsburgh clinched the Leafs a playoff spot. The Islanders finished 41-29-12, 94 points and one shy of the playoffs. Finally, our ride reached its end.
So where does this leave the Islanders? It obviously was a disappointing season after winning their first playoff series since 1993 last spring. The season was littered with rumors of a new arena, a new President of Hockey Operations and rumors of John Tavares looking for a new home. Personally I believe the front office of the Islanders has outwore their welcome after one playoff series victory in the past eleven years. The new owners of the Islanders: Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin do not agree with me. Snow has already resigned veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and named Doug Weight the official Head Coach. The summer will be defined by the decision of John Tavares. With one year left on his contract he hopes to avoid the same noise that surrounded friend and fellow superstar Steven Stamkos when his contract was expiring. The Islanders should know by early July whether or not Tavares will be resigning with the team. If not, it is the Islanders duty to the fans to move Tavares for the largest possible haul.
It all seems bleak doesn't it? There were a few bright spots this season. Rookies Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier had strong debuts and look to be formidable players in the future. Also rookie play-by-play announcer Brendan Burke was stellar in his first NHL season. He was rewarded with the honor of calling the nationally televised playoff series between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks.
The fact of the matter is, when October rolls back around the diehard Islanders fans will fall in line, fasten their seatbelts and prepare for another roller coaster ride of a season.
Stats and Images from NHL.com