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51° Good Afternoon

Islanders mailbag: Goalies, lines, trade pieces and more

Jean-Francois Berube of the New York Islanders makes

Jean-Francois Berube of the New York Islanders makes a save during practice at Northwell Health Ice Center on Sept. 25, 2016 in East Meadow. Photo Credit: Anna Sergeeva

Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers this week as the Isles play through the third week of the season.

Here are 10 answers for this week:

‏@Asher_E_Smith: 5 games in, any clear picture how the loss of Frans Nielsen has changed the team? Still feels weird.

Staple: I think the power play is so far the biggest area where they feel Nielsen’s loss. He was the puck carrier, a smooth skater who could carry the mail and allow the rest of the top unit to be set up. Without him it’s been an assortment of players who’ve tried it and the results have been a mess.

Nielsen’s versatility and attention to detail on the defensive side are hard to duplicate, but the Isles definitely feel they’ve found an eventual successor in Anthony Beauvillier. Not right now, of course, but in a couple seasons Beauvillier could be the Frans-of-all-trades that Nielsen was.

@adicandilo: How long do u think the Isles will keep 3 goalies, and when will Berube finally play?

Staple: I would think Berube will get a game at some point in the next week or two, though I’ve said that before and been way off. The resolution to this scenario would logically appear to be coming to an end -- there’s simply too many teams that now need immediate goaltending help, right?

Well, it takes two GMs to make a deal, so perhaps this isn’t stubbornness alone on Garth Snow’s part. It would be highly unlikely for Snow would deal one of his goaltenders within the conference, so the Bruins may need to look elsewhere. That still leaves the Kings, Berube’s old team, and the Ducks, who now seemingly need a cheaper backup option. The Sharks are still going with rookie Aaron Dell as a backup.

This could be the week that one of the Isles’ goaltenders heads out. The way Jaro Halak and Thomas Greiss have played and the way they’ve worked well together suggests it’s Berube who’ll go, but the return will definitely be less than it would be for Greiss.

@DJ_Bly: where would you rank the #isles D across the league? I really feel 1-7 we have a top 5 group

Staple: It’s a formidable group, especially with the addition of Dennis Seidenberg, who has paired with Calvin de Haan to form what’s been the Isles’ best defense pair by far through the first two weeks. Even the Nick Leddy-Travis Hamonic failings so far have been outweighed by a much better breakout in the defensive zone and regular forays in deep on the offensive side, with Hamonic the only defenseman without a goal so far.

I’d safely rank this group in the top third of the league.

@ZmanIsles: What are the Isles trying to improve their Power Play? Strategy? Different players? Our big weak spot so far.

Staple: Very true. Maybe it’s personnel -- the way Johnny Boychuk is firing away now, it could be time to drop him onto the top unit -- or maybe it’s the lack of a true puck-carrier for zone entries or the very simple cry of “Shoooooooooooot!” This PP needs a boost for sure.

@JHallstein: when will Anders Lee get some PP1 time?

Staple: That is one move that hasn’t been implemented yet to snap this moribund power play to life. Andrew Ladd has had some chances in tight as the net-front Islander on the top unit but hasn’t converted. With his wrist shot, maybe moving to the half wall and putting Lee in his parking spot might work. As discussed above, the Isles’ power play is suffering from a host of ailments and maybe there are more drastic changes coming.

@Mermousse: Why is 18 always booted out of center over 29 when GS said they see 18 at C this summer?

Staple: It’s not entirely true that Ryan Strome is the designated whipping boy among the young forwards, but he does seem to get the tough-love treatment more often from Capuano than Nelson, even though Cap’s late-season “pick your [expletive] up” speech was aimed squarely at Nelson last year.

Nelson’s possession numbers are worst on the team through six games and his faceoff numbers aren’t great either. Capuano hinted that his decision to move Strome has some to do with positioning in all three zones, but the numbers haven’t really supported that view yet.

@francistancis: In your opinion is the current forward group one that could lead to sustained playoff success this year?

Staple: In my opinion, yes. It’s always contingent on health, on production outside of John Tavares, on so many things, but yes, this is a group 1-12 that can contend. There’s 76 more games until the postseason and there’s no guarantee the Isles even get there, but I think they could produce enough with this group to make some noise in the postseason.

@agalanoudis: If Isles are a serious contender at deadline, could you see them dealing Ho Sang or Dal Colle?

Staple: Definitely no on Josh Ho-Sang and definitely maybe (though strongly leaning no) on Michael Dal Colle. Go and take a peek at the Bridgeport forward depth chart: Outside of those two there is exactly one Isles draft pick, 2014 sixth-rounder Kyle Schempp. Garth Snow may not be looking to dump one of his two high-end forward prospects with so little coming behind them.

@dcl29487: Should the Cizikas line still be called the 4th line? It’s pretty clear that they are playing like a middle six line these days.

Staple: Maybe so, maybe so. Nikolay Kulemin (12:02 of even strength ice time per game), Cal Clutterbuck (11:25) and Casey Cizikas (11:08) are Nos. 6-8 in average even-strength ice time of the 14 Isles forwards who’ve played this season entering Wednesday’s game. Jack Capuano has always relied on that “fourth” line, but to contrast, Matt Martin (10:25), Cizikas (10:24) and Clutterbuck (9:50) had the three lowest ice time averages among the 14 forwards who got more than a few games last season.

So perhaps the addition of Kulemin has Capuano interested in better usage. I’d say it’s that, plus the addition of newbies like Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal, who are getting seriously sheltered even-strength minutes.

@TheBadre: if there’s no room for Barzal at C this year, when will there be room for him w/ 91-18-29-53 all in future plans?

Staple: Well, injury made room for Barzal on Wednesday and possibly Thursday, so there’s nothing set in stone that he’s headed back to Seattle just yet. As far as next season goes, there’s so much uncertainty around the expansion draft that it’s hard to know what the Isles’ forward group will look like by next training camp. If Barzal gets a few games this season and either goes back or stays, he may push Ryan Strome or Brock Nelson off a center spot or off the roster via trade. Have to see how that all develops.

Keep up with #StapeChat and @StapeNewsday on Twitter all season for more Islanders news and mailbags.


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