With a day or so to digest what caused Gallant to pack his bags into a taxi on the way out of Raleigh’s PNC Arena, it seems he more or less adheres to the same old school hockey philosophy that the Islanders currently operate under.
That’s not to say Gallant is a bad coach or didn’t have the players ears. But the Panthers weren’t lighting the world on fire in terms of scoring chances, and the coach visibly chafed against some of the moves the team made over the summer. Gone were bangers like Erik Gudbranson and Willie Mitchell and in were Keith Yandle and Jason Demers, players who push the puck rather than pushing opposing players into the boards.
I don’t think Gallant would return to the team he was once an assistant for, anyway. But if he did, the ideas he would have would most likely echo the ones Jack Capuano and assistants Doug Weight and Greg Cronin have already tried and failed and tried again at using over the last season and a quarter.
What the Islanders really need is a new way of thinking. A way that better fits the players they have, not the ones they want to have. And no one has (perhaps inadvertently) articulated that better than Ryan Strome, the 23-year-old former fifth overall pick experiencing a clear crisis in confidence after being a healthy scratch for two straight games (he’s in tonight, BTW)
“It doesn’t really matter what I think . . . I’ve either got to play better or find a way to make them more happy, I guess,” Strome said after finishing his extra on-ice work yesterday morning at Northwell Health Ice Center. “You can talk all you want about what you do or don’t do; obviously we’re not winning, so something’s got to change.”
Strome sounds lost and confused about his role on the team and what he needs to do to get his young career back on track. Being a healthy scratch is nothing new for him and bumper sticker phrases like “Work harder” probably aren’t the answers he’s looking for. I know they’re not the ones we want. But that appears to be what we’re all getting.
On Tuesday’s Point Blank Podcast, Brian Compton and Mike Carver said they felt Strome needed a change of scenery. On the same show, Staple said the Islanders wouldn’t probably trade him with an expansion draft coming up, but that Capuano has, for whatever reason, singled Strome out when the team struggles.
All of these thoughts are very depressing. Strome is still young and still talented, and no one is more intimately aware of his on-ice problems this season than he is.
More importantly, the Islanders’ problems extend far beyond one player. They average 2.3 goals per game and if you can remember all of the times they’ve scored more than twice in a game, you’re a better person than I am. Their games are often sluggish, low-wattage affairs leading to inevitable defeat. Their special teams are sub-mediocre. There is always - always - somebody or somebodies in a multi-game slump. Lines that make no sense in the first place are nevertheless rearranged constantly. They spend whole periods, sometimes half a game, in their own zone. They have blown more third period leads* this season than they have wins. Whatever the opposite of clutch is, they are that.
All of that adds up to dead last in the NHL after 21 games and a season on the brink of total annihilation in a week in which they play two of the league’s best teams who also happen to be division rivals.
Garth Snow drafted Strome because he expected him to be a difference maker for his club. Now, his coach sits Strome while the rest of the team - wholly constructed by Snow - sputters.
Strome’s right. Something’s got to change. Like the Panthers, the Islanders should start with the guys making the decisions on who plays and when.
* - That tweet was just prior to the now infamous San Jose game in which the Islanders tied and lost the game within the final minute of the third period. So throw another log on that fire.