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New York Islanders Struggles Show Coaches Not Managing Talent Well

The New York Islanders scored at will last year but gave up goals at an absurd pace. This year started off with a huge improvement but has now settled back into a return to Doug Weight territory.

In response to an earlier article contesting that the New York Islanders recent problems are due to lack of talent, here’s a counter-argument that this is not a lack of talent but a lack of management of talent.

With better coaching – and let me be clear, this is a far superior coaching staff – this should be a team that has closed the goal differential gap to be better than last year.

And so far they have if you look at all 30 games. If you look deeper and break the season into the first 15 and the last 15, it tells a more foreboding story for the remaining 52 games.

The Tale of Two Seasons

This is generally the same team that scored 3.18 goals per game last year (seventh in the NHL) but now sits at 2.8 goals per game (24th in the NHL) through 30 games.

We knew that would happen with a focus on defense. A point backup by an excellent goals against per game improvement from 3.57 in 82 games last year to 2.83 in 30 games this season.

But in the first 15 games of this season, the Isles scored 3.07 goals per game while only giving up 2.47 goals per game (net +0.6). That’s fantastic.

In the last 15 games, however, they are scoring 2.53 goals per game and giving up 3.20 goals per game. That’s a drop in over half a goal per game scored (-.54), and an increase of .73 goals given up each game (net -0.67) from the first 15 games. That’s awful and heading in a very wrong direction.

At the pace of the last 15 games spread out over a full 82 game season that would be a -54.94 goal differential (207.46 GF, 262.4 GA). Last year’s embarrassing team goal differential with no defense and even less goaltending? It was a -32.

Play To The Strengths

We all expected that it would take some time for Barry Trotz to learn the roster and line combinations that meshed best. Any new coach would have a learning curve, but it seems that the staff is not learning and improving but rather losing chemistry as time passes.

We’re not in Jack Capuano territory yet, grasping at straws with a new line combination every five minutes, but it just seems that the ability to manage the talent has been a struggle.

Save for one player not to be named, the top of this team is generally the same.

This team still has Calder Trophy winner Mat Barzal. Still has 40-goal scorer Anders Lee. Still has All-Star Josh Bailey. Still has one of the NHL’s best players from last season’s second half in Anthony Beauvillier. Still has Barzal running mate Jordan Eberle. Still has an up-and-coming Ryan Pulock.

And you could argue that all are underperforming this season under the new management.

Goal-scorer Michael Dal Colle was brought up and played on a checking line. Josh Bailey was on the third line in the past week. Tom Kuhnhackl has been seen on the first line next to Mat Barzal – the same star Mat Barzal that was left off of the first powerplay unit for an extended period.

Cal Clutterbuck has somehow become a staple on the second powerplay unit.

The powerplay is bad, really bad, and getting worse by the day.

We could have seen that Barry Trotz’s tendency is to mix lines to find consistency, but we couldn’t have predicted the diminishing return with each coaching decision as the season progressed.

It’s Not The Roster, It’s The Management Of It

The results are going down on both ends, and you have to look first at the leadership of the staff. Play to the strengths of your roster or bring up and properly use the AHL players who do.

The coaching staff are too talented to not figure this out. They have a track-record that proves it. But it just feels like they are hesitant to adapt to the strengths of this roster.

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Next: 10 Worst Trades in Isles History

I am in no way saying that Barry Trotz and his staff are bad coaches (I’m still reeling from the fact that they even took the job) but in watching the games and looking at the stats, it feels like the onus for this downturn rests on the shoulders of the guys running the team first and foremost.

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