This season was an odd one for the both the NHL and NEFHL New York Islanders. In the NHL, the team sported the odds-on runaway favorite for rookie of the year in Matt Barzal, but now faces the strong possibility of losing superstar forward John Tavares to free agency. Overall, they were too lousy to make the post-season (last in the league in GAA) but too good to be a serious lottery contender.
Next season, they could potentially add Kieffer Bellows to create a Killer Bees line with Barzal, Beauvillier and Bellows but nothing will replace the skillset and leadership of John Tavares. Billboards shouting “SNOW MUST GO” have sprung up around town and this original Islander fan has to agree that the time has come to sweep the cupboard clean of a failed management team. Out with Snow and Weight and in with some new energy and strategic thinking. Let’s Go Islanders in 2019!!
In the NEFHL, making the second playoff round can hardly be called a failure but at the same time, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this was a forgettable SIM season. The long wait for cup contention seems like it is getting a bit longer rather than shorter.
On the positive side, Nikita Zadorov led the NHL in hits and his long-term value is now set in stone. The 23 year old is still settling into a blueline leadership role but the wait is over for his ascendance. A couple of other high notes were hit by Jonathan Huberdeau (who returned from an injury prone season to play all 82 games while putting up 69 points) and Viktor Arvidsson who potted 29 goals.
The flip side of that coin was the burial of Calvin Pickard in the AHL Toronto Marley net at the same time Josh Ho Sang was being demoted, ostensibly for poor defense and his future on Long Island is now cloudier than ever. Alex Galchenyuk didn’t hit his stride until late in the season and frankly, it’s fairly difficult to see where the major forward steps happened in the 2017-18 season. We could drop names like Bjorkstrand and Matheson but this wasn't the season we envisioned at this time last seaon. Pickard was supposed to be in Vegas. Ho Sang was a potential highlight reel forward. And there were others whose development seemed optimstic.
A year later, the team still lacks the mandatory offensive firepower and the window of opportunity seemed to be stagnating this season. Look for the NEFHL Islanders to reassess their long-term strategy as the lesson learned is that patience only takes a team so far. The rest of the journey requires agility and talent management.
Again, we were pleased to finish 8th overall but 8th overall has never been the ultimate goal. We will be entering a new phase this off season and will likely be far more open to transactions than in the past.