Ryan Dadoun

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What Went Wrong: NYI, TBL

Monday, July 17, 2017


We’re down to the final two teams of the What Went Wrong series: The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning.  Both of those squads missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, but they also entered the 2016-17 campaign with a real chance of getting deep into the postseason.

 

As with the other editions of this series, we’ll start each team’s section by talking about what happened with that squad in general and then focus on players that either underperformed or who they’ll otherwise need more from next season.  Feel free to also view part one (Colorado and Vancouver), part two (New Jersey and Arizona), part three (Buffalo and Detroit), part four (Florida and Dallas), part five (Los Angeles and Carolina), and part six (Winnipeg and Philadelphia).

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

 

New York Islanders

 

The Islanders made it to the second round of the 2016 playoffs, which also meant that they won their first postseason series since 1993.  They were going into the 2016-17 campaign with ambitions of taking another step forward, especially after adding Andrew Ladd over the summer.

 

At first the season went okay with them posting a 4-5-0 record through October, but the Islanders fell hard in November to the point where they were 6-10-4 through Nov. 25.  They climbed back out of that hole only to suffer a five-game losing streak that set them back to 11-14-6 through Dec. 18.

 

There was a few reasons for their lackluster performance.  One is that Andrew Ladd got off to a dreadful start to the season.  I’ll go into that more when we talk about him specifically in the individual players section, but for now the important thing is that through Dec. 18 he had four goals, seven points, and a minus-10 rating in 31 games.  Goaltender Jaroslav Halak had been struggling mightily too through the first three months in the season and that culminated in him being waived on Dec. 30 and then sent to the minors the following day.

 

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano didn’t last much longer as he was relieved of his duties on Jan. 17 when the team had a 17-17-4 record.  Doug Weight took over as the bench boss and the team enjoyed an immediate transformation.  They won five of their first six games under Weight and enjoyed a 24-12-4 record with the new bench boss, but even that wasn’t enough to propel them into the playoffs.

 

Still, there were plenty of silver linings.  Ladd started to thaw out.  Halak was recalled and had was phenomenal with a 1.58 GAA and .949 save percentage in seven contests that starkly contrasted the 3.23 GAA and .904 save percentage he had prior to being demoted.  Meanwhile Joshua Ho-Sang made his debut in March and gave Islanders fans a reason to be hopeful about his future.

 

There’s plenty of reason for optimism in general going into the 2017-18 campaign, but until or unless John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, re-signs there’s also a big reason to be concerned about the team’s future.

 

Andrew Ladd – I mentioned that Andrew Ladd got off to a terrible start last season, but I didn’t really touch on the why.  Part of it was likely him struggling to adapt to a new team in the Islanders, but it was also revealed in April that he had been dealing with a nagging injury for the first few months of the season.  He did improve as the season went on, scoring 15 goals and 19 points in his final 36 contests, which helps fuel the belief that he can bounce back in 2017-18.  The Islanders signed him to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract so they certainly do need that rebound.

 

Jordan Eberle – The Islanders dealt Ryan Strome to the Edmonton Oilers in order to get Jordan Eberle over the summer.  Eberle’s 20 goals and 51 points in 81 contests was a bit of a disappointment by his standards, but perhaps the change of scenery will do him some good.  There’s also the hope that he’ll mesh well with his friend and likely future linemate, John Tavares.

 

Joshua Ho-SangJoshua Ho-Sang got his first taste of the NHL last season with four goals and 10 points in 21 contests.  That’s an impressive start and the Islanders are hoping that there will be lots more where that came from.  Ho-Sang’s been an interesting case because his high upside was initially dampened by concerns about his attitude, which is likely the only reason the Islanders were able to get him as low as the 28th overall pick in 2014.  Now there’s a chance that the Islanders could be handsomely rewarded for taking a shot on him.

 

Jaroslav Halak – We already touched on the fact that Jaroslav Halak had an extremely inconsistent season and he’s someone that they need more from going forward.  Halak has had some amazing runs in his career and some seasons that were just great overall, so perhaps the Islanders will get the latter in 2017-18.  Certainly the Islanders’ hopes aren’t solely on Halak as Thomas Greiss is also a contender for the top job, but if Halak had a better campaign then it would go a long way towards propelling New York back into the playoffs.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and lost in the Eastern Conference Final in 2016, so it wasn’t a stretch to consider the Lightning as a serious Cup contender going into this season.  Early on they were playing like one too as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 12-6-1 record.

 

Unfortunately luck was not on the Lightning’s side.  Steven Stamkos suffered a knee injury on Nov. 15 and just like that they would be without the superstar for the rest of the season.

 

To make matters worse Ben Bishop, who finished second in Vezina Trophy voting in 2015-16, had a rough campaign by his standards and missed some time due to injury on top of that.  Andrei Vasilevskiy held his own, but the 22-year-old netminder couldn’t pull the team up.

 

In the end, Tampa Bay had a 42-30-10 record in 2016-17, which left the squad just one point shy of a playoff berth.

 

It’s unfortunate that the Lightning were missing Stamkos for most of the season and ran into some goaltending issues because it resulted in great showings from many of their other players being wasted.  Nikita Kucherov was superb with 40 goals and 85 points in 74 contests.  Victor Hedman had 72 points and was one of the league’s top defensemen.  Jonathan Drouin, who has since been traded this summer, had a strong showing with 53 points while Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson bounced back somewhat from their rough 2015-16 campaigns.

 

Perhaps they’ll get those kinds of performances again this season though and enjoy a healthy Stamkos on top of that.  If that does prove to be the case then the Lightning would be the serious Cup contender they could have been last season.

 

Steven StamkosSteven Stamkos is a superstar and played like one last season too before he was hurt.  They just need to hope he can stay healthy this season.  Tampa Bay has a lot of talent beyond Stamkos, but it’s fair to say that the team still relies heavily on his presence.

 

Ryan Callahan – Along with being without Stamkos, the Lightning were almost missing Ryan Callahan for the vast majority of the season.  Callahan might not be the offensive force that Stamkos is, but he’s an important member of the supporting cast due to his blend of grit and skill.  Callahan is hoping to bounce back now that he believes his hip issues are behind him.

 

Anton StralmanAnton Stralman enjoyed back-to-back 30-plus point campaigns in 2014-15 and 2015-16, but he took a step back last season to five goals and 22 points in 73 contests.  He also had a plus-one rating, which is down from the double-digit plus/minus ratings he had in his previous two seasons and while you could dismiss that because plus/minus numbers in general are dismissed, it’s worth noting that he also didn’t look good from a Corsi/Fenwick perspective.  He had a minus-1.7 relative Corsi and a minus-1.1 relative Fenwick, which basically suggests that the Lightning did better from a puck possession perspective when he was off the ice compared to when he was on it.  That’s in contrast to his previous four seasons when he was generally a significant help in terms of Corsi/Fenwick when contrasted with his team at large.  While Victor Hedman is the Lightning’s star defenseman, Stralman is a major part of that blueline too and the Lightning will need him to be at his best next season.

 

Andrei VasilevskiyBen Bishop is no longer a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, so now the team’s hopes rest on Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shoulders.  This has been a long time coming as Vasilevskiy has been viewed as the Lightning’s future starting goaltender for years now.  He did fine last season with a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage in 50 contests, but it seems fair to believe that they’re hoping the 22-year-old netminder (he’ll turn 23 on July 25) will find another level and thus help propel his team forward.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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