Thomas Vitkowski is a CPA who is a panel member on CNBC’s Investor Round Table and former longtime Islanders Season Ticket Holder.
January was an odd schedule month for the Islanders, a 10 game schedule with barely any travel which was reduced to 9 with the weather related cancellation against the Flyers. 3 of the first 4 games the Islanders were not competitive, getting dominated by the Penguins, Capitals and Flyers. I had mentioned last month the concern about Boychuk being out for any extended period of time and it certainly was noticeable throughout the month. The highlight of
January clearly was the 3rd period comeback versus a Ranger team who simply does not lose games in regulation when leading after 2 periods. Going 4-4-1 in a month where they had a lot of time off just isn’t good enough. The Islanders have 29 games in February and March so it’s only going to get more difficult. They need to be better especially now that the teams behind them have closed the gap in the standings.
New York Islanders: SELL
One bright spot in January was Brock Nelson, he led the team with 6 goals, but even more importantly he’s scoring many of them with a wicked shot that simply are beating goaltenders (his tying goal versus the Rangers being a perfect example). Another benefit is when you show the ability to score with your shot, your opponents are forced to play you tightly which opens the ice up for your team mates. He’s the current team leader with 19 goals and scored nearly 25% of the Islanders goals in January (22% backing out the 2 empty net goals, 5 of 23). His improvement has been clearly noticeable and you have to wonder where this offense would be without him. The only question now is how many goals does he exceed last years total of 20 by? He’s on pace for 33, if he keeps playing this way, no reason why he can’t score 35 or 40.
Brock Nelson: BUY
In the November edition I wrote how the Islanders need to move on from Josh Bailey. His play the last 2 months couldn’t have made me look more correct. He’s been absolutely invisible the last 2 months while constantly giving the puck away. His January was so inept that everyone’s favorite punching bag Brian Strait had just as many points during the month. He has 1 goal in his last 19 games, 4 points in his last 16 games and 7 shots on goal in the month of January. What’s more amazing is that he’s gone 19 games without a single POINT on the power play covering over 35 minutes of ice time and yet STILL was given PP time in every one of those games. Hey Jack maybe it’s time to try someone else? I am utterly baffled at what the coaching staff sees in him, no matter how bad he is, it never seems to matter. I thought Capuano stressed earning your ice time on this team, I’d love to know how Josh has done that.
Josh Bailey: SELL
Kyle Okposo doesn’t seem to get much credit, but he put together another solid scoring month co leading the team with Nelson for January with 8 points (4G and 4A) while playing a lot of it without Tavares on his line. He’s the team leader in points for the season with 35 and is one of the few players one the team that can hold the puck with pressure. I’d like to see a better +/- number out of him and he does seem to take shifts off defensively, but he certainly is not hurting himself with his impending free agency. I hope the Islanders resign him and I think this team would be better if he was back playing with JT.
Kyle Okposo: BUY
After a hot start Kulemin has been unnoticeable recently. His January numbers were ugly as he scored 1 point and went -3, but it’s the eye test that concerns me as he certainly isn’t playing the way he was during October. He had a brutal turnover against Detroit on the PK, effectively passing the puck to a Red Wing in the slot from behind the net. Inconsistent play has always been a problem with him, but he is important to this team defensively, especially on the PK and we need him to play more like he did earlier this year.
Nikolai Kulemin: SELL
I have not mentioned Anders Lee this year, honestly there really hasn’t been much reason to. Unlike Nelson, Lee has regressed this year. His scoring has dropped to .43 pts a game from .57 last year. He is around the net a lot and did register 32 shots in the month (in comparison to Bailey’s 7), but doesn’t seem to be converting on his opportunities this year. He had 3 points in January and only 1 in the last 7 games. He’s gotten time on the top line and needs to produce if he’s going stay there.
Anders Lee: SELL
What’s on tap for February – 13 games, with 8 of them on the road ending the month out on the West Coast. A tough month ahead especially considering we get the Caps twice. Please get well Johnny Rocket…..