Not long ago it would seem silly to write an article about the Islanders needing offense. It still feels a little wrong considering their much bigger problems with defense, goaltending, and penalty killing.
But after barely averaging two goals a game (2.17) over their past eight games, the Islanders have definitely cooled off in the goal scoring department. And one person they could seriously use some help from is forward Michael Grabner.
Grabs is a fan favorite and someone fans have always pleaded to get more ice time, but offensively Grabner has been absent for some time now. Nobody loves Grabner more than I do (well #ThatsNotEntirelyTrue), but his lack of goal scoring has officially become an issue.
Grabner has gone 15 straight games without a goal. In fact, he has scored in only one game all season, opening night against the Devils. He has also gone 9 straight games without a point, tying the longest pointless streak of his career.
Long absences from the scoresheet was not something Grabner normally took last season. The longest goalless and scoreless streak he had last season was a mere 5 games. Grabner has never gone this long in his career without a goal, and only once went this long without registering a point (9 games in 2011-12).
The lack of goals from Grabner could start with the number of shots on goal he is getting. Grabner has 31 shots on goal so far this season, helped considerably by an eight-SOG game against the Buffalo Sabres. That ranks him sixth on the team, behind the likes of Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic. In his three previous seasons with the Isles, Grabner finished 3rd each year, behind just John Tavares and Matt Moulson.
More disturbing than the actual total of shots on goal is the frequency at which Grabner is recording them. Grabner has only recorded more than two shots on goal in three games this season. In fact, he has failed to record multiple shots on goal in 9 of his 16 games so far this season. In comparison, Grabner registered multiple shots in 31 of his 45 games last season (69%), failing to do so in only 14 games.
While Grabner's lack of offense is puzzling, the one thing you cannot blame it on is ice time. A popular complaint by fans, Grabner's even strength ice time is actually up from last year.
Want to blame it on his usage? Grabner has been utilized pretty evenly across the board this season (33.2% O-Zone, 35.8% Neutral Zone, and 31.1% D-Zone starts), and his O-Zone starts are actually up this season from last (33.2% from 31%).
While Grabner's advanced stats have been good this season, as have those of frequent linemates Peter Regin and Cal Clutterbuck, the end result is Michael Grabner isn't on the Islanders to be Regin or Clutterbuck. He is on this team, and in the NHL for that matter, for the sole purpose of scoring goals.
With 32 of the Islanders 44 goals scored by forwards this year coming from guys named Tavares, Nielsen, Okposo, Bailey, and Moulnek, the team needs to start getting goal scoring from other players.
While help from guys like Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald, Regin, Clutterbuck, and Martin would be appreciated, Grabner is the only one of them that goals are expected from. I'm sure that Grabner more than anyone knows this to be the case. Having a 12.7% career shooting percentage, I doubt that he will continue to shoot at a paltry 6.5%.
But how long is it going to take for him to turn it around? No matter what the other numbers are saying, the Islanders need Grabner to start adding to the only number that matters for him, the one that directly follows the word GOALS in the boxscore.