Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers this week as the Isles begin their two-game road trip.
Here are 10 answers for this week:
@cward21187: What do you believe is the biggest issue with isles that has led to the slow start, systems,coaching,players, etc.?
Staple: Well, it’s never one thing, is it? I think they’ve shown flashes of playing a strong systemic game and the transition out of the defensive zone hasn’t been awful for the most part. Jack Capuano gave me a quote I used last week where he wanted less wall play and more “short support,” where players make themselves available off the walls, to start breakouts.
I think they’ve done that reasonably well. But the offense, especially from the forward group, has been seriously lacking. Monday’s game could be a little springboard to get a few slow starters going but they need consistently more from the middle six forwards that they’re not getting.
And the inability to make smart plays late in games, whether it’s a missed assignment in the defensive zone or a bad turnover in the neutral zone or offensive zone, has really killed them. Even if they’d gotten single points in the three losses to San Jose, Montreal and Pittsburgh, that’s a 5-3-5 record, not 5-6-2. It makes a difference even if it’s not winning.
@kpmats10: concern about 18 and 27 not furthering their games? 18 can’t find a groove and 27 is a one dimensional player not scoring
Staple: I think there’s plenty of concern, but not many mid-season solutions. Garth Snow decided when Frans Nielsen left that Ryan Strome would be the new 2/3 center; they obviously had Mathew Barzal as an option until they sent him back to the WHL today, but Snow and the coaching staff seem determined to get what they can out of Strome. Taking him off the first power play unit would seem to diminish what he can offer, but they weren’t exactly lighting it up with him there.
Anders Lee is a streaky player who, to me, needs to be on the top PP unit. He’s not the best skater or shooter; his utility depends on being the net-front guy to jam in rebounds and cause havoc. Not giving him the fullest chance to do that seems like the wrong call.
@flanoddo: wasn’t waiving PA to let the kids play? Is there a conflict of interest between Garth and cappy?
Staple: I wouldn’t say they’re not on the same page, though we’ve certainly heard more “help me out here!” comments from Capuano this season than ever before. Parenteau was waived in part because Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier were showing so well in camp, along with Josh Ho-Sang; that Barzal never really got a shot is a puzzler.
To me, the GM waived Parenteau to remind his veterans that anyone is vulnerable. But given everyone’s contract status, Parenteau was really the only one who would have been claimed, so I doubt it resonated the way it was supposed to. And given how motivated Parenteau is with Jersey, it looks like a far worse decision now.
@Scottiooo: with isles playing Halak so much, is it about auditioning him 4 other teams?And is a package deal part of the plan?
Staple: I think the Islanders need wins and they think Halak is best suited to help them do that right now. Showcases aren’t really a thing this early in the season, especially not in goal; if he’d been bad and they kept playing him, maybe you could say they’re trying to move him. But I think Halak is the guy who set a franchise record for wins two seasons ago and they need points. Also, he’s been pretty good the last three games.
@ScottSauer26: will we ever see josh bailey taken off the first line and top pp?
Staple: I’m not sure Bailey is the issue with the power play or the top line, but I can see where some might feel that way. If Andrew Ladd is on his way back to reliability, I would think a Ladd-Tavares-Clutterbuck line might be good -- Tavares with a couple of hard-edged board players and shoot-first wings might be interesting.
Here’s where I see the ideal forward alignment with the group they have now:
Bailey and Kulemin worked pretty well with Nielsen last season at times, the Lee-Nelson-Chimera trio generated a bit on Monday and the BSP line seems like a decent speed trio, especially with Prince and Beau being able to grind as well as use their skill.
No one listens to me though, so we’ll see what happens!
@kennyboudreau3: when does the organization become held accountable for the lack of development of prospects?
Staple: I am asked about accountability a lot in these chats and I tend to avoid answering those, mostly because my response usually is: Accountable to whom? The owners, I suppose, and they’ve shown no indications they’re unhappy with Snow. I’ve said before that, especially with the loss of George McPhee as an advisor, perhaps the Isles ownership could beef up the front office. They have added Claude Loiselle and Chris Lamoriello this season.
But yes, the prospect development in recent seasons has been an issue. Barzal and Beauvillier showed enough development to make the squad, but does that count since Barzal rarely played? I’m not sure how you grade that out and whether you can even call it a complete grade since Barzal will be back for good next season.
Strome and Nelson were first-round picks who are performing OK, I’d say, in key roles at ages 23 and 24. Are they finished developing?
So accountability is a pretty broad term. We’re all accountable to our bosses and Snow’s bosses seem pleased with him as of now.
@adcohn1110: Can you explain what “All For Islanders” means?
Staple: I was hoping you could. I don’t really get it either.
@tommy_tas: will Ilya Sorokin ever make it to the states and play in the Isles system?
Staple: That’s the hope. A couple of Isles front-office members were in Finland last week for the Karjala Cup, where Sorokin was lights out yet again for Russia. By all accounts the young goaltender had a terrific time at rookie camp -- I heard he went up and down the bus, personally thanking all of his fellow prospects for making him feel welcome. This is clearly someone who wants to be in the NHL and has a North America-based agent to help make it happen.
So I believe he’ll be here. Whether it’s next season or in 2018-19, that I can’t say as of now. But the Islanders think he’s coming and they also strongly feel he’s the best prospect they have.
@OlegKvasha What does Grabovski’s situation do to the ‘17-‘18 salary cap?
Staple: Not much as of now. Gotten a few queries about Grabovski, who last I checked was back in Belarus. He won’t be cleared to return this season, we’re just about certain of that. Still has concussion symptoms and as badly as he wants to play there’s no way the Islanders would allow that now.
The main issue for next season is his actual salary of $5.5 million vs. his $5 million cap hit. To trade those cap hits the way the Red Wings did with Pavel Datsyuk, it helps to have the actual salary be lower than the cap hit. Grabovski’s is higher, so any team that needs to get to the cap floor next season would need to shell out some dough, which seems unlikely.
So the guess is he’ll be on the Isles payroll next season and if they need the cap space, long term IR is available, same as now.
@Thomas_J_Horne: Can we expect a trade to happen which brings a top end forward to play with Tavares?
Staple: There just aren’t a lot of midseason trades of front-line players unless the trade deadline is creeping up. Snow made the Thomas Vanek deal three years ago and regretted it; you can look around the league now, with so many teams tight to the cap, and see the lack of deals as a sign of a new era.
There’s always a chance, of course, and Snow is fielding calls and offers daily. My sense is the Islanders still feel this is a winning roster and they’re not going to make sweeping changes just yet.