Islanders Struggle to Remain Relevant as Season Comes to a Close


The Islanders have struggled all season and seemed destined to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. (Brian Jasinski/The Observer)


The Islanders have struggled all season and seemed destined to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year. (Brian Jasinski/The Observer)

The New York Islanders have been swallowed up by the Rangers success in New York and are hoping to pick up the pieces of their season. While the Rangers continue to impress game after game, the Islanders are attempting to squeak out of the cellar of the division.

The Islanders were going into this season with hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, but at the very least wanted to improve upon last season and get out of the bottom of the conference standings. The season began on a sour note though, as the Islanders once again failed in another bid for a new arena.

Currently the Islanders are 25-27-8 and have 60 points. This record puts them in last place in the Atlantic division, 13th in the Eastern Conference, and 26th in the league. These numbers are terrible and all too familiar for Islanders fans.

Many attribute the Islander woes to General Manager Garth Snow, who took over in 2006 but has struggled ever since to make steady improvements. Snow has disappointed fans by not restructuring the team to satisfy its needs. The Islanders have a lot of good young players, but lack the veteran leadership to help set a good example to a large group of young up-and-comers, like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and Nino Niederreiter.

Head Coach Jack Capuano can only work with the players that he has; both Capuano and Snow have to let both the players and the fan base know that even though their stars are young, they can win. With a little help, the Islanders have a chance to shine despite the fact that they hit .500 for the first time just last week. This is after their inexperience and lack of depth had been exposed yet again this season.

Despite the Islanders endless problems, some aspects of the team are beginning to shine. The brightest of all these aspects may be red-hot John Tavares. The Islanders selected Tavares first overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and he has proven himself to be quite a player. At just 21-years-old, Tavares has become one of the most vibrant players in the NHL. Tavares scores goals plenty of goals, has a great shot and is also a great passer.

Currently, Tavares has 58 points and is on pace to have around 78 by the end of the season. Had Tavares been surrounded with better players, like an experienced winger, he could have similar numbers to Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos. Both Tavares and Stamkos are goal scorers and have similarly fast hands, yet Tavares spends more time setting up Matt Moulson than being able to score himself. Moulson is having a great season as well, registering his 25th goal Thursday, yet part of this reason is because he plays on the same line as Tavares. The Islanders need to acquire more players to surround a powerful young core.

The last issue that is holding the Islanders back is their goalie situation. The Islanders put all of their eggs in one basket; they gave Rick DiPietro a monstrous, 15-year, $67.5 million contract in 2006, only to see him get injured year after year. Between the start of the 2008 season and start of the 2012 season, he has played in just 39 games. The Islanders have been attempting to replace DiPietro with a platoon of goalies, of which Evgeni Nabokov has shone the brightest. Nabokov, who hadn’t played in the NHL since the 2009-2010 season, has been playing very well, with a .925 save percentage, placing him eighth in the league. If the New York Islanders had a better record, Nabokov could be a Vezina Trophy candidate. If Nabokov continues to play well, the Islanders may have some hope of replacing the constantly injured DiPietro and lessen the embarrassing blow of giving him such a ridiculous contract.

Overall, the Islanders will struggle to get out of the cellar yet again this year, yet they have a good core of young players. This team desperately needs some veterans to help support the youngsters; stability and experience will be key to their success.