Hey, I have an idea... Since I couldn't finish this article during my lunch break like normal, how about I write it during the game tonight?
Well, at one point, the Isles had moved up to 14th in our rankings, after the win in Pittsburgh, but the devastating losses that followed (just the first two) dropped them down one spot. Still good enough to be in the playoffs, if all schedules were created equal. Alas, they're not and the Isles are paying for it. [Note: One more loss doesn't really move the needle too much at this point in the season].
Weekly Roundup of Opinion Polls
|Site||Updated||New Ranking||Prior Ranking||Comments|
|SportsNet||3/29/2017||17||17||["Honest Team Slogan" Edition] "Whatever You Like, Mr. Tavares."|
|ESPN||3/27/2017||17||19||Captain John Tavares is playing some of his best hockey as the Islanders have climbed from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings into the playoff race. Tavares has three goals and four assists in his past six games for the Isles, who are just two points behind Boston for the East's second wild card.|
|TSN||3/27/2017||19||---||The Isles brought back Jaro Halak from the minors and it resulted in a 4-3 shootout win over Pittsburgh, helping keep them in the playoff hunt.|
|THN||3/29/2017||21||19||After scoring just two goals in his first 24 games, free-agent acquisition Andrew Ladd has hit the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career. With just eight assists, however, he’s on pace for his worst offensive totals in nine seasons, not to mention the Cy Young Award|
|Average||18.5||18.3||Wait Ladd's a pitcher now?|
Two of the publications produced their weekly lists a few days earlier, and therefore have more uplifting story lines than they now deserve. No matter what happens this season, I look forward to touting our team's Cy Young winner next year!
LHH Power Rankings
For games through 3/29/17
|2||Columbus Blue Jackets||75||38||19||18||94||119.1|
|5||New York Rangers||77||38||26||13||89||113.7|
|10||San Jose Sharks||76||35||26||15||85||106.3|
|11||St. Louis Blues||76||35||28||13||83||105.3|
|14||Toronto Maple Leafs||75||29||24||22||80||103.9|
|15||New York Islanders||75||28||28||19||75||102.6|
|18||Tampa Bay Lightning||75||27||29||19||73||101.2|
|23||Los Angeles Kings||76||23||33||20||66||91.9|
|26||Detroit Red Wings||76||16||33||27||59||87.2|
|27||New Jersey Devils||76||18||35||23||59||85.5|
Not that it's any consolation, but the number crunching supports what many likely think, even if it isn't always said: If the Islanders were in any other division, they'd likely be in a playoff spot now. And that's even with factoring in whatever coaching and GM decisions you might have a gripe with (I have my share of them... I just don't want this to be a longer article than necessary), or the current horrible run of play. Yes, the Isles have actually fared OK against their upper-echelon division rivals, but playing them half as much and playing any other division twice as often would likely have yielded the Isles at least a handful more standings points over the course of the season.
Hey, this is going to happen, unfortunately. The past few seasons, it was one of the Western Conference divisions that was a group of death. Unless they go to playing everyone the same number of times and taking the top 16, there will be someone on the outside looking in, who really belonged in the dance. This year, it's starting to look like our turn. Unless we keep Averying all over the place, that is.
How I Would Open Up the Game
So let's have some much needed distraction. Instead of bashing the team we love, let me present something else for you to whack like a pinata...
Last week, I asked you what one rule you'd implement to help increase scoring, and you didn't disappoint! There were suggestions regarding the size of the rink, goal, defensemen sticks, goaltender and skater equipment. There were variations of eliminating the blue line, or expanding the offensive zone to the red line after gaining the blue line. There were also mentions about re-implementing the no-tolerance holding and obstruction calls a la the season after the most recent lockout, letting the team in the offensive zone have last line change (regardless of who's the home team), and various forms of forbidding players and/or goalies from dropping down to the ice. Finally, there were suggestions of forcing goalies to play the puck rather than cover it for an icing, and extending two minute penalties to the full term, regardless of the number of goals scored. And there's always a few people who would prefer to do nothing.
And then there were the summoning of beasts. But I think that merits its own article. Maybe next week's.
I asked what you would do because Mike Bossy weighed in on it recently, suggesting extra lines in front of the crease to form a key as you see in basketball. His gripe is that players simply don't have the room to make plays anymore, which has led to the decrease in goals. My own suggestion is similar but not quite the same as what others suggested regarding the blue lines.
Let me just first state that I don't necessarily want more scoring, but the League is always looking to increase scoring, so that's the point of the exercise. As I've stated many times recently, it doesn't matter what you or I really want. It's what the League thinks we want, even though they never seem to ask us. OK, on with it.
PROPOSAL: Make the blue lines another icing line, rather than offsides.
The reason? As every advanced stats person can tell you, gaining the offensive zone with possession leads to a far better chance at scoring than dumping it in. This rule would effectively force teams to do so.
When you're coming down the ice, you could skate over the blue line or pass it into the zone while teammates are already standing in it. But if nobody touches the puck and the puck ends up crossing the end line, it's immediately blown dead as an automatic icing. Unlike icings from your own side of the red line (where the faceoff comes back to your own end), the ensuing faceoff will be on the dots just outside the blue line, in the same manner that current offsides rules would dictate.
I already stated the obvious "PRO" argument: To increase scoring. Although it doesn't do so by changing equipment or goal size, or anything else that would be a jarring difference compared to today's product. The assumption is that teams would naturally just have better - or at least more - scoring chances. If you're not talented enough to carry or pass the puck to a teammate, especially since you don't have to worry about being offsides anymore, then you likely shouldn't be in the NHL. This rule would also likely prevent a team who's ahead by a goal from wasting time by doing the ol' chip-and-chase. If you want to run out the clock, spend time at the other end of the ice with possession.
The "CON" arguments? Well, there will always be a feeling that it's too easy to get down the ice. I feel like that notion would fade with time, though. After all, this isn't too different from allowing two line passes. Another issue is the "cherry picking" argument; that a team might keep one player up around the opposition blue line in the hopes that they could get the puck to him. But I ask you: if that was a concern, why don't teams keep one player beyond the red line with today's rules? Because teams are too timid to do so already. I don't see how this would change that. But if it became an issue, you could always institute a "no three line pass" rule.
Perhaps the defending team could adopt a formation that would make it practically impossible to get through that area of ice? Well, they could do that already in the neutral zone, couldn't they? Depending on how much the referees let them get away with, anyway. But with no worry about offsides, a team's only concern would be missing the pass entirely, thus ending up over the end line for a faceoff on the dots just outside the zone.
The biggest concern I could really see with this is that the game would feel a bit more like a free-for-all. But wasn't that how the sport felt back in the 80s? Is that necessarily a bad thing? The way I see it, you'd be making it possible for the best players to do more for their teams, while further eliminating the grinders and fighters from the game. While such players will hold sentimental value, I thought it was already determined that the game was better without them?
But of course the person making the proposal can never see the biggest reasons why such a system could fail. That's what I have you wonderful people for! So tell me... what problems or concerns do you think would arise out of this proposed rule change? Don't hold back, after last night's game, you could use a punching bag. That's what I'm here for.