Islanders trying to dig themselves out of early-season hole - Metro US

Islanders trying to dig themselves out of early-season hole

New York Islanders
It's been a sloppy start to the 2016-17 season for the Islanders.
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The tone of Jack Capuano’s words were calm, measured.

Their meanings were anything but.

“The level of concern for me is a power play goal with (Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares) and (an even strength goal from Dennis) Seidenberg,” Capuano said after the Islanders dropped a 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers Thursday night at Barclays Center.

Entering Monday night’s home date against the Canucks, the Islanders have lost five of six, and have been outscored by an aggregate 21-15.

“That’s my concern,” Capuano continued. “Where are we going to get point production? One hundred and thirty four points out of our lineup that we lost (when Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo left in free agency). Now we have to find a way. Like everything gets magnified, I get it. You guys are talking about the (losses) lately, it’s a power play goal, but we have to find a way to get some balanced offense in our hockey team.

“That’s my concern.”

After the first dozen games of their 2016-17 season, the Islanders are 4-6-2 for 10 points. They are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 15th out of 16th in the Eastern Conference. Only Carolina, 3-4-3 for nine points, are worse in the division and the conference.

Unlike the Hurricanes, who are engaged in a rebuilding project, the Islanders are coming off of a 2015-16 season in which they won a playoff round for the first time since 1992-93 and reached the Elite Eight before losing to Tampa Bay.

The off-season saw GM Garth Snow spend on Andrew Ladd (seven years, $38.5 million), Jason Chimera (two years, $4.5 million), P.A. Parenteau (one year, $1.25 million) and Seidenberg (one year, $1 million).

The early returns have been less than promising.

Seidenberg, signed during the World Cup of Hockey, leads the newcomers with four goals and four assists for eight points in 12 games. Ladd only has one assist despite playing in every game. Chimera has three assists in 12 games.

Bizarrely, Parenteau was placed on waivers during training camp and was subsequently claimed by the New Jersey Devils, where he has five points in 10 games.

“Some guys, obviously, need to play better. Some guys are struggling. You saw some of the puck battles out there. I don’t have to tell you who they are. At the end of the day those are the little things that are big in our game,” Capuano said.

“We have to re-evaluate some of our guys.”

Which, to hear Capuano speak, could mean sitting underperforming veterans.

“(It) was concerning about a few guys, they way they came out. I won’t lie to you,” Capuano said. “Again, they’re professionals here. They have to earn their ice time. So we’re going to have some decisions to make and if we have to play the young kids, we’ll play the young kids.”

Already the decision was made to keep 2015 first round pick Anthony Beauvillier at the NHL level. Beauvillier has played 10 games and under the auspices of the current collective bargaining agreement, he cannot be sent back to his junior team.

Another potential option is 19-year old Matthew Barzal, who has played two games with the Islanders after being called up after the season-opening 5-3 loss to the Rangers.

The most significant area of concern for Capuano is the defense, which sustained a blow when it was announced Sunday that Travis Hamonic would miss 4-to-6 weeks with an upper body injury sustained in the Islanders’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night.

Without Hamonic, an already short-handed defense corps became thinner.

“We need to analyze the back end, too,” Capuano said. “We still have six guys. So if we want to bring a guy up, have seven ‘D’ on the back end we need to make a move. We have to do something. I just think over time one of the ‘D’ can use a break, too. It’s a lot of practice time with six defensemen on the ice constantly and then getting in the game. It’s unfair for those guys, too. A lot of the execution comes from the back end. They’re logging some minutes back there. Especially with our lack of discipline the last couple games. We have to analyze it.”

You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.

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