There’s no real way around it; the Islanders are having a pretty bad season. After clinching a playoff berth last year with 100 points, the Islanders find themselves in 21st place with only 51 points in 47 games, right behind the Vancouver Canucks. Coupled with the Islanders sending Jaroslav Halak to the minors and being forced to fire their head coach, it’s been a hectic season for the club and one they’ll probably like to forget.
However, there’s still hope for the team. Despite their problems, there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Unsuccessful Offseason Moves
There were a few big changes made by the team this year in free agency and for the most part, the moves have only made the club worse.
The Islanders parted ways with Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen only to bring in Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera to take their place. Signing Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract, Ladd was supposed to be an important member of the top-six and help generate some offense alongside John Tavares.
Yet through 43 games, Ladd has only registered 13 points. He is easily on track to have the worst season of his career and is by far underperforming, especially when he’s costing the Islanders $5.5 million per year.
Compare that to Okposo, who is doing very well with the Buffalo Sabres, and you see that Ladd has not been able to fill the void left by Okposo’s departure. In 47 games with the Sabres, Okposo has collected 15 goals and 16 assists while averaging over 19 minutes a game for Buffalo.
The Islanders other big name player that they let walk is also doing well. In Detroit, Frans Neilsen has scored 10 goals and 16 assists while centering the Red Wings second line. The Islanders thought they would be able to let go of these players and replace them but it hasn’t worked out the way they wanted it to.
But besides the bad moves during free agency, the latest contract extensions handed out don’t bode well for the team’s salary cap situation. Besides Ladd’s hefty $5.5 million price tag, several other less important players have been given big contracts, jeopardizing the team’s future flexibility.
Johnny Boychuk has been a good defenseman for the Islanders but he’ll be paid $6 million a year for the next five years. At 33 years old already, it’ll be hard for Boychuk to remain as effective as he is now as he continues to get older.
Also, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, two bottom-six players who don’t contribute much offense, eat up a combined $6.85 million against the cap for the next four years. Those two contract extensions might come back to hurt the Islanders if they ever get up against the cap and need extra cap space.
A Better Future
But even with all the Islanders problems, there are still a few reasons to have hope for the future. Jaroslav Halak may have had a pretty bad year but a lot of people aren’t noticing the great season Thomas Greiss is having.
Through 28 games this year, Greiss has maintained a .927 save percentage, good for fifth highest in the league. With a .925 save percentage last year, over 66 total games with the Islanders Greiss has a sparkling .926 average. Greiss still has plenty of good years left in him and the Islanders won’t need to worry about their goaltending while Greiss is in the crease. Halak still being on the team is a bit of an issue but his contract is up right after next season.
There’s also the surplus of young talent that the Islanders have who should have a big impact on the club soon. All of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Ryan Strome have potential and have been playing with the Islanders for a few seasons now. At 26, 25 and 23 years old respectively, they are only just entering their prime and are poised to be helpful contributors. And that’s not even mentioning the really young talent like Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Michael Dal Colle, and Joshua Ho-Sang who all should help the club in the future.
It’s no secret that the Islanders are having problems this year and that there will even be some problems in the future. However, there are still reasons to believe that the Islanders will bounce back and might find themselves back in the playoff picture soon.