Editor's Note: This was a popular FanPost when JPinVA looked back at November, so here is his December version. It looks at the month that was (and what's ahead) in plus/minus style.
Also in the mode of looking ahead, afrosupreme returned with his monthly schedule outlook FanPost -- are there extra opportunities in January?
JP's December 2011 plus/minus:
- (RECORD) 6-6-2 14 pts. in 14 games. Their 1 point per game (PPG) was a little better than their .77 PPG in November and October, but not nearly the 1.17 PPG they will need to be a playoff team. They have also lifted the bar for the rest of the season. They will probably need 96 (or 1.17 PPG) to make the playoffs, as they now have 32 pts. in 36 games. They will need 64 points in their next 46 games or a pace around 1.40 PPG. That would be a record of 30-10-6 over that period. It’s not likely.
+ (Goals For) 39. This was a vast improvement over November’s 25 goals and a little better than last December’s 36 goals. Their goal for this month should be closer to last February’s 51 in 14 games or March 2011’s 46 in 15. 39 was a sign of life, but they need to be above a 3 goals per game clip.
- (Goals Against) 43. This was only slightly better than the last month’s 46 or last December’s 45. The team should be letting up goals at a clip closer to 2.50. The best two months in the past two years have been OCT 2011(2.44) and MAR 2011(2.67). The goals for reflects upon the defense, but this is a real barometer for the thin defense this team has had over the past two year.
- (Goal Diff) -4 (-.29) This was a huge improvement over November 2011 (-1.62) and December 2010 (-.64). The team needs to turn this around in January to be positive. That is some thing they were only able to do in February and March of last year. Somehow improving the defensive corps in January (Trade or promotions) should make that a little better. We are already seeing improvement in the play of some forwards like Okposo and Tavares… and roster upgrades such as Ullstrom and Wallace. Getting Reese and deHaan to the NHL will definitely help… but who knows when they’ll be ready to consistently replace Eaton, Mottau and Staios.
+ PP 11/47 (23%) The powerplay was back in December. Rolston missed 5 games (where they were 25%) and Weight seemed to get their puck movement to focus less on shots from the point and more towards getting players open down low. The resurgence of John Tavares’ play later in the month also contributed to the unit’s effectiveness.
+ PK 33/39 (85%) The PK was also back to an effective rate. They are not producing SH goals like they were at their best last year, but the unit is performing effectively again. Much better than November’s 77%.
THIS YEAR vs. LAST YEAR (DECEMBER)
+ (Record) 6-6-2(14) v 6-7-1(13) (+1 PTS)
+ (PP) 11/47 (23%) v 8/48(17%)
+ (PK) 33/39(85%) v 48/60(80%)
+ Evgeni Nabokov was injured for most of the month, but has taken over the number one role since Montoya has been sidelined. He is 2-3 in the games since Al went down, but he has played well in all but one.
- Dipietro played one game, did not look very good, and was pulled because of a groin injury. He had no problem jumping over the boards though to congratulate Montoya after the game. If both Montoya and Nabokov can maintain their health Dipietro’s season should be over.
+ Poulin played one game in an emergency situation. He performed adequately in a 3-2 defeat where he stopped 26 of 29. He has been playing better in the AHL and even though Nilsson has been backing up in the NHL, Kevin will probably be their emergency goaltender should they lose Montoya and Nabokov simultaneously.
+ John Tavares (13-18-31/-7)(5-10-15/-2) JT started and ended December very well. He had a career highlight goal against Calgary and a career highlight dish to Moulson to finish off the month. Throughout the month and the season his performance has been at an ALL STAR level, though his production has had highs and lows. If this team ever ices a consistent PLUS defensive corps together JT will put up elite forward stats. He’s almost there now.
+ Matt Moulson (17-14-31/+3)(9-9-18/+3) A 9 goal and 18 point month should throw some light on Matt Moulson and the all-star game. All he’s done is score at a 30 goal pace (he’s now on a 40G pace) the last three years. Not only that he is a PLUS player on a team that only has 2 others (Ullstrom and Calvin de Haan). If Matty Mo was playing for any other team in the league he’d be a hockey household name.
- Michael Grabner (10-6-16/-12)(3-2-5/-9) Grabner has fallen off the 30G radar. His lack of production has effected the teams SUPPORT SCORING drastically. All of the forwards have been effected by the teams lack of depth on defense, but it has hurt Grabner and his linemates the most. Some time with Josh Bailey may help. After a shakeup at the end of the month Grabs had his first PLUS game to end December.
+ David Ullstrom played 9 games in December. He has basically replaced Blake Comeau as the third line LW wing, but was injured in the 12/20 game against Winnipeg. He should be back early in 2012 and move that line, possibly with Bailey and Parentau up to second line status. He was 2-1-3/+1 in December and a bright spot as a rookie forward.
+ PA Parentau (7-25-32/-4)(4-12-16/+2) Another good month for PA. He is on a good 20G, 70P pace. He has been a constant catalyst on any line he has found himself on. The latest shakeup has him with Nielsen and Rolston, and he finished December 1-3-4 in 2 games with those linemates. I have a feeling they will move him up with Bailey and Ullstrom, to reunite grabner with Nielsen in a more defensive role when Ullstrom returns. The speculation on whether or not to resign PA should start soon… with the angle of using him as a chip for a top four defensive prospect also being put on the table. Either way, PA has earned his keep as an NHL forward and should be rewarded in July.
+ Kyle Okposo (6-9-15/-14)(4-5-9/-7) We are starting to see the 2008-09/2009-10 Kyle start to bubble out of that 2010-11 post injury Kyle. The FNGO has not been able to play above their defensive support, but Kyle has been a bright spot on that line. His one-on-one play has been fun to watch and he’s starting to be aggressive with his shot decisions, and his destination choices… KYLE IS GOING TO THE NET MORE. He has been rewarded with the latest line shake-up and this very well could be a permanent #1 line for the Isles. PA has done nothing wrong, but Kyle’s talents and Tonelli-esque board work should mesh well with open ice playmaking JT and space finding finisher Moulson. This is something to look FORWARD to in 2012!
- Brian Rolston (4-4-8/-4)(1-1-2/0) This is worth $5 million? If those stats were on Kyle Okposo or Frans Nielsen I’d say it was due to defensive responsibilities, because their play far exceeds their production. But those stats fit Brian Rolston like a tailored suit. He was supposed to be the consistent third piece to the Comeau+Bailey puzzle, but all he did was muck up whatever they had going last year with whoever they played with (Joensuu, Martin, Schremp…) He’s been moved to a line with Nielsen and Parenteau, and hopefully will be moved to the press box when David Ullstrom returns. Wallace brings more every night, and I’d hate to lose him as a fourth line presence just so Rolston can finish out his career as a fourth liner. He was brought in to teach the young forwards how to win… what he’s taught them is how to collect a huge pay check while firing shots from all over the place without putting much effort into improving your position. Rolston needs to be ex-Isled ASAP!
+ Travis Hamonic (1-8-9/-4)(1-6-7/+6) His partner (Amac) was out for the first half of December, but that didn’t slow down Travis. He has been the shutdown force at 21 that some guys don’t become until they are in their late 20’s… and he looks like he needs to show ID to get into R rated movies. This has been an incredible stats month for Travis. It was difficult to accumulate stats with a Macdonald early, as Andrew was slow to recover from his surgery. Then he was paired with captain Mark Streit, and that was not much better. But through the first three months of the season Travis has been the #1 defenseman on this club… something he shouldn’t be asked to be, but he has handled it like an ALL-STAR! Now that Andrew is back, and looking a lot more like the 2010-11 Amac, they should be able to handle the top responsibilities again. It would be nice to have a little more support, but Travis and Andrew have done a great job.
- Mark Streit (2-16-18/-18)(0-6-6/-7) I’m going to put most of the blame on slow recovery from injury. I think we all have seen enough of the good Mark Streit to accept this period of the less than mediocre Mark Streit. Due to their lack of obtaining top four defensive support, Streit has been asked to do way too much in his current state. But 2 goals at this point of the season is unacceptable with all of the PP time he gets. You can’t put it on his partners either. Staios, though not the greatest of offensive defensemen and definitely not in his prime, has performed at a higher than expected level. When Staios and Macdonald were out Hamonic far exceeded the performance of Streit when they were paired, and Jurcina has carried his weight and some of Streit’s in their partnership. Streit needs some time off. Hopefully 2012 will bring some more confidence in the AHL defensive corps or a deal for some help on the blue line. Streit needs a rest.
+ When fully healthy the defense has been better, and the replacements (Reese and de Haan) looked okay while they were here. A group that allows Mottau to get acquainted with the press box is definitely a positive.
+ This was probably coach Capuano’s toughest month in the NHL. It was the first time he has really faced adversity after success. It was actually the first time any coach has been in that situation since Ted Nolan, because Gordon never really had any success with the poor roster he was given. Though most of the month was layered with frustration and the inability to find a way to win with the ingredients he had, he found some positives in the mix, and gives us hope for 2012. The promotion of Ullstrom to replace Comeau seems to have a positive future… though I think if replaced Rolston things would have been a whole lot better in October and November. Wallace, instead of Pandolfo is also a plus. The team is playing good physical hockey without taking excessive penalties and working with their strengths while trying to hide their weaknesses. That’s all a coach can do.
+ People are starting to come back to watch. This is an opportunity that should not be lost. If they turn things around in December they might have a very good 2012.
- The playoff outlook is even BLEAKER. As noted above, the pace they’d have to maintain to challenge for a playoff spot is not even in the realm of my imagination.
- Garth Snow. I don’t think I have to rehash my 12/29 BS rants, but I will just note that the December "State of the Islanders" video Q&A revealed a lot of agenda spinning. The reasoning behind not re-signing Martinek and Hillen when your only answer is Steve Staios is an epic fail. The waiving of Blake Comeau for NOTHING, when you have available roster room, but would cost you the remaining portion of his $2.5M salary just tells us that they will not be willing to use their most abundant resource (CAP SPACE) for a missing piece this season. They took on SALARY to make the cap floor with Brian Rolston, but are unwilling to keep it so that they might be able to shuttle Rick Dipietro to Bridgeport and give the young goalies a shot in the second half. Garth Snow’s asset management has been HORRIBLE!
I love the rebuild plan, but he has no Step Two plan. The organization is devoid of top four defenders, and he has no answer but "patience." The starting point was just way too thin to say, be patient. Of his two biggest defensive acquisitions, Mark Streit has taken a giant step backwards because of injury, and Calvin de Haan has had a slow progression into the professional ranks because of injuries. If not for Travis Hamonic this team would be in a hole so deep the 2012 preseason could be played in china with not much travel at all.
- A quick look at the Islanders home attendance vs their road attendance is a pretty good indicator that this team will not be on Long island very much longer. The team plays to bigger crowds in non-hockey cities than their building could even hold… and they can’t even fill their ~16K seat arena. Any thought that goes into moving the Islanders to another NY venue will take that into consideration, and I believe this is why the subject has been muted for such long stretches. They can’t even give tickets away.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN JANUARY
The playoffs are pretty much out of the question. The team can get back to respectability though. They have had some great nights by their top line, and a progression by sub-25YO prospects. A good second half by Ullstrom, Nino and maybe one of the highly touted defensive prospects(dehaan, Donovan, Katic), or even an appearance or two by Rhett or casey could give 2012 some spark.
The trade deadline. They have two very attractive expiring contracts. Snow would do well to extend both, but he may be able to fix a deep organizational problem by trading either. The hot stove will be interesting to watch in the following months. It won’t be fun though, because losing Nielsen or Parenteau would be hard to take.