An interesting month for the Islanders as they finally relieved Capuano of his coaching duties and Doug Weight led the Islanders to a 5-0-1 record to close out the month with impressive regulation wins versus Columbus, Montreal, and Washington (with Washington and Columbus being 1st and 2nd with the least regulation losses.) This is the Islanders though and the timing of the coaching change was strange to say the least. After 2 hideous OT losses against the 2 worst teams in the league to start the month (Colorado and Arizona) you have to wonder why a change wasn’t made then, instead it was made after a 4-0 win over the Bruins. I rated Capuano a sell in November and it was clear this change was long overdue. I had mentioned 18 points being needed this month to get back in the race, the Islanders finished the month at 7-2-3 and 17 points and clearly have momentum heading into February. It won’t be easy though as 22 of the remaining 34 games are on the road.
Thomas Greiss: BUY
He was officially given the #1 job with the demotion of Halak and he responded big time. He is 5th in the NHL in Sv Pct at .928 and in the top 10 in GAA at 2.24. He played in 11 of the 12 games in the month and except for the game in Carolina, he has given the Islanders the chance to win every single night. In all but the Carolina game he did not allow more than 2 goals during regulation. While I am a Halak fan and believe Snow botched this whole situation, he never showed this kind of consistency. As a result Greiss was rewarded with a 3 yr/10m dollar contract this past Monday and he clearly earned it.
John Tavares: BUY
JT was a monster this month, leading the team with 8 goals, 14 points, and a +7. After the Islanders started the month 0-1-2 he recorded a hat trick versus Florida to secure their first victory of the month. 3 games later he scored his 1st goal shorthanded versus Dallas and had 2 of the 3 goals in a 3-0 victory and has given the Islanders a badly needed scoring threat on the PK not seen since Grabner. There were a lot of grumblings earlier in the year about him not playing well (personally I think that’s more to do with the lack of scoring from his wings until Lee finally started scoring) but he put that talk to rest with a dominant January.
Nick Leddy: BUY
As with Tavares (and similar to his last season) Leddy started slow, but finally heated up in January scoring 3 goals, a team leading 9 assists and tying JT for the best plus/minus of the month at +7. He’s looked like a completely different player in January and you have to wonder why his starts have been so bad the last 2 years. The Islanders need him creating chances like he did setting up JT in the 1st period against Florida. He’s clearly the only playmaker on D and considering the rest of the defense in January only had 12 points combined, he needs to be the guy who creates offense from the back line. There were some rumblings about possibly trading him, I don’t see that happening and I think that would be a big mistake.
Power Play: SELL
Even though the Islanders had their best month of the year the PP has continued to struggle. Clearly a new voice is needed in this area if they hope to make a run at the playoffs. The Islanders were 6-39 during the month, just over 15% which is where they stand overall for the year: 21-139 and 15.1% good for 26th in the NHL. If they want to be a playoff team, it needs to improve.
Jason Chimera: BUY
Overall he has not had a good season, but in January he was much more of a factor. He scored 5 goals in the month, 4 of them in Islander wins, and is now up to 10 goals on the season. He is using his speed more, creating more chances and is showing to be the player we expected when the Islanders signed him. He was also solid in the defensive zone going +6 in during the month. This team badly needs secondary scoring, hopefully this can continue.
Brock Nelson: SELL
Brock is in my view the most frustrating player on this team. At times he looks like an elite goal scorer and then other times he has months like January where he tallied just 2 points. He really was unnoticeable this month and after the brutal starts that both Ladd and Chimera had, they are now both tied with him in goals at 10. After a solid October where he had 9 points in 9 games, he has since only tallied 16 points in the last 39. Brock was counted on to be one of the players picking up the scoring lost from Okposo and Nielsen and simply hasn’t produced.
What’s on tap for February:
A brutal stretch of 13 games in 23 days, 8 road games and home and home games against both the Devils and Toronto. A lot of games versus opponents close to them in the standings, so this is going to be another key month for the Islanders as they need another 18-20 points to stay in the playoff race.