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A Quick Lesson in Chemistry: What Ails the Isles?

I'm sure back in 2003 you were part of the solution Mr. Rolston, but now you seem more like part of the problem.
I'm sure back in 2003 you were part of the solution Mr. Rolston, but now you seem more like part of the problem.

I was going to post the scoring chance update for the Islanders today, but after last night's demoralizing home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, I have no desire to put a positive spin on anything. There's a good chance that there were positives after a 34-shot game and positive Corsi numbers, but does it matter anymore? The Isles can get 50 chances a game, but you can't win without goals.

The Islanders seem to be falling into the same pattern as last year -- fast start that has everyone buzzing, followed by painfully long losing streak where they can't seem to buy a goal, ultimately knocking them out of playoff contention before the new year. Granted, it's a little early to start panicking and way too early to be thinking the Isles can't make the playoffs, but you can't deny the similarities between this year and last.

Last year the Islanders turned it around after mid-December and gave us all high expectations entering this season.  The thought that the changes in coaches and styles may have brought around better play, but here we are, new season, new coach, new style, similar results.

My take on the failures of the Islanders has everything to do with chemistry. Not line chemistry, but team chemistry. Sure there are the obvious reasons, like the team is not scoring enough and that key players aren't producing up to expectations, but we've seen these players produce before.  So why are they not producing now?


When the Islanders turned it around, gone from the lineup were Doug Weight, Trent Hunter and Mike Mottau.  Over the next two and a half weeks veterans Dwayne Roloson, Mark Eaton and Jon Sim all left the "country club" and the team was left with, for the most part, a young group of talented guys who were ready to show the NHL what they were made of. If the season had started on December 16, the Isles would have found themselves in the playoffs. Sadly, the season started two months earlier.

In the offseason, instead of upgrading the team that played so well the final two thirds of the season last year, the Islanders pretty much brought back the same team they started the 2010-11 season with.  Sure Weight, Roloson, and Sim were gone, but in their place were Brian Rolston, Evgeni Nabokov, and Jay Pandolfo.  Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau returned, towing Steve Staios into the lineup with them. I'm sure Garth Snow and management tried finding better, younger players to add to this team, but in the end they did not succeed, and trying alone doesn't win you hockey games.

Instead Snow tried filling holes again with reclamation projects.  I'm not saying some of these players haven't performed well in the early season, but if mixing 'past their prime' veterans in with our young nucleus for the sole purpose of meeting the cap floor didn't work last year, what on earth made the Islanders think it would work again this year. What does it say to your young core when you sign two guys who couldn't get an NHL contract until the end of training camp, and insert them right into your starting lineup?

This isn't to take away blame from the young players, because there is definitely enough blame for some to land on their shoulders. But something isn't working for a bunch of guys who proved last year that it could work, and for a coach who was behind the bench when it did work. 

Normally I'm optimistic, but I think it will be really hard for the Islanders to ever turn the corner if they keep with the same pattern of filling in their roster with pieces from the scrap heap. Maybe the line changes Jack Capuano institutes will help. Maybe the Islanders will turn this around without making any significant roster changes.

I'm not a scientist, science was actually my worst subject in school, but it seems a whole lot like a chemistry problem to me. You wouldn't mix trimethyl fluoro sulfuric anhydride and sodium nitride with water (trust me, you wouldn't), so why are you mixing Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey with Brian Rolston?