Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers this week ahead of a busy stretch for the team.
Here are 10 answers for this week:
@EMN430: Are Cappy’s post game comments (I.e. Not much in bullpen) a dig at GS? Has relationship taken hit w/ rough start?
Staple: I think when things are bad like they’ve been this season, it gets to be a bit every-man-for-himself in a beleaguered front office. Just as Snow must be feeling a little put out by his new bosses’ search for a team president, Capuano is on the hot seat for his team’s play so he’s not happy with the roster he’s been given.
That said, the “bullpen” comment is not necessarily damning his boss. The Islanders do not have the forward depth in Bridgeport that they have on defense or in goal and that would have been the case whether the Isles re-signed Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen -- just the way their prospect pool looks right now. So reinforcements, which is to me what Capuano meant, are scarce.
@McBertos: How does front office and/or ownership evaluate the additions from summer in terms of on the ice and leadership?
Staple: I’m sure there’s some genuine surprise at Andrew Ladd’s lousy start and how that may be impacting his demeanor in the room. I’ve heard it said many, many times from athletes in all sports that it’s hard to stand up and demand better play when you’re struggling yourself, so the Ladd the Isles committed to for so long and slapped an ‘A’ on his sweater still hasn’t shown up.
Jason Chimera is, by all accounts, no different than in his past stops -- a very affable guy who rarely seems to have a bad day. Considering how little offense the Isles are getting from far more skilled players, I don’t think he’s considered to be a detriment to the team. His lack of production may stand out somewhat, but that’s because more is expected from many, many other guys.
@flanoddo: Why are the d-pairs set in stone but the forwards are always being moved? Any possibility 3 could be on the block? #StapeChat
Staple: Well, here’s my view on this, because as I pointed out in a story earlier this week, the Nick Leddy-Travis Hamonic pairing is having a terrible season together by any statistical measure: Capuano and assistant Greg Cronin, who coaches the defense, are pleased with the Thomas Hickey-Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan-Dennis Seidenberg pairs. So they’d rather Leddy-Hamonic stay together than split them up and possibly do more harm than good with new pairs.
Also, on the whole the coaches feel the defense has played better than the forwards this season. Most times I’d agree. Not all, but most.
@FinsMetsIsles: Why so many shots on goal vs the #Isles Defense? Neutral Zone Play? Coaching? #StapeChat
Staple: The great mystery of what happened to the Isles’ Corsi! I don’t think this group has been coached to be more conservative, based on conversations with any number of players and coaches. I think the defense struggled in transition last season, so the coaches instituted a different method of puck support in the defensive zone this year, favoring shorter passes and staying off the walls, where the Isles forwards were getting beat routinely in battles last year.
And it just didn’t work to start this season. The Islanders are coached to cede some possession in the defensive zone and keep players and shots to the outside of the hash marks, but they don’t seem to be able to retrieve pucks well and that leads to more time chasing in the defensive zone, which means once they get the puck out they’re dumping it in and changing.
There are some forwards who prefer to dump the puck in and fight it out below the goal line, but I don’t think it’s the overall preference of the coaching staff. I really don’t. That said, they’ve not just been losing the possession/shots battle, they’ve been destroyed in it all season long. Perhaps the message isn’t getting through, but it did with a few of these same players not long ago.
Confusing to say the least.
@Stubaru91: Given the way this season is going, what is best case scenario in regards to signing 91? Any chance he’ll stay?
Staple: Of course there’s a chance he’ll stay. By the time he can sign a new deal on July 1, the Isles could have an entirely new front office and some new players via trade or free agency. If this season continues down the same path, nothing will be the same for Tavares as 2017-18 unfolds. So it’s impossible to predict what will happen now.
@kpmats10: if GS had one mulligan on anything this offseason that would fix this mess, what would he use it on?
Staple: I would think it’d be making an aggressive move to lock up Nielsen earlier. The team wanted the player, the player wanted the team and the money was easily workable.
The only wrinkle to that -- and both myself and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman have mentioned it -- is how aggressive the Islanders were planning to be to try and land Steven Stamkos last July 1. My understanding is the Isles were preparing a big offer, so they may have slow-played any in-house decisions until then. When Stamkos re-signed in Tampa on June 30, Nielsen was already talking to prospective suitors and thinking about going someplace new.
That said, the Isles had the room to make both signings work.
@acwells723: It seems like it’s not just Garth, but the entire NHL. Why no trades? Expansion?
Staple: Expansion, salary cap and the increased value of younger, low-cost players, the increased regard for high draft picks -- there are a few reasons why there’s no trading anymore. The fact is that in a salary-cap world you can’t throw away picks and prospects for rentals and it’s near impossible to find a like-for-like deal that two GMs are willing to make.
So here we sit.
@jtarg23: Leddy’s CF% has gone from 55.3 to 50.6 to 43.3 this year, has he gotten somehow awful or is it a system change?
Staple: I don’t think he’s lost his skill. Perhaps Leddy is feeling the burden of being the main defenseman at even strength and on the power play. His time on ice per game jumped from 20:22 in his first Isles season to 22:37 last season to 22:57 this season, so maybe that’s too heavy a load for him.
And perhaps the adjustment in the defensive zone has hurt him a bit, though with his skating skills he should be able to escape trouble and drive possession better than any other Isles defenseman.
I wonder how Leddy would do with a partner such as Ryan Pulock or Adam Pelech rather than a more traditional-style D-man such as Hamonic or Boychuk. Maybe there’s something to be improved upon there.
@CC_ME_ROUNDTOWN: With the Isles unable to gain much ground in the East, do you think the FO wont feel the urgency to make a deal?
Staple: I think there aren’t many teams sitting where the Isles are that would be able to make a fair deal. You’re either mortgaging the future in prospects or picks for a veteran who might not make a difference this season or you’re selling low on struggling young players such as Ryan Strome. Either way, your move reeks of desperation and that’s not a good starting point in trade talks.
When you’ve fallen down a hole like the Isles have, you’re either a seller or you take your lumps and wait until the offseason. Not what the fans like to hear, but that’s how it’s worked in recent years.