We have covered the forwards and defense so far in our review of the 2017-18 New York Islanders after a disappointing season that saw them fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season.
We finish up by hitting on two of the most hotly discussed topics of the entire season -- the goaltending and management teams. Both were disappointing as New York took a huge step back, and now face questions in all facets of the organization entering the summer.
Jaroslav Halak (20-26-6, 3.19, .908, 44.9%): In seasons with over 25 games played, Jaroslav Halak had never had a save percentage under .910 (2010-11). In front of a battered, confused and often out-of-position defensive corps, he fell to .908 after averaging .916 in his three previous years with the Isles. His goals against average was the highest of his career, and quality start percentage its lowest, as he faced more high-quality scoring chances from high danger areas than ever before. I understand that even Dominik Hasek would have struggled on a team that allowed 293 goals, most by ANY team since 2006-07, but the fact remains that there were plenty of times where the Islanders needed a save, and just didn’t get it. Halak is an unrestricted free agent and the only chance of him coming back is if Snow foolishly overpays in both dollars and term in a weak market.
Thomas Greiss (13-8-2, 3.82, .892, 36.0%): I have absolutely no idea how Greiss ended up with a winning record on the season despite the horrific statistics. It really is a statistical anomaly of the highest degree. Greiss’ goals against grew more than a goal from two previous solid seasons with New York. The save percentage of .892 was only better than Chad Johnson and Scott Darling of goaltenders with over 25 games played. As puzzling as it can be at times to figure this team out, in every aspect of the lineup, the decline of the defensive structure and basic goaltending is perhaps the most shocking, and troubling, of all.
Christopher Gibson (2-4-2, 3.65, .908, 62.5%): Not much of a sample size from Gibson, but he did perform admirably in a late-season audition. Gibson was either great (10 goals against in five starts) or horrid (16 goals against in other three starts). Hard to see him as New York’s goaltender of the future and I don’t believe the organization sees him in that light, either.
Doug Weight, Greg Cronin, Kelly Buchberger, Luke Richardson, Scott Gomez, Matt Bertani, Fred Brathwaite: Generally, coaching staffs, especially new ones with little-to-no experience of working together, will be given more than one season to prove their worth. That’s why it was no surprise that this staff will be back for another training camp in 2018. But there are so many things to fix, and the corrections have to start with this group. 293 goals against, penalty kill of 73.2%, six games of allowing more than 50 shots, 20 allowing over 40 and allowing five or more goals a ridiculous 20 times. It’s clear that the system Weight employed did not work at any stretch of the season, so you might as well wipe the slate clean and start with a new white board. Bottom line, they all just need to be better.
Garth Snow, Chris Lamoriello: As we enter May, we still don’t know what capacity Garth Snow will ultimately find himself in. With Jon Ledecky announcing last month that he and Scott Malkin are doing an extensive review of hockey operations, could there be a crack in the Teflon suit that Snow has worn for the past 12 years? A span which has included one playoff series win, 51% of possible points won, six last-place finishes and four head coaches? Does he remain with the organization in a different capacity, one that strips him of power? Does he remain in his current role as president and GM? Does he get fired and let go altogether? All three are still possibilities but the longer the Islanders wait, the riskier it becomes, as decisions need to be made in short order on trades, the draft and free agency. And all happen very quickly, in a burst between the end of the Stanley Cup finals and July 1.
Losing Calvin de Haan hurt and when Johnny Boychuk got injured, Snow failed to make any move of impact to help out a besieged defense. You could rewind the clock all the way back to the draft, when he failed to use any of the assets acquired for Travis Hamonic. Now the Islanders have actually lost a draft spot, due to the recently completed draft lottery, picking 11 and 12 instead of 10 and 12 in a draft that isn’t all that deep outside of the top eight.
In speaking with team executives around the league outside of the Islanders organization, they all seem to agree on one thing. If Snow is to remain in a different capacity, but still sit overhead of whomever Ledecky and Malkin decide to bring in, it really doesn’t change anything at the end of the day. All seemed in favor of giving Weight and his staff another go, but we're just as perplexed as the rest of us in regards to the strange circus that was locker clean out day.
Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Guerin, two up and comers with ties to the Islanders of old, are both available. As is 75-year old, future hall-of-famer Lou Lamoriello, whose son Chris is currently assistant general manager.
But that almost makes too much sense to ever work out….