Ramblings: Islanders Hitting Rock Bottom (Nov 15)

by steve laidlaw on November 15, 2016

Ramblings: Islanders hitting rock bottom, Lightning PP clicking, injury updates and more.

Oh my goodness the Islanders are bad. They are so so bad. There was one game on last night and there was no chance I was watching it with the Islanders playing. I have sworn off them. Not even John Tavares is enough to lure me in. I refuse.

Of course, this is where we go back seat GM and back seat coach and question the lineup. Why didn’t they keep Kyle Okposo? Why did they waive PA Parenteau? How come Mathew Barzal didn’t stick? Why can’t they make better use of Anthony Beauvillier? Where’s Josh Ho Sang? Couldn’t he make a difference? I have no answers to these questions but I do know we are reaching the point where the GM starts looking for a scape goat. Things have to get unsustainably bad for a coach to get fired. We are getting there.

This certainly sounds like rock bottom.

Maybe they start to turn around before Jack Capuano pays the price. Perhaps Jaroslav Halak goes on one of his crazy runs of excellence. Or Andrew Ladd starts getting a few bounces. It’s not like the roster is historically bad. They aren’t like the obviously tanking Sabres of a few seasons ago. Run of the mill bad teams generally float around .500 over the long haul, or at least around the artificially created .500 once the overtime/shootout loss is factored in.

For what it’s worth Capuano is taking some of the heat:

Ladd appears to have worked his way back onto the top line, replacing Josh Bailey. Perhaps he will stick this time. Hard to find any positives here.

On the plus side, this is the last time the Islanders will face the Lightning, much to the chagrin of Nikita Kucherov:

 

Fantasy revelation Dennis Seidenberg was placed on injured reserve yesterday:

Seidenberg doesn’t have much fantasy value over the long term. He was putting together an interesting profile for those in leagues counting hits and blocked shots. He was doing his best impersonation of Alec Martinez. Hopefully this injury doesn’t derail that. Simple regression was likely to do the damage if that puck to the face hadn’t.

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Nothing like an Andrei Vasilevskiy with a 34-save shutout to throw Ben Bishop owners into a tizzy. The two most frequent questions I get are what to do with Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury. I get these questions so frequently that I wrote a column about it. That came out a week ago and I am still getting these questions.

Bishop is still #1. He will go tonight against the Red Wings, with a good shot at a win.

Ultimately, if you only have one half of these tandems, it’s on you because the party line since this summer was that while Bishop and Fleury are #1, there will be enough of a split for Vasilevskiy and Matt Murray to have value. The smart play was always to lock down both halves of these tandems. Much harder to do that now that the young whipper snappers are playing well.

In any case, if you have only one of the two you can overpay to link the tandem or you can wait for the pendulum to swing back. It usually does. Both Vasilevskiy and Murray are legit talents but goalie performances balance out over time. We haven’t seen Murray have a hiccup in his NHL career. Can we maybe wait for him to have a hiccup before crowning him?

Please, no panic drops, no panic trades.

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The Todd Richards experiment appears to be working for the Lightning power play. They currently rank fourth in efficiency at 25.4%. Sure, the Lightning went 0/5 with the man advantage last night, but that just makes their ranking more impressive.  

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have put up three power-play goals and nine power-play points apiece. That they aren’t even sharing the ice on the power play is bananas. The Lightning are destroying teams with two units and it might lead to a renaissance season for Stamkos and the superstar breakout we all hoped for Kucherov. Easy to get hyped up when everything is rolling but this is what we all kind of expected from these guys. I mean, Stamkos’ 5on5 on-ice shooting percentage is pretty average at 9.35% and his spike in assists is mostly of the primary variety so he isn’t benefitting from crazy luck or generous scorers.

Kucherov’s underlying numbers appear less sustainable but he’s also built his early career on having an on-ice shooting percentage well above the league average. In other words, he’s a genuine star.

It’s in my nature to temper expectations but I am having a hard time doing so here. Stamkos had two of his three 90-point seasons in years where he put up over 35 PPP. I don’t know if he’s seeing enough PP time to get there but could an 85-point season with 30 PPP be within reach? I could see it.

For Kucherov, I don’t see why an 80-point breakout couldn’t happen. We all know John Cooper is going to split these two up at some point. No coach keeps a line together all season. Let’s just hope they spend more time together than apart.

In other news, I took a flyer on Ondrej Palat knowing that the Lightning had this bonus game tonight. He flopped so it’s back to the waiver wire! I’ll be looking at options off the Flames and Capitals. They are the two teams skating on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday this week. Huge off-night advantage to get some bonus skaters into the lineup this week.

 

Stralman sat out last night and it sounds as though he’ll miss another couple of games. Nikita Nesterov has snagged his PP time but I am not recommending a waiver claim.

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It sounds like Ryan O’Reilly might be able to play for the Sabres tonight. They are going to get thrashed by a pissed off Blues team if he doesn’t. I am growing concerned with O’Reilly’s situation. He keeps aggravating this injury, one that dates back to the World Cup. I’d rather they just sit him for a couple of weeks to heal properly than ride out this on-again/off-again situation.

Of course, this assumes that a couple of weeks off would be enough to heal the issue. He might need surgery or extensive time off. This could, in fact, be the only measure that allows him to play for the next few months.

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We were warned following Kopitar’s initial injury that getting firm information on his status would be difficult. Sure enough, we still know nothing beyond that he will miss some time.

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With Michal Neuvirth on the shelf for 4-6 weeks it is an opportunity for Steve Mason to run with the starting gig. He played well in relief of Neuvirth on Saturday. I don’t trust him yet. Long term, I still believe but short term, I’d rather not. On the plus side, the Flyers get the punchless Senators tonight. Something is going to have to give. Either Mason puts up a wall for once or the Sens get their scoring going. I kind of hope it’s the latter.

Mason isn’t out of the woods with Neuvirth injured. The Flyers called up Anthony Stolarz, who is putting up some impressive numbers at the AHL level with a 0.927 Sv%. Stolarz has gotten better every year and currently ranks 70th on Dobber’s top 100 goalies list. Read more about Stolarz here.

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This Faulk injury is growing more positive by the day. Crazy that just last week he was listed as “week-to-week”.

In other Hurricanes news, they have terminated the contract of Jakub Nakladal. He cleared waivers, so presumably no one wants him. Terminating his deal means he can sign a contract in another league. He probably heads back to Europe. I liked his game. He appeared to move the puck well. He’s also a right-handed shot in a league starved for righty defensemen. I am not shocked that he couldn’t catch on in Carolina as they are loaded with young defensemen. Just seems odd that no one is giving him a shot.

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Some Red Wings injury news:

Thomas Vanek’s return should help the Red Wings’ slumping power play. He appears to be the key to unlocking that group’s potential. I’m not overly optimistic about this, mind you, but he did well early on.

You shouldn’t be relying on Kronwall at this point but if you are, just know that these maintenance days are going to be frequent. Kronwall’s knee is cooked. The damage is apparently permanent so the only thing that can be done is frequent maintenance.

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In positive injury news, Zach Parise should return tonight:

I wonder where Parise slots into the lineup. The new top line of Nino NiederreiterEric StaalCharlie Coyle is rolling right now. I presume Parise will bump Niederreiter down to the third line because Niederreiter has been effective in that role.

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Kyle Connor has been placed on IR. He wasn’t really doing much for fantasy owners but this is yet another injury for the Jets to deal with up front. Their list of forward injuries is staggering.

Marko Dano skated on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. This could conceivably continue given the Connor injury. That or perhaps Dano skates with Nic Petan and Blake Wheeler. Dano scored, so presumably he has a top-six spot for the time being.

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Bettman has to lie but it’s obvious we are headed to another lockout. That last three collective bargaining agreements have only been agreed to after a lockout. It’s a foolproof way for ownership to gain leverage in negotiation. Sure, the players could agree to all the claw backs that the owners ask for and we could avoid a lockout but that would be foolish on their part. You know it, the players know it, the agents know it, the owners know it and Bettman knows it – we will have a lockout in 2020.

My only question is how much of the season it will cost us. I don’t sense that things are contentious enough to blow up an entire season.

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Check out my latest column for Sportsnet.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Nick Alberga’s Fantasy Fix podcast this week, featuring a favourite of mine, Zach Werenski!!!

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.