The Islanders missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year this season and once again head into the offseason questioning what went wrong.
While the team remained in the playoff picture up until March, it wasn’t the sexiest way of doing so. Another slow start put head coach Jack Capuano on the hot seat, but saw things cool down as the team strung some wins together and climbed out the Eastern Conference basement.
And just as quickly as they got into the playoff hunt they fell right back out and eventually were mathematically eliminated after their 5-1 loss the Ottawa Senators on April 1st.
The Islanders did have a few positives over the course of the, up and down, 2011-12 campaign.
For one, Islanders all-star forward John Tavares continued to make leaps and bounds in his development this year. The 21-year-old centerman scored a career-high 31 goals, along with 50 assists for 81 points. Not to mention his on-ice dominance he exhorted in every game. Another positive was the contributions of PA Parenteau, who led the Isles in assists with 49, and Matt Moulson, who scored 36 goals this year and had his third consecutive 30-goal season.
Then there was Islanders goaltending, which was the most stable it has been in quite some time. Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov held down the fort, combining 28 wins on the season. Nabokov later took over the role of starting goaltender as the season progressed. Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson and Rick DiPietro also made appearances in net this year.
But the Islanders lacked secondary scoring and defense in a big way this year.
While Moulson, Tavares and Parenteau put up big numbers, there were not too many players that did. Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey started the year slowly and did not find the scoring touch until the final weeks of the season. Jay Pandolfo, Marty Reasoner and Nino Niederreiter scored a single goal during the entire season.
The Islanders were ranked 28th in the league in goals for, averaging just 2.39 per game.
On the defensive end the Islanders struggled. They were ranked 27th allowing 3.06 goals against per game. Defenseman, and captain, Mark Streit struggled for most of the season, while Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald were the team’s most reliable defensemen. Other than that the Islanders’ blue-line was a weak point.
Going forward the Islanders obviously have the arena question still plaguing them. But on the ice, things are looking up.
They’ll be retaining the services of Nabokov in net for another season. Nabokov stole quite a few games for the Isles this past season and will have another big impact next season.
Prospects David Ullstrom and Casey Cizikas will vie for a roster spot next season after promising stints with the team this season. In 15 games, Cizikas managed to hold his own and contribute four assists. Ullstrom displayed his speed and powerful shot during his 29 games with the Islanders. He put up four goals and four assists for eight points.
Defensive prospects Aaron Ness and Matt Donovan will also get more time with the Isles next season. Both had strong performances during separate stints this past season.
The Islanders will have to address the lack of secondary scoring and defense during the off-season and they’ll be in a better position to make the playoffs next year.
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