It's six weeks into the 2010-11 National Hockey League season and the New York Islanders may have become irrelavent, and I hope that I am wrong. As an ardent and die hard Islanders fan, making the aforementioned statement is very difficult to make. I am also a season ticket holder.
When the season started, the Islanders were playing extremely well. Every aspect of the game was being executed well, from the power play, five on five play, to the penalty killing. Actually, the power play was clicking at over thirty percent. The forechecking was creating offensive turnovers and shots on goal. The Islanders were actually in first place in the Eastern Conference.
The defense was solid with the additions of Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau, Milan Jurcina and James Wisniewski, playing along with a healthy Radek Martinek, Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais. The goaltending was Dwayne Roloson, with Rick DiPietro trying to prove he is healthy. The fowards were playing well and getting chances. Things were well on the Island. I was thinking that the Hockey News was incorrect in picking us for 13th or 14th place in the Eastern Confrence.
Now, we are in the midst of a ten game losing streak. I know the National Hockey League does not count a shootout loss as a real loss, but in reality, a loss is a loss. Everything was going right, but has turned south. I will grant you that the schedule has been overly brutal to this team, but there were a number of games during this skid that they simply did not show up. At one point during the road trip, the team gave up 13 goals over two games. That was a major red flag to me, and indicated that something is definitely wrong.
As the trip continued, the same problems were on display for all to see. The power play has dried up, the penalty killers are not doing their jobs, the five on five play is a major minus on the plus/minus sheet and Ricky has been very, very shaky.
One last thing about DiPietro—he has not learned to stay in the net and let his defensemen play the puck. There were at least three times that the opponents went after him behind the net and the puck was coughed up, leading either to a goal or a shot on goal. He has not learned. Maybe a cinder block around his neck would help! Roloson has been a true professional and very solid in the net.
Moveover, I wonder what Coach Scott Gordon sees. After all, he is part of the problem. The philosophy he employs has simply imploded. Dump and chase, dump and chase. When you dump and chase, you are surrendering possession of the puck, and then expel a plethora of energy during the forecheck to get it back. This is done on the powerplay also.
Gordon should try a novel approach and let his players carry the puck into the offensive zone, whether or not the team has the man advantage. He has a number of skilled puck handlers who can bring the biscuit in. Why give the puck away? What is Gordon afraid of? Additionally, you must ask the question, why is the front of the other team's net devoid of any Islanders, who should be screening the opponent's goalie?
The solution is to put your two biggest bodies on the ice during a power play, and I am talking about Matt Martin and even Trevor Gillies, to cause havoc in front of the net. It's something radical and different.
A ten game slide should force Coach Gordon to think a tad outside the box. Trent Hunter should be a candidate for standing in front of the house, but he does not pull the trigger, and the times that he does, he misses the net. On that note, I believe that if the NHL came up with a new statistic, "Miss the Net," or "MTN," the Islanders would most likely lead the league. Not a good thing. Maybe the number one powerplay should consist of Martin, Gillies, John Tavares, Wisniewski and Doug Weight. Its something different. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It has come to that.
There is still a long way to go in this season. As I write this, the Islanders are last overall in the NHL. I do not think it's too late, but something has to be done. Gordon, as it stands right now, is a lame duck coach and would not cost Mr. Wang too much, if he is relieved of his duties. I do not think that Gordon will be let go, with the team's finances being what they are.
If GM Garth Snows decided to pull the trigger on Gordon, he must bring in a coach that will place the Islanders in the best position to win. The reality is that if this team can get on a bit of a roll, and I think with the current personnel, along with Kyle Okposo and MacDonald returning from the injured list, a good run may not be far off.
It's time to straighten up and fly right. My rose colored glasses are hurting my eyes.