We'll have a post up later today with the weekly power/opinion rankings survey, including a new real power rankings as calculated by user ICanSeeforIslesandIsles. Along with it will be some thoughts about how to approach the team's performance at this early stage, when some wins should have been losses (Toronto?) and some losses ought to have been wins (Washington?). Teaser: It's inspired by this post at Behind the Net.
But for this off day's main topic I'd like to poll opinions now on a different variable: Lineup management and injuries. I'm not talking about the preseason losses of Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, either (while crushing, those haven't changed in the opening month). I'm talking about overall, how you feel the various injuries and lineup adjustments have affected things -- and whether you think the latest roster moves, plus two returning forwards, will help:
All season long the Islanders have dealt with a challenge at center: First Rob Schremp was hurt in preseason and has yet to play a game. Then John Tavars was hurt in the opener, while his replacement Josh Bailey -- who scored so well in JT's absence after a shift to center -- got a hip pointer and hasn't produced since.
Now comes Wednesday in Carolina and the Isles will have all their centers healthy at the same time. If Scott Gordon sticks to his conclusion last year that Schremp is not a fit at wing, that means both Doug Weight and Josh Bailey are on the wing, with JT the #1, Frans Nielsen the shutdown guy, Zenon Konopka the faceoff guy, and Schremp taking the soft even-strength minutes and PP work.
Will this help matters?
Trent Hunter (per tradition) was banged up early, Blake Comeau took knocks in three consecutive games and has seen his production plummet (coinciding with Bailey's decline), Michael Grabner had a groin injury but expects to play Wednesday. With Jon Sim's waiving, Matt Martin assumes the role the Isles expected him to have before his training camp injury.
That means that -- assuming all these guys are healthy -- the Islanders actually have their most interesting lineup options of the season, no?
Consider some variation of:
Parenteau - Tavares - Comeau
Bailey - Nielsen - Moulson
Weight - Schremp - Grabner
Martin - Konopka - Hunter
[UPDATE: Chris Botta has real lines from today's practice. I'll leave the original napkin sketch above for continuity of our discussion.] While the combos won't look quite like that, there are possibilities there. What are your ideal combos for Carolina?
Here is where, for puck retrieval and movement purposes, I suspect the Islanders have suffered greatest. Any version of life without Mark Streit was going to be a challenge. But add Andrew MacDonald to the injury list and it really hurts. (The Islanders have lost all four games since A-Mac got hurt.) Factor in that Jack Hillen has struggled to even gain a spot in the lineup, and that's three talents missing.
Now this week add Milan Jurcina to the injured list, who has had his solid moments and used his size/reach to consume space on the PK. Jurcina has taken criticism -- some fair, some not -- but he indeed has had some good games. Yet what he represents unfortunately typifies much of the Islanders defense: Capable of being safe and smart, not capable of being great.
Mike Mottau has his moments of poise and insight, mixed with others that make you wonder. (He also gets into scoring positions down the right side but has yet to finish.) Mark Eaton, same -- and he's never brought nor ever will bring a hitting game. Radek Martinek has been solid in a shutdown role throughout, while James Wisniewski carries risk/reward, the reward mostly coming on the powerplay.
So defense is my biggest worry. Without Streit, A-Mac and now Jurcina you're asking a lot from an already subsistence-only group. Bruno Gervais and Hillen, two healthy scratches for the first weeks of the season, are suddenly important and were even paired together Saturday night.
What is the way out in this department, other than pray for speedy recoveries?
Goaltending I almost don't want to touch, as it's been beaten to death already and there is an on-going catch-all thread on the topic. All we can do is watch and wait. Safe to say Dwayne Roloson has given them a chance just about every start, and Rick DiPietro is still a work in progress. Both have authored wins. Both need to come up big to author more.
I have no question for this last category; we've been there. But for the others, the floor is open: You play head coach heading into Carolina.