The New York Islanders are struggling right now. They’re 9-13-3 since Dec. 1 and no longer occupy a playoff spot. Things are looking bleak and the people, well, lemme tell you something about the people. The people are angry.
Mobs have started to form in front of Barclays Center on a daily basis. Angry mobs. Each day they grow in size, in their depravity, in their unrelenting thirst for blood. They want heads and lemme tell you something about how they want those heads: they want those heads on spikes.
No NHL team allows more goals per game than the Islanders (3.63). They are the first NHL team to allow 175 goals in their first 48 games in 11 years. They're on pace to become the first NHL team in 12 years to allow 300 goals in a season.
And those are just the stats that I have memorized. Lord knows what else I'd uncover if I looked this up on the internet.
So why are the Islanders allowing more goals than any NHL team in more than a decade?
Because they give up the most shots, scoring chances and high-danger shot attempts in the entire league at even strength (stats through Game 48 vs Chicago per Natural Stat Trick). Because every game brings with it a steady flow of odd-man rushes and other point-blank opportunities that the goalies have not stopped an adequate percentage of (6th-lowest EV save %). Because they have the second-worst penalty kill percentage in the league.
And why is all that happening?
There's no one, single answer here. Something as thoroughly inept as the Islanders’ inability to prevent goals can only be the result of multiple factors.
It’s on Garth Snow and the faulty roster he has put together and failed to improve. It’s on Doug Weight and his inability to make adjustments. It’s on some important players that are out with injury. It's on the healthy players playing poorly - the defensemen, the goalies, the forwards - all of them. It's on the Accounting Department for not processing expense reimbursements in a timely manner. It's on Human Resources for failing to resolve disputes effectively. It’s on the ushers. It’s on the ice girls. Every single current and former employee of the New York Islanders organization and/or Barclays Center should feel nothing but complete and total shame.
How can the Islanders solve this problem?
First, Garth Snow can improve the roster by making a trade.
(It’s funnier if I just let that sentence breathe by itself rather than come up with some kind of joke here, trust me.)
Second, Doug Weight can make some adjustments to the game plan. For example, he can tell his defensemen to stop pinching into the offensive zone in situations where doing so would be ridiculously stupid. That is one example of something he can do, should he at any point grow tired of the endless parade of 2-on-1s his team is conceding.
Here’s something else he can technically do: he can learn how to ride a unicycle. He can become a sculptor. He can buy a drone and become proficient in operating it. He can learn Japanese. Doug Weight can literally do whatever he wants. And who knows? Maybe he wants to make some changes to a hockey team that’s giving up goals by the baker’s dozen, Bob.
Third, the players can stop turning the puck over.
Let me explain to you what a turnover is. The Islanders have the puck. Then, they don't. That’s a turnover. Is it as bad as it sounds? Most definitely.
This is not a laughing matter. Yes, I know I tend to joke around on occasion. I’ll dabble in hot dogs and fireballs and beach balls if I have to, sure. And snails and cookies and treasonous bastard defensemen and Pierre McGuire relieving himself in the Honda SUV. Yeah, fine. Guilty as charged, your honor.
But lemme tell you something: this is neither the time nor the place for any of that.
Turnovers are an epidemic.
Turnovers are horrible. They are horrid, horrendous, horrific. They are the only reason I now know there are four words starting in “horr” that all describe something very bad. Turnovers are repulsive. They disgust me.
Turnovers represent everything that’s bad...about everything that’s bad. Wow, that’s some deep shit. Please take a moment to reflect on that.
Turnovers occur when players make poor decisions with the puck. And the Islanders have made some extremely poor decisions with the puck this season.
Video 1: Goals Allowed in the 6-5 Loss vs Ottawa (12/1/17)
If I had to choose one game that most accurately sums up the Islanders’ season thus far, it would be the game in which they scored five goals but somehow still lost: the 6-5 home loss to Ottawa back on Dec. 1, 2017.
The sputtering Senators entered this game on a seven-game winless streak. The Islanders came in riding a (still) season-high four-game winning streak, and they had yet to lose in regulation on home ice.
All of these streaks came to an end on this night, and they did so because of turnovers.
Of the six goals Ottawa scored, five of them came within mere seconds of the Islanders either having clean control of the puck or having ample opportunity to clear it out of danger. That’s not getting beat; that’s beating yourself. Here are all six goals the Isles allowed in this game.
If you just threw up on your monitor or phone, you can probably hold off on cleaning up. Because there’s more where that came from below.
Video 2: Turnovers that Lead to Goals Against
The following video consists of the most blatant turnovers the Islanders have committed this season that have led directly to goals being scored against them. Please note: I have added some beautiful classical music and laugh tracks to offset the obscene nature of what you’re about to see. Viewer discretion is advised.
Video 3: Turnovers and Miscellaneous Shitty Defense
A turnover doesn’t need to lead to a goal against for it to be a terrible play. In fact whether or not the puck goes in is almost besides the point. It’s bad enough for a turnover to lead to a prime scoring chance against. Valuing “the process” over results means evaluating a play without regard for whether your goalie was able to bail you out or not.
So the following video consists of a whole bunch of other Islanders turnovers, along with some other miscellaneous instances of shitty defensive play sprinkled in, just for flavor.
FYI: please do not take the medley of Josh Ho-Sang turnovers at the beginning of this video to mean I support the team leaving him down in Bridgeport in favor of...Ross Johnston. This is not a comment on how the team has handled the talented winger’s development, or on whether the organization has been fair and consistent in how it holds players accountable.
I only included it because it would be absurd to make an “Islanders Turnovers” video and not include some of Ho-Sang’s work. That would be like creating an “NHL Cheap Shots” video and omitting Brad Marchand. Or like creating an “NHL Assholes” video and omitting Brad Marchand. Or like creating an “NHL Party Animals” video and omitting Brad Marchand. Just to give a few examples.
Well there you have it, folks.
So what’s the takeaway here? Why did I just show you all this footage of the Islanders turning the puck over like a bunch of morons?
First, to show you definitive proof that turnovers are a sure way to bring about disappointment, despair, agony, frustration, confusion, sorrow and anger. There’s just no way around it.
Second, to make it clear that the issues plaguing this team do not fall exclusively on the shoulders of those tasked with running it. When the game starts, the players need to pay better attention to detail and make better decisions. They need to value the puck.
A good number of these turnovers were committed by some of the team’s best players - Tavares, Leddy, Bailey, etc. And look, I get that “Johnny always has the puck so of course he’s gonna turn it over occasionally.” But Johnny doesn’t have to try dangling through two Senators in the defensive zone. Johnny can make smarter decisions. Johnny can limit his turnover mistakes to safer areas of the ice. Isn’t that right, Johnny? [Johnny solemnly nods in agreement.]
Turnovers have cost the Islanders a bunch of points in the standings this season. They should all feel very bad about this. And you should too.
Until next time, friends.