FanPost

[FanPost] Grading the Islanders

LHH Editor's Note: With more center-column content lately we haven't front-paged as many FanPosts, but we wanted to highlight this one as an example where someone put a lot of effort -- and English! -- into their FanPost. Plus, there's plenty of fodder for debate here. Cheers to davesy22 (nice number, that) and everyone who continues to put up thought-provoking FanPosts, feeding our off-season appetite.

2010-11 was one roller coaster for us fans. We went through moments of despair and then we had some hope restored. I would like to take a look at all the Islanders and simply point out my opinions on how I felt that they played. I will obviously leave out the ATOs.  I might forget about someone, so please feel free to point it out.

** I would like to point out that the grades are listed below each of the players in case it seems a bit confusing. Some players have no grade, which is an incomplete. The grades were given based on both my expectations for the players, the results from the season, and any intangibles that they may have contributed. Thank you. 

 

Goalies

Rick DiPietro: DP definitely gets an A for effort, an A for his passion, and an A for his commitment.  While all of these are important aspects of his being on this team, he falls far below this mark in the most important area: in the crease. Unfortunately, DP was injured once more during this season. A lot has been said about his dreadful statistics, but the worst of it is that our former first overall pick was  never the best option in goal for this team at any given point in the season save for a few weeks when Lawson was the only other option. But when Kevin Poulin came up, it was clear who our goalie of the future is, and his name is not DiPietro. He was frustrating to watch, he clearly did not learn how to control his puckmoving tendencies, and he let in a lot of goals that the average NHL backup is expected to make. The bottom line is that he rarely gave this team a chance to win on a consistent basis. 

Grade: C

Al Montoya: No one was particularly enthusiastic about his arrival on the Island, but he proved naysayers wrong right away by helping this team to a steady run thanks to his stability in net. He has the right attitude and I am thrilled to have him back next season, especially considering what the other option in net will be (see above). Aside from a shaky game against the Rangers in which he was pulled, Montoya performed admirably and looked like the kind of guy you would want backstopping a potential playoff team. He made timely saves and gave this team a chance to win every night he was in goal (the same can't be said about the aforementioned DP). 

Grade: A

Dwayne Roloson: Roloson is now a part of a playoff contender, but his efforts while on the island must nevertheless be noted. He shouldered the big losing stretch in November and early December, but he always gave this team a chance to win night in and night out. He was the Islanders best player a year ago, and it was no different this season. He was a great leader and a goaltender that was much appreciated during his stay. 

Grade: A

Kevin Poulin: Poulin's season ended with a freak accident and the hopes are that he recovers and regains the form that he put on display. Had the injury not occured, it would have been interesting to see Poulin develop during the final quarter of the season as the undisputed Number 1. While he was playing he proved to be an athletic competitor with great confidence and play to back it up with, which can't be said for all the goaltenders on this team. If he continues to develop the way he has and can find some consistency (he did give up early goals in many of his starts), then he may very well be the future of this franchise in goal. 

Grade: A-

Nathan Lawson: Few, if any, have ever thought that Lawson would part of this teams future in net. During his stay, he solidified this point of view. Of the 6 goaltenders this season, he had the fewest wins (only 1) and it was clear that he was not NHL material. He had the tendency to give up bad goals and no lead was safe with him. He played a few strong games, but nothing to denote that he would be a major building block  for this franchise. 

Grade: C

Mikko Koskinen: Koskinen had a miserable season in Bridgeport and his brief stint on the Island, showed glimpses of potential, but proved that he was not ready for the fast pace of the NHL. He did pull out a couple victories against Montreal and Pittsburgh, but his GAA (4.33) and more importantly, his SV % (.873) were wretched. It is too soon to tell what his future holds. Next season at Bridgeport will give a better indication of where he is headed as a goaltender. 

Grade: C

Defense 

Mark Eaton: Mark Eaton was one of the deals that Snow made on July 1st. He proved to be nothing more than a depth defenseman who was good positionally, but failed to ever be a physical presence. He never particularly impressed me as I felt that other defenseman proved to be better options on defense during the season.

Grade: C 

James Wisniewski: Wisniewski seemed to be a popular deal when it happened (the Islander's website even had a big promotion on its opening page, even going so far to teach the fans how to say his name). Many thought he would make a great pairing with Streit on the top pair. Unfortunately that never materialized and Wisniewski was propelled into the top spot on the blueline. While he was dynamite on the powerplay (leading the team in points during his tenure on the Island), he proved almost every game that he was terrible in his own zone and was worst on the team in +- stats. It was clear that he was not top pair quality and those stating that he was a third pair guy were on to something. Nonetheless, he proved a temporary solution on the point on the powerplay.

Grade: C+

Andrew McDonald: He was hands down the best defenseman of the season for this team. With the team lacking a true No. 1 Dman thanks to the injury of Streit, McDonald took the role and made it himself, proving that last year was no fluke and that this team has a great defenseman for years to come. He filled in nicely on the powerplay and improved his point totals over last year. He proved to be a tremendous leader with the ability to make the right plays at the right moments. To add to his list of achievements this season, he took rookie Travis Hamonic under this wing, mentored a smooth transition to the NHL,  and together became the team's top pairing all season long. He also played from February on with an injury, emphasizing his determination and commitment to this club. Clearly one of the best players all year long and a great story during a season that was over almost as soon as it started.

Grade: A

 

Travis Hamonic: Prior to the start of the season, he had been touted as one of the top if not the top prospect on defense. And he proved just that when he was finally called up. In his first game, he practically scored the game winner against Colombus and throughout the season he not only proved himself a capable puckmover with a strong shot, but a tough and reliable presence on the blueline. With McDonald, he created the most reliable tandem on defense. More notable is he never showed any signs of faltering or losing confidence. Many wondered how he'd fare without McDonald late in the season, but even this did not seem to be a problem for this kid. He can only get better and it certainly looks like he will fulfill his promise as a major component of the blueline for years to come. 

Grade: A

Ty Wishart: Wishart, a former first rounder, came as part of the trade that sent Roloson to Tampa Bay. During his time in the NHL this season, he proved to be maddeningly inconsistent, showing flashes of immaturity juxtaposed by flashes of upside. He may never fulfill his draft position as a top or even second pair defenseman, but he looks like he could be a nice depth addition. 

Mark Katic: He did not play all that much to really create a balanced report, but as may be expected from rookies that are called up early, he looked like a mixed bag. He was solid on the blueline, but would occasionally have lapses that led to bad goals.  

Bruno Gervais: Once thought of as a potential cornerstone of the blueline, Gervais has slowly grown into a scapegoat and laughing stock for all that is wrong with the Islanders. He started most of the season as a scratch, but was given a chance as injuries started to mount. I do recall Gordon starting him at the forward position, which led to great jeering from fans everywhere. This season, Gervais continued to prove that he is likely to ever fulfill the expectations that this team had for him and that he will continue to fall down the depth chart as other defenseman move up.

Grade:  C-

Jack Hillen: Last season, people had high hopes for Hillen. As the season started, he found himself outside looking in. When he was given a chance, he failed to build on last season's epiphany. However, as the season progressed, he seemed more comfortable and regained the form from last season. He has tremendous speed and is a dangerous threat when he moves in deep into the offensive threat. Unfortunately his joining the rush is a double-edged sword as it leaves back-end exploitable, which has often cost the team. It is difficult to overlook his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone. Hopefully, he will continue to develop his defensive zone play to better exploit his speed and offensive abilities.

Grade: B- 

Dylan Reese: Reese will probably never be more than a depth Dman, and like Gervais his position on the chart will likely drop as others improve and move up. He has done little to hint that he will be a fulltime NHLer. There is one consistency about Reese: he tends to have 1 good game a season. Last year it was against Vancouver and this year it was against the Rangers.  

Grade: C

Mike Mottau: I was actually excited to hear that Mottau would be joining the Islanders. He was obviously no replacement for Streit, but it was nice to know that a man who had spent many years in NJ, playing a strong defensive system would be joining the young kids who needed such experience. Unfortunately, Mottau's play proved why NJ had let him go as easily as they had. His veteran leadership was practically negligible and failed to fulfill the expectation of stabilizing the defense corps. It didn't help that he was paired with the Wiz early on, further emphasizing his deficiencies. 

Grade: C

Radek Martinek: I don't know why some people don't like Martinek. It is true that he gets injured too often, but when he is healthy, he is one hell of a shutdown defenseman with a pretty good shot from the point. He is often assigned to the top forwards on the other team and usually does a great job. He may be wearing out his welcome thanks to his injury history, but the Islanders should bring him back to help the transition for some of the younger defense prospects that this team has. 

Grade: B

Milan Jurcina: Jurcina was one of the underrated players for the Islanders this season. He proved to be one of the better defenseman on this team and he also proved to have a rocket from the point. He has a huge body and knows how to use to well. It is nice to know that he will be back next season to provide some stability on the blueline and to help the take some pressure off the young guys.

Grade: B+

Forwards

John Tavares: The face of the franchise had nice sophmore year. He got off to an unfortunate start with his concussion, but once he came back he had a solid points streak, including a hat trick. However, during the long losing stretch, his numbers decreased tremendously and he was practically invisible for long stretches. It looked like he would have a dreadful sophmore year. Furthermore, it looked like his defensive game had taken a step backwards from the end of last season. However, he turned things around as the team did and went on to have a 16 point February with a +2 rating (and an even better +5 in March with 11 points). His defensive game improved greatly during the second half (he led the team in takeaways) and his offensive ability also started to evolve as he became a threat on a nightly basis alongside his linemates. He was much better at faceoffs this season as well. He also showed better ability on his skates with some flashes of speed. He still needs to work on his defensive game to be the complete player we want him to be and work on his skating. However, judging from his determination and attitude, he will. He also seemed to work harder as the season wore on, demonstrating the leadership that many have expected from him. 

Grade: B+

Frans NielsenNielsen was the best all around player on this team. He had his best offensive year of his career and he ended with a +13 on a team with a negative goal differential. Enough can't be said about the fact that he led the league with 7 short handed goals and continued to be dominant on penalty shots (in fact, he was pretty much a lock every single time). He was a leader on this team and helped rookie Michael Grabner develop and acclimate himself to the league. He also established himself as the No. 2 Center on this team, jumping over Josh Bailey. He is definitely Captain material if the team decided to take that route, though it is highly unlikely.

Grade: A

 

Josh Bailey: As the season started, there was a great deal of hope surrounding Josh Bailey. He had gained strength and many were hoping that his third season would be his breakout season. After 6 points in the first five games in which he looked like a dominant force, it seemed that those hopes would be realized. But then he got an injury and went scoreless for over 20 games. Then the unexpected occured: He was sent down to Bridgeport to work on his game. He was tremendous there and returned looking as if he might finally be back to form. But that illusion was short lived and for the remainder of the season, Bailey remained inconsistent. He still has a strong defensive game, but for the 9th overall pick, the hope is pick a 2nd line center who will be an effective offensive force. He did have to deal with being moved around from center to wing, which may be a part of the problem, but his inconsistency could be maddening. His points totals went down from last season so it represents a step back.

Grade: B- 

Zenon Konopka: Everyone knew what to expect from Konopka when he arrived on the Island. He was an enforcer who had a knack for being clutch at faceoffs. He wouldn't score goals and was by no means a playmaker. None of this changed.  In fact, not only did he succeed in fulfilling these expectations, but he also proved to be a great locker room presence. He helped rally not only his teammates but also the fanbase. Whether or not he proves to be re-signed is still up in the air. The Islanders may be looking to change the reputation they acquired this season as thugs. Furthermore, we all know that Konopka has no real upside and his growth as a play is likely finished or slim. 

Grade: B

Matt MoulsonMoulson had a lot to prove coming into this season. He had to prove that last season's 30 goals were no fluke. A 20 to 25 goal campaign would probably not been considered a disappointment, but he surpassed last seasons 30 goals and 48 points and continued to be instrumental in his aiding John Tavares develop. His reward was a 3 year contract. His skating may not be great, and his defensive game may be flawed, but it does help to know that this team has a bonafide 30 goal scorer to help its franchise player. 

Grade: A

Michael Grabner: Grabner went from being an outcast to a vital part of our core. He didn't get off to a hot start, but in February he had a 6 game goal streak and scored a total of 34 goals to lead the Islanders by season's end, 6 of those shorthanded and ONLY 1 of them on the Powerplay. He won the fastest skater competiton during all-star weekend and is now a contender for the Calder Trophy. More importantly, aside from being an offensive threat, he is also responsible defensively and is one of the most complete players on this team. There isn't much to say about Grabner's greatness that hasn't already been mentioned. He became this team's number one headliner. 

Grade: A

P.A. ParenteauThere were many groans when fans learned that P.A. Parenteau would be joining the Islanders to play on the top line with Tavares. Early on, it didn't seem to be a smart move as there seemed to be no chemistry between Parenteau and Moulson and Tavares. They were all slow and Parenteau was a career AHLer with 8 points in 22 NHL games. However, as the season wore on, he proved that he was more than capable of holding his own in the NHL and that he was a great addition to the top line. He may not be the long term solution, but he sure has developed strong chemistry with Tavares and Moulson and was just as much a big part of their success this season as they were of his. His 20 goals and 50+ points are proof that he has strong goalscoring instincts and strong play making ability. He is also a strong asset on the power play. If there is something to complain about regarding his play, it would be his defensive game. Like his linemates, this needs to improve if this line is to be as dominant as it is capable of being.

Grade: B+

Blake ComeauComeau is a tremendously polarizing figure in Islanders Country, mainly because everyone knows what he is capable of and many times we see him squander those opportunities. Regardless of the infamous COZO (Comeau Offensive Zone Orbit), Comeau continues to improve his point totals from season to season and became a 20 goal scorer this season. His defensive game is decent and he has good speed making him a strong third line player that most teams wouldn't mind having. If he continues to improve the way he has and finds consistency, he could be a consistent 20 to 25 goal scorer year in and year out. He should be brought back at least for another season or two. 

Grade: B+

Kyle OkposoOkposo's injury early in the season was a huge disappointment as he seemed primed for a break out season. His presence was surely missed during the early part of the season when the team was in need of his leadership qualities. He did portray those abilities when he returned, but unfortunately, his offensive game proved to be inconsistent. There were games where he was incredible, but there were many where he just couldn't find a way to finish. Many are starting to question whether he really is as good as many are hoping. Next season will be huge in determining where Okposo is really headed in the NHL and whether or not he is capable of being the power forward we all hope he will be. I am very optimistic for next season, considering that he should be fully recuperated from the injury and that he will have an entire season to play with Nielsen and Grabner, which should be beneficial to his offensive and defensive game. 

Grade: B+

Matt MartinMartin didn't make the team out of camp, which outraged many, including myself, especially when you consider that Gilles was on the roster. He eventually got called up and earned himself a starting spot for the rest of the season. He has yet to prove that he can score consistently like he can in the AHL, but he has certainly proven to play with a lot of heart and physicality. He worked hard every game with the limited minutes that he had. When he was placed on the Bailey-Comeau line, he seemed to open up space for his linemates, creating offensive opportunities. He later lost that spot to Joensuu, though I believe that Martin has the greater upside and his physicality enabled to the other two more skilled players to find the space needed to create. He is still young and will continue to improve. 

Grade: B

Jesse JoensuuIt was the hope of many that Jesse's big body would some day lead him to being a power forward in this league. Unfortunately, it seems that Joensuu has not yet learned to use his big body to create space for himself or his teammates, especially when comparing what Matt Martin did on the same line. He is slow and often looks lost on the ice. He may remain as a depth player, but will not be an impact player when this team is ready to compete in the playoffs. 

Grade: C

Trent Hunter: It's a shame that we have to hold onto Hunter's contract for another few years. He once looked like a piece of this franchise and is slowly closing all the doors for himself. Next season, I doubt that he does more than play on the fourth line with minimal powerplay time. He was practically a non-factor this season and he isn't getting any younger.  

Grade: C-

Michael Haley: Haley became an instant fan favorite during the late February battle with Pittsburgh and unlike the other two players on his line, he is not a single dimension enforcer. Not only is he an excellent fighter, but he has decent speed and the potential for decent goal scorer ability. He may never be more than a fourth line player, but with scoring ability, he is certainly a fourth liner worth having.

Grade: B-

Trevor Gilles: No one can deny that Gilles loves the Islanders and plays for this team on a nightly basis. That aside, it is clear that Gilles is nothing more than a fighter. He possesses practically no hockey sense and is negligible to this team in the long run. Furthermore, he has lost complete favor with the league and is prone to get suspensions for practically no reason. These deficiencies coupled with the Islanders intents on shedding the image of thugs probably means that Gilles has played his last season in Orange and Blue. 

Grade: D

Nino Niederreiter: Nino only played 9 games this season in which he scored 1 goal and 1 assist. He often looked slow and unprepared to play. That said, he played hard and looked determined at all times. His play in WHL has assured the fanbase and organization that he has nothing left to learn in juniors and is likely to be playing on Long Island next year and hopefully for many more. 

Islanders MVP of the year:

Last year, it was pretty clear that Dwayne Roloson was the top player for this team. However, there is no clear cut winner this year with a few players making their presence felt above the rest.The players considered were there for the majority of the season so some players who played vitals parts later on in the season or early on(like Roloson or Al Montoya) are not considered.

Andrew McDonald: Proved to be a top defenseman, a leader, a mentor, a mule. Deserves that A he wore.

Frans Nielsen: The best two-way player on the team, led the league in Shorthanded goals, plus rating on a team that barely had any plus players, improved offensive output from last season

John Tavares: Led the team in points, including power play points. Improved in every area of his game including his leadership ability as the season wore on.

Michael Grabner: Improved as the season wore on, learning how to use his space to better himself defensively and also make more space for his team. Helped make the PK an offensive threat on a nightly basis. Created at least 1 break away a night for himself in addition to 2 or 3 quality scoring chances. Scored 34 goals and over 50 points in his rookie year.

 

Please note that these are my opinions. Please feel free to disagree and discuss. Thank you.

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

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