New York Islanders: Isles’ failure to build towards short-term has finally caught up to them

New York Islanders.#51 (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
New York Islanders.#51 (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders are at a point in their season where they can no longer just float around. They will either sink or swim and at the worst possible time, their failure to build for the short-term has finally caught up to them.

The New York Islanders are recently coming off a bad loss to the Bruins. The Bruins are a better team than the Islanders and one loss does not change anything. What does change things, is the rippling impacts that one loss has. It’s like peeling an onion, this was a type of loss that came in layers.

Yes, the Islanders lost the game. But, they also lost Valtteri Filppula for four weeks and have countless other players either battling the injury bug or recently having had battled the injury bug. The Isles lost to the Bruins, now, it might cost them more games because of how rattled physically, and maybe even mentally they are.

This can all date back to the fact that the Islanders constantly failed to build for the short-term this season. You want to know what Val Filppula is? He is far from an elite player, he rarely dazzles in incredible ways that blows up the stats sheet, and the guy has never even had a hat-trick, but he is a team player.

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He is simply a gritty NHL centerman. He can play in the mid-lines, eat up minutes, shoot the puck, lead a power play unit, and simply be a veteran guy at a position where being knowledgeable pays dividends. Filppula is all of those things, and now he out for four weeks.

Replacing one player, one who is not even “productive” shouldn’t be a problem for a regular NHL playoff team. Good teams have enough depth to at least stay afloat or even still thrive after a big injury. But, like we have known all year, the Isles are not a regular playoff team.

With Filppula out, things change. All the Isles seemed to need previously was wing help because they have solid centers when healthy. However, that is no longer the case. Now, I have heard that the Isles were on Matt Duchene, but they didn’t get him so that does not matter. The Isles failed to upgrade at the deadline, not that, that it was wrong, but they didn’t have the urgency of a team to win now. They kept talent banked for the future.

The Islanders are now in crisis mode because they don’t have real, ideal, or logical talent to replace Filppula. They are at a cross roads because of where they are at in the season, in the middle of a playoff push, timing’s a you know what.

So, they can’t exactly grab a guy like Otto Koivula to come in and take minutes, if he struggles because he is not ready, he becomes a liability. Then, you look at Joshua Ho-Sang, of course is a polarizing name, but he might not help either.

The Isles want to keep both of those guys, amongst the rest, developing. If you rush development you end up with the problem the Isles have now, having guys up and having them struggle. Look at Anthony Beauvillier, he’s a solid player, but not close to where we thought he would be by now, at least not reliable.

So, I suppose it is all a catch 22 for the Islanders. No matter what they do, it’ll help them now, but with lingering effects on the future. So, could proven point scorer Josh Bailey play center? Probably, but then you’ll lose a savvy veteran on the wing. Again, catch 22.

What I will say the Islanders did, however, was desperately bring someone up, It was Tanner Fritz, and Fritz is true center depth but he has played four NHL games this year. What could he possibly do?

The below tweet was sent before the news of Fritz’s call up, however, still says a lot. I mean, what even is that line up really. Naturally, Barzal’s and the fourth line makes me feel better, but yikes.

I would imagine Fritz gets penciled in instead of Tom Kuhnhackl, but what is the difference besides Kuhnhackl being a veteran? What is Trotz so worried about impacting with these lines? The power play? Special teams are not that much of an asset to the Islanders. Their power play offense is horrible, it is not just offset by having a great penalty kill.

The Islanders’ entire theme this season, the thing that they ride or die on, is building the future. Lou Lamoriello is worried about building a core capable of being great for a long time in a while, not great now and risking it all later.

That is all fine and dandy, it’s wonderful. However, the whole ‘the Isles can still win their first division title in over 20 years’ shtick should have changed that, at least a little. Their failure to care about this current team, the team that takes up physical space on the ice right now has finally caught up to them.

Staying put at the deadline was fine, it was all air then so it was tough to fairly judge. Now that it hasn’t worked out it seems to sting again, but that could still come back around again if it does end up being the right move down the road.

I honestly don’t even know how I am supposed to feel.

I can’t believe losing Valtteri Filppula has forced me to ask this question: How much poor talent does it take to get to Tanner Fritz centering in the middle of a playoff push?

Or this one: How much mediocre to terrible offensive play does it take to have Leo Komarov be needed? (Although Jordan Eberle is probably fine)

The Islanders have astoundingly answered those questions for us. This might not end well, or it will end well because that’s just Barry freaking Trotz.

Either way, the Isles are in a dilemma. A dilemma they caused within themselves. They did nothing with their opportunities this season to ensure that a great team stayed great. Now, their choice is to take risks by giving probably incapable players big roles that will hurt their real goal, the future.

dark. Next. What the Isles need to do to be ready for the playoffs

Playoffs? Winning in the playoffs? Let’s see how Tanner Fritz does first. The New York Islanders, I’ll tell you. The more things change, the more they stay the same.