Islanders Late Season Issues Impacting Team’s Future

The Islanders captain suffered a hamstring injury in Friday’s game against the Devils and will miss the rest of the regular season. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lets_Go_Pens.

This season is becoming an increasingly wild ride and once again we are waiting until the very end of the season to see our playoff fate.

All Islanders fans are on the same page, but if you’re not caught in the loop, here’s what’s going on:

Our captain, John Tavares, is injured in the midst of the playoff race, the Isles lost the two most important games of the season (at home) to basically ruin their playoff hopes and people are worried that we may lose Tavares not only to injury, but to another team after next season.

Why the Islanders are not ready for the playoffs

The Islanders had a nine-game road trip that they went 5-3-1 on back in February and March, which fans thought would catapult them into the playoffs. However, they came home to the Barclays Center only to drop the two biggest games of the season against the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators. 

The Bruins and Islanders were tied going into their matchup back on March 25, so the winner would have huge momentum shift going into the rest of the season.

However, the Islanders’ power play failed, going 0-for-6 in that game. Sure the Islanders almost tied the game after Tavares’ shot off the crossbar, but they could not put it together to get a win when it was desperately needed.

The Islanders had a chance to tie the Bruins in the standings again two days later against the Nashville Predators at home, but were unable to get a win in that game either. This all but ruined the Isles’ playoff hopes.

The Islanders own the third-worst power play percentage in the league (14.6 percent) and it’s something that the team needs to work on in order to be a successful playoff contender. The coach that can bring us up in the power play rankings will take us far.

As of noon on Thursday, April 5, the Islanders sit five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final spot in the playoff race. The Leafs and the Ottawa Senators need just one win to clinch playoff berths and finalize the playoffs.

Threat of the ice

Tavares will not be centering the first line for the team after suffering an injury in a 2-1 win against the Devils last Friday. Tavares was going after a loose puck behind the net and injured his hamstring on the play.

He is currently out week-to-week if the Islanders potentially do make the playoffs. Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck took aim at the New York Islanders’ much maligned arena in the wake of the injury in an interview with The Score.

He noted that Tavares’ heel “digging in” the ice before his injury is not something that happens at other arenas and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Ice conditions at Barclays Center have been an increasingly large issue all season, from October’s report that the piping system doesn’t meet NHL requirements and a story in January that reported that the Islanders’ agreement with Barclays may be terminated.

The Barclays Center is not suited for hockey at all. Fans have been unhappy with obstructed views and the lack of a hockey demographic since the move to Brooklyn.

Adding the poor ice conditions to this may not help our chances of keeping Tavares for the long-term or even keeping some of our other core players.

Even Kyle Okposo, who left the Islanders to go to Buffalo on a seven-year deal during the offseason, called the ice “awful” last year. In order to have a successful team, you need happy players and everyone to do their job.

It’s a tough position for any player or coach to try to make this team perfect at an arena with many issues, but nobody is going to get it perfectly. Maybe if Doug Weight had a better arena for his players to play in, the power play percentage could be higher, the team could be in the playoffs and Tavares may not be injured.

Is Tavares going to stay?

Tavares has one more year remaining on his current contract, and with the end of the season approaching and the circumstance the team is in, the question arises on whether Tavares will stay for the long-term.

After losing the two biggest games of the season and having a young core with barely any playoff experience, it wouldn’t be a surprising move if Tavares left for a team that will help him grow.

Am I saying that he will leave? No, but the Islanders need to show that they can supply Tavares with a Stanley Cup contender core of players, not just have him be like Carmelo Anthony when it comes to “trusting the process” when signing.

Tavares has emphasized his loyalty to New York during interviews in the early half of the season. However, now that the Islanders are not where they planned to be at this point in the season, it makes signing Tavares to an extension much more difficult.

The chances of an extension that is five years or more are unlikely, but signing for another two or three years is a possibility. If Tavares does not get to where he deserves to be before he hits his prime, it would be nearly certain that he would sign elsewhere.

It would be surprising if the Islanders made it to the playoffs, but at this point, they should redevelop and work for a big season next year.

There’s talent now, but with a core without their captain and the inability to win important home games, it may be hard to create any playoff momentum should they make it.