Boston extends the Isles stumbling. Fans boo their team in the Coliseum. People seem to getting a bit panicked.
Suddenly there is panic on the streets! After all, the Isles have lost 3 in a row. The first time this season, amidst a power outage on offense and the powerplay. The holiday crowds, who were reeled in with the good and surprising play by the Isles out the gate, have been quick to turn on them lately. Messageboards and blogs are strewn with hasty judgments and trade scenarios.
Oh, and by the way, we are still over .500.
But don't tell the chicken littles, who run from their TV or seats and whose fingers clack the keyboard after the games lately. I've never seen such a precarious unbalance by fans who have endured far worse.
Sure it's frustrating to watch a team that at first, could do nothing wrong. Now they can't shoot straight, get the bounces, or are be in position to make things happen. A hockey club that has been eager to please and get fans back in seats, offering discounted deals and incentives, has now had to duck and weave through the type of emotion that is usually left for bottom of the standings, Yashin debates, and ownership snafus.
Sure, they lost three in a row, and have looked listless. You can see the team is frustrated, trying to turn it around. But the hanging rope seems too quick to be applied.
What is the Isles problem? Well, like Jaffe and Rose said during the game last night, in which I said over a week ago...but hey, maybe they read my blog...teams are coming in knowing how to beat the Isles. They have been scouted. Flaws have been seen, and the Isles have been slow to adjust.
But lets go a bit deeper. And maybe we'll hear Jaffe and Rose expound on this next week.
I think it is a multi-tiered problem for the Isles . . .
1: Scouting is more complete. Opposing teams now have good tapes and scouting reports on the Isles. It has shut down the big forwards and completely tagged the PP. A PP
2: This rides hand-in-hand with #1. Isles aren't adjusting to new schemes and looks. Montreal made them look silly. And when they come apart, like vs Carolina,TO and Atlanta, they stay unglued.
3: The players don't fully trust the systems. This rides with #2. When they hiccup, they tend to come apart at the seams. When they deviate from gameplans, they fail. But they seem to be very easily thrown off that gameplan lately. Gallant and Chabot came in and really gave the Isles some sharp play on both the PP and the PK out the gate. But both have dropped off. Are the Isles limited by the inability of either to make successful adjustments to their systems? Are either assisant coaches, plus
4: Lack of skillset/plus some vet love. Prime example: Hilbert on a #3 line that gets #2 line time. Think it hasn't effected output??? How about Bergie on line 2. He's done actually pretty good and developing nicely as a banger/crasher. But he's not Patrick Kane in disguise. In truth, there is a lack of skill/scoring in certain places on all 3 lines. We knew this coming into the season, actually. Just seeing it now. Despite the offensive output at the season's start, the goals have fallen to earth. Maybe this is more indicative of their true output with current personnel?
5: That the retooling of the Isles are incomplete because we couldn't spend mucho dollars or attract top talent. Because we went with Tier 2/3/sleepers, that we've remade the core, but still lack necessary pieces that really can make the ultimate difference. And you can't coach that. Systems and coaching can only go so far.
6: Slides and losing streaks happen, and players will get over it. Current players will learn, grow and overcome, OR changes will be made to make that happen. We all want this team to win, but to do so must allow a team to fail and find its way without piling on.
So, in the end: what is the real problem?
Well, folks, one thing is fan expectations. Some might have been a bit too suckered on the hype and the great play out the gate. They aren't this bad either, as the last few games would indicate. But it certainly, due to the hightened expectations, caused more pressure. Changes take time. Snow just did his first offseason, Nolan finally got SOME not all, of his changes and new players.
Isles are doing what many thought they'd do before the season started. Do they expect to do better? Sure. For a while, they were hitting their potential. The exuded confidence, and made things happen every time. Look at the Comrie/Tank/Guerin line, which was very quickly dismantled even before this slide. Maybe too quick? Since them, besides some shortterm results from new combos: Hunter with Tank/Comrie, Bergie with Vasicek/Satan, Guerin with Sillinger/Hilbert . . . they have been altered again.
The Isles are just playing OK lately, and as Nolan said after last night's game. OK isn't acceptable. And perhaps the coaching needs to adjust as teams come in with seemingly effective ways to throw off the Islanders gameplan and play. And most of all, the players need to adjust. The positioning of players has been horrendous. Offensively and defensively, players have not been as effective winning the individual battles.
And when is the last time you saw an Islander creating havoc in front of the net on offense? About the time before this offensive drought started, I would think.
But the real culprit to this stumble is the schedule. This is one thing that Jaffe and Rose brought up last night . . . so credit them for this golden nugget...and is something we have not talked about here since back at the start of this month. That October's schedule was very lax with lots of dead time. Now, in November, that schedule is much more active, and the Isles have looked a bit tired and offput some nights. Coincidence? I think not.
The Isles struggles mentally and physically right now. Now they hit the road Wednesday for a game against the Thrashers, Friday at the Panthers, and Saturday at the Lightning. Tough games, and pretty active schedule all the way through the weekend. Somewhere along the line, the Isles need a second wind . . . fast.