The Islanders‘ Game 5 ouster to the Lightning will soon seem like ancient history as the Brooklynites pack up their hockey bags, while some now wonder about their future in Isles livery.
The 4-0 loss at Amalie Arena on Sunday could seal the Islanders careers for at least one of the club’s stalwarts; maybe more.
“There will be a lot of change,” predicts coach Jack Capuano.
Looking forward, the high command must analyze potential moves involving the following veterans who have assorted decisions of their own to be made; or those to be made for them. To wit:
The club’s first choice (7th overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft soon becomes an unrestricted free agent. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the veteran right wing will fly the coop, but many observers believe that option will be exercised if Kyle’s salary demands are beyond the team’s means. “He’s a core guy,” asserts MSG Networks analyst Butch Goring. “I’m not sure what happens if he leaves.”
From an obscure 2008 Draft — 5th round, 148th overall — Double M developed into the left wing cog on consistently effective “Fourth Line” with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas. The chances of retaining this clean-hitting UFA seem better than GM Garth Snow retaining Okposo.
“I love this team and our group,” says Martin, “and it’s been a huge honor to wear this jersey. As for the future, we’ll see how it plays out.” Martin eventually will sit down with his agent and digest what the club has to offer. “I can’t imagine the Islanders not making every effort to keep him,” assures Goring.
Many months have passed since someone leaked the defenseman’s alleged wish to be traded. Nobody, but Garth Snow, knows whether that desire still is on the table. The Isles 4th pick, 53rd overall in 2008, has since played expertly. For sure he can garner a first-rate forward should Snow choose to make a deal for him.
“Being an Islander,” Hamonic reveals, “has been one of the great things in my life.” Whether that will alter his earlier request is a moot point. Capuano makes it sound as if there’s still a chance Travis will stay with his club. “One of the best moves Garth Snow made this season,” says MSG Networks analyst Rick DiPietro, “was not trading Hamonic.”
The club’s best two-way forward is as valuable as any Islander, but will he stay? Like other UFAs, it’s too soon to tell.
“I have been proud to wear an Islanders Jersey,” he says. “This team can do damage in the future but, as for me, we’ll wait and see what happens.”
There can be no question that the captain has been the club’s primary offensive producer and leader. Likewise, it would seem as if Snow will be x-raying rosters in search of a forward or two who can convert JT’s talents into more offense. This could be one of the general staff’s primary challenges. How it’s resolved will go a long way toward determining the shape of the 2016-17 Isles model.
“They have to find wingers for him,” points out DiPietro. “That should be right up there on the wish list.”
Did a healthy Greiss show enough to convince ex-goalie Snow that the German-born puck-stopper deserves to be number one?
“He stepped up,” enthuses his coach. “Thomas stole some games for us.” As for himself, Greiss adds, “It’s been a crazy, fun ride. The more I played, the more I grew as a goalie but losing to Tampa was tough.”
THE YOUNG TURKS ON D
Are the likes of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield ready for full-time work in the show? Or might one of them be packaged in a trade for offensive strength? That’s for the GM to decide. One thing is certain, he has a lot of promising prospects.
AREAS FOR FUTURE ISLANDERS IMPROVEMENT
The Islanders will learn from their playoff experience. Isles flaws that were evident from the third period of Game 1 through Game 5 enabled Tampa Bay to prevail. These areas will be scrutinized and repairs will be made, starting at training camp in September.
1. CLEARING THE ZONE
For the Lightning, it was almost effortless; for the Isles a challenge. On the opening — Victor Hedman — goal, neither Frans Nielsen nor, ultimately, Kyle Okposo could get a handle on the rubber and clear it. Hedman stole it from Okposo, and fired a turnaround wrister. 1-0 Tampa.
On Brian Boyle’s late first period score, it was ditto. New York couldn’t out the puck and the Bolts maintained control until Boyle skated unopposed and fired high from the right-front of the net. 2-0. This was a torpedo against the Good Ship Islander.
“It was,” insists DiPietro, “the back-breaker.”
2. POWER PLAY
It’s one thing to generate pressure on the PP and fail. Gifted with the first man-advantage of the final game, the Isles were indecisive and, ultimately, ineffective in what could have provided a confidence-building lead.
“If the Islanders had scored on that first power play,” says Goring, “it would have been a different hockey game.”
Leading to the second Bolts score, goalie Ben Bishop fed the outlet pass and Tampa was off and running. It was a typically smooth counterattack that led to control in the zone. The Isles were unable to generate a similar breakout that would lead to a goal.
4. SMOTHERING TAVARES
The captain’s offensive presence was limited by the Lightning’s overall team checking and the inability of an effective “Third Man” on the line to take the pressure off Tavares. Apart from Game 1, JT was smothered by the foe, especially Hedman and Braydon Coburn.
5. SECONDARY SCORING
Without the top line producing, other units were required to deliver. The “Fourth Line” created several threats, but could not beat Bishop. Other units seemed too erratic. Hence, no scores.
6. PUCK MANAGEMENT
Throughout the season, Capuano emphasized the value of this vital aspect. But in the end, it wasn’t evident enough at Amalie on Sunday. Wise decisions were not on par with that of the enemy.
Also, keen scrutiny will be directed at the accomplishments of three enigmatic young forwards. Evaluation of offensive progress — or lack of it in management’s view — made by Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee will help determine their place on next season’s roster. Mentioning all three, Goring described their seasons as “disappointing.”
Once upon a time, the Brooklyn Dodgers played at Ebbets Field, a snapshot away from Barclays Center.
The Dodgers final season theme now echoes for the Islanders: WAIT ‘TIL NEXT YEAR.