After a stellar November the Islanders had a disappointing December going 5-8-2 for the month ending with a clunker in Colorado. The Islanders had a golden opportunity in the 2nd half of the month with 8 out of 9 games at home over a 17 day period and were only able to go 4-3-1 in those games with just 2 wins in regulation and one minute away from losing to a bad Buffalo team. There were a lot of bad signs in the month. The Islanders allowed 60 goals in 15 games including an astonishing 6 goals allowed in 5 different games. Not a good recipe for success. The Islanders need to turn it around in a hurry or they are going to find themselves out of a playoff spot shortly.
Anders Lee has been a huge bright spot for the team and really doesn’t get anywhere near the press he deserves. He scored a team leading 11 goals in the month (out of the 46 goals scored in December). He is the one Islander who is always around the net and is not just scoring on deflections or tip ins, but skillful goals like the backhand against the Kings that came with under 4 minutes left in the 3rd to put the Islanders ahead. Lee has amassed an incredible 57 goals in his last 102 games. That is elite status. Where would the Islanders be without him?
Andres Lee: BUY
There was a lot of ugly during December, some of the numbers I had to look at more than once to verify that they were right because they were so bad.
I’ve been critical of the PK since Capuano was the coach, I have written about it over and over, it’s a passive system that doesn’t work. The PK was an absolutely pathetic 27-42 during the month of December good for a whopping 64.2% success rate. This team is at the bottom year after year in the PK and except in some very rare instances they change nothing, trot out the same passive system that lets the other team do whatever they want and pray the goalie can make 4 or 5 saves on the PK. Watch any of the top teams on the PK, the Kings, Bruins, Rangers, they don’t sit around and allow open pass after open pass, they press, they force the action and it’s far more successful. What I don’t understand is why after all this time with Weight around why don’t they change it? Why not try something different? It really is baffling to me. It’s the same concept that leads to so many tying goals allowed late.
Penalty Kill: SELL and then SELL it again
As everyone knows the only playoff victory the Islanders have since the 93-94 season was 2 seasons ago against the Panthers where Thomas Greiss played like a #1 goalie. Those days are long gone…he’s looked lost and is constantly out of position and while I knew he has been bad when you take a look at the numbers they are staggering. Greiss started 5 games in the month, had only 1 win, nearly a 5 goals against average (4.86) and a pathetic .835 save percentage. Weight has cut back on his playing time, but you have to wonder why don’t they send him down and at least give Gibson a shot, what can it hurt at this point? Send Greiss down and let him play at the AHL level because you can’t work this out at the NHL level with these kind of numbers.
Thomas Greiss: get back in there and SELL, SELL, SELL!
Nick Leddy is a dynamic player, I wrote last month that we was in the Norris trophy race, I think we can now scratch that. The Islanders seem to go as he does and after a great November, Leddy had 6 assists in 15 games during December, which in itself isn’t bad, but he put up an incredibly horrible +/- at -15. To put that in perspective the 2nd worst during the month for any player was -8. When your top defenseman is not having a good month at either end of the ice, things are probably not going well. I expect a bounce back, but Leddy needs to be a lot better.
Nick Leddy: SELL
What happened to Cal Clutterbuck? He has scored big goals for this team, was a presence on the ice. Since his 5 year, 17.5m extension in December 2016 he’s been a complete non-factor. That contract and the trade for Nino is looking worse and worse by the day. You can’t be paying a 4th liner this kind of money and get virtually nothing for it. The 3rd and 4th lines have been dreadful this year and to be honest I could have written about all of them as they have 27 goals combined (with Nelson having 9 of those) compared to 92 for the top 2 lines, but he is player who has been a catalyst in the past that needs to wake up.
Cal Clutterbuck: SELL
The player who generates the most argument among the fan base is no doubt Josh Bailey. He was named the NHL 2nd star of the month with 22 points (7G, 15A) and clearly had his best month as an Islander during his long and mostly unproductive 10 year career for the Islanders. He finally recorded his 1st hat trick as an Islander in his 671st game for the club against Columbus (a game which the Islanders lost). The 1st line has been one of the best in the league this year and I agree that it should be left alone at this point.
With that being said, I still don’t think he is a big reason why they are successful. When you put any player with the 2 top goal scorers on the team that player is going to generate assists (Eberle averaged just about an assist a game at the start of the year when he wasn’t scoring and playing with JT for the first time). Playing with JT turned players like PA Parenteau and Brad Boyes into high point accumulators, not players that you would call all-stars. When you factor in he plays the point on the PP, has 18 of his assists there and is virtually left alone because the other team doesn’t fear him scoring, his year doesn’t quite look as good. I constantly hear he is a playmaker, but no one would argue that he creates anywhere near the offense or space that a player like Barzal does. In the end he still can’t out skate anyone, out muscle anyone or score beyond 10 feet. Even with the hat trick he still only has 14 goals in his last 70 games spanning back to last year, which is a pace for 16 goals over a full season. For a top line winger who doesn’t create open space that isn’t good enough. If he can score at the pace he did in December it makes the line far more effective as the other team can’t simply ignore him. Based on his history I don’t see that happening. It was interesting to hear even Goring (the biggest Bailey supporter out there) mention how in the past Bailey wouldn’t have scored a goal because he doesn’t go the net…one has to wonder why didn’t anyone tell him this during the last 9 years and why did it take so long for him to do it?
The Islanders only won 2 of the games he scored in, and the tying goal against Buffalo was only after he had 2 hideous turnovers in the 3rd which led to breakaways which Halak stopped. Halak bailing him out allowed him the opportunity to score the goal. I never thought he would have 50 points in his first 39 games and regardless of the quality of many of them he deserves credit, but to me this is a classic sell at the high. He is not worth 6/7 million a year and the Islanders would be foolish to give him that kind of money based on his entire tenure with the Islanders.
Josh Bailey: BUY December, but SELL now and take profits
The goaltending and defense has been terrible, but there is one defenseman who had a pretty solid month in the defensive end. Adam Pelech during a horrible defensive month had a team best +5, considering Leddy and Boychuk went a combined -22, it’s pretty impressive. He doesn’t have a goal on the season but he’s been solid in the D zone and co-leads the team with a +11. You’d like to see more than just 11 assists, but with a team that’s scoring goals, it’s good to have a defenseman like this.
Adam Pelech: BUY
What’s on tap for January: