Just when things couldn’t look any uglier for the New York Islanders, mired and looking helpless in a five-game losing streak, comes bad news affecting their future: Devon Toews joins Calvin de Haan in the “shoulder surgery: out for the season” category.
It also follows another high-impact injury, as first-line winger and Art Ross (!) candidate Josh Bailey suffered an injury early in Friday’s loss to the Penguins, which Staple reports will likely keep him out of Sunday’s meeting with the Devils and possibly more after the five-day break that follows.
All told, it represents a remarkable change of fortunes for an Islanders team that was flying high and vying for the Metropolitan Division lead just two months ago. They’ve been in a tailspin since de Haan’s injury, while an injury to Johnny Boychuk has further weakened an already less-than-intimidating blueline.
With a terrible December continuing into 2018, the current season-high five-game losing streak already has the team in poor straits. This series of injuries exacerbates that, and also provides fodder for those of us who watched the early season top-six-dependent success with a fear that one key injury could submarine things.
(For those of a certain fatalist bent, it’s also reminiscent of the dark days when Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit were both felled by long-term shoulder injuries in the same preseason, back when de Haan was a prospect and Mike Mottau was a, um, solution.)
The Toews surgery is an extra blow. Fellow promising prospect Sebastian Aho was recalled when Boychuk hit IR, but the sense was that Toews would’ve gotten the nod if he weren’t dealing with what at the time sounded like only a nagging injury.
Turns out, the injury more than nagged. And in addendum to his article, Staple reports the organization’s view of Toews matches that held by its most youth-believing fans (including yours truly):
I know you’re all focused on the first part of tonight’s #Isles Insider, but Devon Toews out for the year is a big blow. Org sees him as a top-4 D-man next season and this is a big setback for his development.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 7, 2018
It’s widely believed the Islanders will let de Haan walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer, not so much because they want to part ways with him — he’s one of three regulars who aren’t in the five-man scratch rotation — but because they didn’t want to budget the kind of open-market price a defenseman like de Haan is likely to command. (Insert your own “they’re budgeting for bottom-six and bottom pair instead” joke here.) That’s why last summer the two parties could only come to terms on a one-year extension for this season, taking him up to a UFA payday in July.
But de Haan’s latest shoulder surgery — the third major one in the career for a player who was feared to be “injury prone” during his development before making the Isles — also could affect what he can command on the market next summer.
“Injury prone” is often an unfair label ascribing pattern to what is more random variable, but it’s something that lingers when considering committing major term and money to a player.
Meanwhile, one of the cost-controlled players who allows the Islanders to think they can budget elsewhere for de Haan is, now, out for the season. Which means Toews won’t yet have an NHL game under his belt heading into next season’s training camp, though he will be 24 years old — not exactly a “green” prospect after three seasons in college and another season and a half in the AHL.
Anyway, that’s a lot of intersecting story lines for one post. And all of them, somehow, are so Islanders.