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Game #76 – Hawks vs. Islanders Q&A: Dan Saraceni From Lighthouse Hockey

Dan Saraceni is all things at LighthouseHockey.com. Follow him on Twitter @CultureOfLosing. 

The Isles downfall was a historically bad defense. If you had to portion it out, how much is the personnel on defense, the lack of confidence in either goalie, and Doug Weight’s system?

That’s a good question. I’m not sure if I’ve thought about it in those terms. If you asked 10 different Islanders fans, you’d probably get 10 different answers but for me, I think it’s mostly on the coaching. The personnel isn’t great (playing the husk of Dennis Seidenberg, losing Calvin de Haan for half a season and Johnny Boychuk for a few months doesn’t help) and the goaltending was garbage particularly earlier in the year. So the majority of the blame really could go in any direction. But one of this team’s hallmarks is a steadfast refusal to acknowledge when something isn’t working. When they average 50 shots against for two months and Weight says that nothing’s wrong they just didn’t get a few bounces, you know something is seriously messed up. And when the goalies got better, the shots against remained ridiculous. The bottom two lines have been a clownshow in their own zone all season and no changes seemed to have been made until February, when everything was more or less over already. Weight’s still a rookie, as are Scott Gomez and Fred Brathwaite. But Luke Richardson and Kelly Buchberger have been around the bench for a while. I hoped they’d help Doug out, but it didn’t work that way. Instead, they kept banging their collective heads against a wall all season asking why they had a headache.

For those who might not know, could Brooklyn have worked as a home if the arena wasn’t specifically built for basketball? Or did the fanbase simply not want to commute? What will they do until the new building at Belmont Race Track is ready?

I think yes, had they built it with hockey in mind and had done the proper research into what Islanders fans like and want. The relationship got off on the wrong foot when it first became clear that the Barclays people didn’t give a rat’s ass about Islanders fans or what they want in a game experience. Normally, the rest of the world doesn’t give a rat’s ass, either, but these guys were counting on them for money and good PR. You’d think they’d know that people watch warmups from the glass and don’t want black uniforms. But little to no research seemed to have been done. The commute wouldn’t have been an issue if the arena was a welcoming place. It’s not, so just throw it on the pile. Will fans go to Belmont? If the team is still in the lottery every year, no. Nassau Coliseum is viewed with rose-colored glasses these days, but that place was empty for decades worth of games. So will Belmont unless people have a reason to come out.

One of our favorite sons Nick Leddy has put up 41 points, but is an unsightly -36. Plus-minus is generally a bullshit stat, but what do Isles fans make of it? What should Leddy be going forward, as in top pairing guy or more second-pairing bum-slayer?

I don’t think most Islanders fans even know what his plus/minus is, to be honest. Leddy has all the goods to be a 1D in the NHL except for that killer “fuck you” attitude. He knifes through whole teams, breaks into the zone by himself, catches everyone flatfooted and then… drop passes to no one. He leads the rush on the PP, gets just past the red line and… drop passes to a guy 20 feet behind him. He’s not a big hitter or grinder in his own zone that can wear guys down. Forty one points is great, but I can’t help but feel he should have more. Maybe Ryan Pulock, who’s made great strides this season, can be that guy. Among other things, I’ve given up hope this season of Leddy being the Islanders No. 1, even if I love watching him skate.

While some other kids have gotten more press like Barzal and the ones on defense, Anthony Beauvilier made the team last year at 19. He hasn’t quite stepped forward, but he has pedigree. Is there more to come?

Beauvillier and Barzal were really good together for a while this year, until Beauvillier hit a terrible slump (that got broken with a two-goal game against Tampa on Thursday). He could still 20 goals this year, which would be a cool thing for him. His underlyings haven’t always been great, but for a young guy with a good motor, quick hands, good shot and an ounce of hockey IQ, I feel like he’s on the right track. He’s also a little guy so me might need a little extra time, too. He probably should have spent last year back in junior and he did a few weeks in the AHL this season instead of starting there and moving up, but I’m not too mad about how he’s been so far.

It’s looking like Tavares is going to at least test the market and see what’s out there. With the money, if not years, being equal no matter who is offering it, will the Isles presentation of a future home, enough kids to promise a brighter future be enough? Can the Isles tell him they’ll be ready to win next year?

Oh boy. I have no idea what these guys say to each other behind closed doors, but it’s my only hope for retaining Tavares. To miss the playoffs in the last two seasons of this guy’s contract is absolutely unconscionable. The fact that the guys in charge haven’t already been fired is a testament to how little urgency was given to the situation. Just a lot of lip service and empty promises. If he stays, he’ll be well-paid for life, get to play with Barzal, Bailey and more of his buddies, get to disappear into the suburbs after games, probably get a statue and his number retired and generally be hailed as a price forever. What he won’t do is win jack shit as long as the current management is still in place. He has not once let anyone know what he’s been thinking this whole season because he seriously may not have thought about it yet. The time to start thinking about it begins two weeks from today. So we’ll know very shortly what his feelings are.

 

 

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