Taking yet another break from my introductory series on hockey analytics, I want to address a question I have:
What exactly does Garth Snow plan to do about the Isles' three problems? Because it's certainly not clear he has any plans at all.
Let's look at each of the three problems in turn, short term and long term:
PROBLEM ONE: The 3rd and 4th lines are utter liabilities that essentially concede the Ice to opponents when they're on the Ice.
I talked about this problem in my last post. Last year's bottom six (mainly the fourth line) was the worst in the NHL causing the Isles to have a substandard forward corp despite a fine top 6. How has Garth addressed this?
Short Term (This Year): Nothing. The Bottom 6 is right now shaping up to be:
Figure Bailey gets put in there over McDonald when he's healthy and maybe Joenssu as well.
Basically this is the same bottom 6 as last year's awful group. The only reason to expect an improvement is that it can't be worse (Positive Regression) and Cizikas will get a full season. Of course the more Boulton plays, the worse this unit is.
Long Term (Next Year and Beyond): Nino, Strome, Nelson and Kabanov arrive (or well 3/4 should make the team next year barring injury) pushing the Frans Nielsen line down to 3rd, Reasoner is replaced by Cizikas on 4th, and the increased depth improves the Forward Corp.
CONCLUSION: The problem should in theory be addressed by next year and for long term. In Theory.
PROBLEM TWO: The Defensemen Corp is extremely thin after the top two/three.
Short Term Solutions?: In Short-Term the D should be slightly better if Lubo reports, giving the Isles 4 good D-men. Hickey's an acceptable 5. Unfortunately, Carkner is terrible (seriously he's just a goon who masks himself as a defensemen) and Martinek is past his prime and still....well, i wouldn't expect a full year. Long story short, barring some call-ups, this is gonna be a weakness again for this team.
Long Term (Next Year & Beyond): It may seem like long term this gets better due to our prospects. Except the Isles are losing two D-men to free agency next year in Lubo and Streit, meaning suddenly they have two more spots to fill. The Isles' D Corp for 2013-2014 looks like this:
Yeah, ew. You can try to fill those two spots with Ness and deHaan but Ness isn't projected to be more than an average 3rd pair at best and deHaan is coming off injury. Hickey's another 3rd pair guy. None of the remaining D prospects are close or as likely to be legit D-Men in the NHL except maybe Reinhart, who's at best 2 years away (Mayfield is also 2 years away at best).
Oh and we still have Carkner for 2 more years for some reason. EWWWW.
CONCLUSION: Yeah, there's some holes here Garth both short-term and long-term. Better pray those prospects work out.
PROBLEM THREE: The Goalie Problem
Yeah, you heard me, the goalie problem. Right now the Isles' solution to their goalie woes is Evgeni Nabokov. Of course he's:
A. On a 1 year contract.
B. 37 years old
C. the 28th best goalie with 750 EV Shots Faced or more in the League
suggests there's still a problem here. Nabby did well early on due to amazing luck on the PK...which didn't last. At EV, he was well below average, if not as bad as traditional Isles Goalies.
Short Term: Nothing. Garth committed us to Nabokov this year. No other solutions are close.
Long Term: Ummm Pray? There's a dirty secret no Isles fan wants to face but it's true:
The Isles have ZERO good goalie prospects who are likely to even be a below average NHL goalie. Isles' goalies in the pipeline:
Mikko Koskinen (Soon to be 25): .892 SV% in AHL two years ago, .916 SV% in Finnish league this year.
Anders Nilsson (22-23): .911 SV% over 1132 AHL shots in last two years.
Kevin Poulin (22-23): .914 SV% over 2702 AHL shots in last three years.
None of these options look good, even if two of them are young and both Poulin and Nilsson are having their worst years NOW. I don't put much stock in that, but the larger sample size isn't impressive either - a .914 SV% (Poulin's) is bottom third in the league, same as Nabokov....except the AHL SV% is likely to be higher than an NHL SV%.
So the Isles' long term solution to their goalie problem is essentially to pray that one of these guys breaks out for real. But well, there's no sign of it coming any time soon.
So yeah, we've now looked at the Isles' three problems, and short term the Isles have no solutions (so this year is basically screwed) and long term, the Isles don't have solutions to two of these three problems. That's a problem. That's a big problem. Which brings me back to Garth Snow.
Garth Snow has been the GM now for 7 years. He's overseen a rebuilding team for 4 years - this is year 5. In year 5 of a rebuild, you expect to see progress in the NHL standings. But the Isles look to be the same as last year.
In year 5 of a rebuild you expect to see assets just over the horizon that offer long term solutions to the problems. But for two of the Isles' main problems.....there is nothing but a prayer.
So what exactly is Garth Snow doing as GM? Anything? Does he have a plan at all? Curious minds do wonder.