Another playoff-less spring on Long Island. As sure as all those tulips will break through the ground at Westbury Gardens in a couple of weeks and Long Islanders will start cleaning up their beach chairs and patio furniture, springtime on the Island is now equally synonymous with the Islanders playing out the string.
Don’t be fooled by a weekend of consecutive home victories that have pulled them within seven points of the eighth seed. Reality shows the eighth-place Bruins have two games in hand and the Isles still would need to jump over five teams in the final 13 games to get it done and they now hit the road for four straight, where they have won nine times all year. To categorize their chances as highly unlikely is being kind.
For the third season in a row and for the fourth time in the last five years, they’ll be no hockey played at Nassau Coliseum past early April. Lots of people say that we have no spring here on Long Island when discussing the weather. When it comes to the area hockey team, that’s absolutely the case—there is never much of a spring anymore.
Come to think of it, this franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 1993. That’s no longer simply a streak—it’s officially a drought.
And apparently it’s all OK. Like the excitement a parent feels over their toddlers’ first steps, however shaky, the Islanders organization is pleased with the “progress” their toddler has shown this season. They’re on the right track…so their long suffering fan base is told.
Let’s check in on that progress—they’ve surpassed last season’s point total (61) with 65, and 70+ certainly seems likely. After that, the positives are a little difficult to latch on to.
They are 27th in the league in points, 29th in road wins, 25th in goals scored and 25th in goals against.
While the play of Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, Josh Bailey, Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald certainly represent a few positives to point to, there are too many negatives standing in the way that take some of the shine off the season those five are having.
The Rick DiPietro situation is turning into one of those black clouds that follows bad teams around (can you say Alexei Yashin deal?). And what happened to some of the other “young talent?” Frans Nielsen vanished just after the holidays, Sean Bergenheim simply can’t finish and Jeff Tambellini has been a non-factor.
And speaking of non-factors, most of the veterans up front were complete no shows this season.
And while coach Scott Gordon seemed like such a good fit for this club when things were going well back in early January, there are few qualities they’ve taken on that he has to be held responsible for. Chief among those is their tentative play in third periods—both last year and this year.
Perhaps no statistic has dogged this club as badly as this one—the Isles have been outscored 76-39 in third periods this season. The 76 goals allowed are 28th in the league and the 39 scored are dead last. Amazingly, they have only blown third period leads six times, winding up with three of the possible 12 points in those games.
Heading into next season, staring at the final year of a three-year deal, Gordon will be facing the first season where he’ll actually be asked to win. It will be safe to assume anything less than a playoff spot will mark the end of his time with the team. A bad start and the heat will be on.