New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Is Varlamov A Solid Replacement For Lehner?

The New York Islanders and Robin Lehner didn’t agree to terms. Lehner ended up signing a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Islanders chose to replace him with Semyon Varlamov.

Per the below tweet from John Shannon of Rogers Sportsnet, Lehner had turned down a two year deal worth 5 million AAV to take a one year deal worth 5 million AAV with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Semyon Varlamov

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With Lehner deciding to move on from Long Island to Chicago, the Islanders gave out a fairly big deal for Semyon Varlamov, who hasn’t really proven to be a quality starter besides in his 2013-2014 season where he put up a 0.927SV% and was second in Vezina voting.

Per the below tweet from CapFriendly, Varlamov signed a four year deal worth 20 mil. In addition, the deal includes a full no-trade clause in his first two seasons and then it becomes a modified no-trade clause in the last two seasons.

A week ago, I wrote a brief overview regarding all of the goaltenders in this UFA-class and ranked the goalies in different tiers.

In terms of Varlamov, he was put in tier three, meaning that he would be a solid backup goaltender for any team. Let’s look back at what I wrote:

Semyon Varlamov-(2016-2019)

Age-31

Total WAR-5.0

Average HDSV%-77.32%

Average SV% Above Expected-(-0.776%)

Total GSAA–3.81      

Semyon Varlamov has been, when healthy, Colorado’s starter for the better of the past five or six seasons, putting up largely okay numbers, and in the past three seasons has been a below average goaltender which puts him within the solid backup category rather than the starter category where many would assume he would be placed. I would bet on Varlamov to continue to put up decent numbers and any team looking for a backup that is able to play thirty games or more should definitely inquire on Varlamov.”

Evaluating The Deal

Moving onto evaluating the deal given by the New York Islanders, I think the 4 years is definitely longer than ideal for the Russian net-minder.

You may say, “well they had to give him four years to get him”, but I don’t see Varlamov as some special goaltender that is hard to find. Fans are ignoring the fact that he is being paid starter money for a level of play that is not starter quality. Ideally you’d be happy to pay Varlamov around 3 million against the cap, but 5 million is a substantial overpayment.

I could see both Varlamov and Thomas Greiss succeeding with the defensive structure in front of them run by Barry Trotz, but that isn’t a gurrantee as Greiss is getting older and we’ve seen signs of inconsistency from the German goalie.

I don’t see the overall deal as a positive one for Lou Lamoriello, but goalies are voodoo and no one knows what they are getting with any goaltender. Varlamov could become the next Curtis McElhinney and be amazing into in mid-thirties.

stats from hockey-reference.com

cap research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Puck77 Interview: Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles

Last night, Matt O’Leary of Eyes On Isles (New York Islanders blog site on FanSided) and I spoke regarding the Islanders farm system and their off-season plans.

I asked O’Leary several questions in regards to the Islanders. We talked about Jordan Eberle‘s contract extension, the possibility of adding Artemi Panarin, the goaltender of the future and more.

Let’s take a look at what O’Leary had to say.

Interview

Josh: What are your general thoughts on the Jordan Eberle contract extension? 

Matt: I think this is a very fair deal for Jordan Eberle. Obviously, he is coming off a down year but with how he finished the regular season and performed in the playoffs it’s hard not to assume that he will return to form and be the 50+ point player that he’s been throughout his career. If he does go back to putting up the numbers that we’re used to $5.5 million seems like a steal. You also can’t go without mentioning the fact that he wanted to extend with this team, which speaks volumes to Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz’s impact.

Josh: With the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers making quite a bit of noise so far, how do you believe that the Islanders will counteract. Do you believe that Lou Lamoriello might make a big splash and add a free agent like Artemi Panarin or do you believe he’ll look at doing a blockbuster trade?

Matt: He definitely has to do something to the top-six. Even if they bring back Anders Lee they should look to add someone like Artemi Panarin. The competition for him is sure to be steep but at the end of the day, Lou might have to pony up to get him. If the Isles miss out on him, then I could absolutely see them looking to move Nick Leddy in hopes for some forward help up front.

Josh: Do you believe that Anders Lee is in the Islanders’ long-term plans? If no, who do you believe might captain the Islanders after Lee?

Matt: I think at the end of the day Anders re-signs here. The Tavares situation from last year leaves a sour taste in our mouths but that’s honestly such a unique situation. I think the Islanders are looking for a shorter term deal while Lee is looking for more year. Ultimately a five or six year deal with a $7 million AAV should get it done.

Josh: Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss split time in net this year. Given the success that Lehner and Greiss had, do you believe that there will roughly a 50-50 split next season as well?

Matt: Assuming that Lou re-signs Robin Lehner, which he should, yes I think it will be a similar split with Robin getting the slight edge. It worked out so well last year it’s hard not to go back to the same formula. Lehner became a fan favorite last year with not only his play on the ice but his off the ice story and his openness on mental health. It’d be in the best interest of everyone to make sure Lehner is in blue and orange next year.

Josh: While Ilya Sorokin has looked outstanding in the KHL, the Islanders also have Linus Söderström in their system. Based on what you’ve seen from both goalies, who do you believe will be the next number one goalie for the Islanders?

Matt: I think Ilya Sorokin is the better of the two it’s just a matter of if he ever comes over from the KHL. His deal expires after this year so there’s a chance that he could come over but would he if Robin Lehner is under contract for the foreseeable future? With Linus Söderström it’s hard to judge, he missed all of this year with an injury, but from looking at his SHL numbers he’s been fairly solid and is an intriguing prospect.

Josh: Michael Dal Colle has taken a while to develop. Do you have any concern in regards to Dal Colle?

Matt: Michael Dal Colle is never going to be the player they drafted him to be in the top-five. At this point, if you can get him to be a solid third line winger I think you sign up for it but it seems like that’s his ceiling which is obviously a huge letdown considering where you took him in the draft.

Josh: Josh Ho-Sang had a great season in Bridgeport last year. Given how many pending free agents the Islanders have, do you believe that Ho Sang could have a full-time role at the NHL level next season? Or, does Ho Sang need more time in the AHL?

Matt: For Ho-Sang, I would love to see him get time in the NHL. For whatever reason, the Islanders and Ho-Sang just can’t seem to figure out what the issue is. They want him to be more defensive minded and cut down on turnovers but he’s at his best when he has the puck and is trying to make plays. In limited sample sizes, he’s shown that he can be a pretty solid playmaker, I just don’t know if it will ever work out here considering the Islanders also have Oliver Wahlstrom and Keiffer Bellows who are pretty close to being ready to make the jump to the NHL. 

Josh: Mathew Barzal is entering his contract season and will be a pending RFA on July 1, 2020. Given the contracts that we’ve seen Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and other sign, how much do you predict that Barzal will earn in his next deal?

Matt: I really think it depends on what he does this year. Is he giving you 60-70 points again like he did this past year, or is he going back to a point per game player? Right now, I’ll give an $8 million – $10 million AAV range depending on what he does this year. If it’s another 60 point season look for it to be closer to $8 million. If he’s back to his ways from his Calder season it’ll be closer to $10 million.

Thank You

Thank you Matt for taking the time to speak with me. Looking forward to interviewing you again in the future.

 
player profiles – hockey-reference.com

Germany Is Quickly Becoming A Hockey Powerhouse

Germany in recent years have risen to become a great Hockey country. Established players like Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche stand out, but they have a lot of young talent.

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While there are many more great hockey countries (like Canada, USA, Sweden, Russia, Finland), I believe that Germany is quickly moving up in the hockey world ever since the 2018 Winter Olympics where they placed 2nd overall.

Who are the players in the NHL now?

This year, 2018-2019, there were eight German players in the NHL (via Elite Prospects). Six were skaters and the other two were goalies. All together they totaled 371 games played (5th most since 09-10). Their 68 goals, 98 assists and 166 points rank 2nd, 4th and 2nd respectively (since 09/10). It just shows how great this group is.

The players who played this year include: Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers (105 points), Dominik Kahun – Chicago Blackhawks (37 points), Tobias Rieder – Edmonton Oilers (11 points), Tom Kühnhackl – New York Islanders (nine points), Korbinian Holzer – Anaheim Ducks (four points), Nico Sturm – Minnesota Wild (zero points), Thomas Greiss – New York Islanders (2.28 GAA .927 SV%) and Philipp Grubauer – Colorado Avalanche (2.64 GAA .917 SV%).

It’s clear that Germany has a lot of talent in the NHL, but how many quality prospects do they have in the system?

Who are the most promising young players for Germany?

In the past five years (14-18) there has been six German players selected in the NHL Entry Draft. This list includes: Leon Draisaitl (3rd overall, 2014), Frederik Tiffels (167th overall, 2015), Manuel Wiederer (150th overall, 2016), Leon Gawanke (136th overall, 2017), Dominik Bokk (25th overall, 2018) and finally Justin Schütz (170th overall, 2018). Only one of these players has made the NHL, Leon Draisaitl, but all of Manuel Wiederer, Leon Gawanke and Dominik Bokk have signed their ELC’s.

Now what does the draft pool look like for Germany? Well this year the top German prospect is defenseman, Moritz Seider. 

Moritz Seider

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I’m gonna hand this part off to, Tony Ferrari, one of our prospect gurus at Puck77. Ferrari recently wrote a profile post on Seider. Below, is a section from his profile.

“Moritz Seider is a very good two-way defenceman. He has developed into a very good player defensively over the course of this season while playing in the DEL, the top tier men’s league in Germany. He uses his size well and competes hard against men in the dirty areas of the ice. He is a very good skater who has good-to-great top end speed and good acceleration. He could improve that area with added strength as he physically matures. His edge work is exceptional for a player his size, able to change direction backwards and forwards as well as laterally. His transition from defending to attacking, or visa versa, is aided by his ability to recognize where the play is developing.

His physicality isn’t a strength but the fact that he positions himself well and keeps close gaps against the oncoming rush. He does an excellent job with his stick positioning, consistently disrupting the play. This forces opposition to the outside with consistency, limiting the dangerous chances. When engaged physically against larger, stronger men he can be pushed around a bit but the projection of his 6’4” frame would lead you to think that his physical development will lead to improvement in those areas.

Offensively, Seider is an excellent passer. He does an excellent job of facilitating the puck down low, putting the puck on the stick of his teammates in high-danger scoring areas. His crisp passing is an asset in both breaking out of his zone and entering the offensive zone as he consistently makes the mature and smart play. His NHL-ready wrist shot is used both to score and to create chances down low. He locates his shot well leading to hard, accurate shots around a screen in front of the net or he shoots the puck in an area that gives the goalie to leave a rebound available to be cleaned up by the net crashing forwards. His slap shot is hard but sometimes lacks consistent accuracy. Overall, he’s developed into a capable two-way defender that could be among the most mature in the draft class.”

Thanks to Tony for that excellent scouting report. Moritz Seider is clearly the best German player to enter the NHL draft since Leon Draisaitl.

Draft Eligible Germans

There are a lot more draft eligible players from Germany this year but I’ll only be covering the top five outside of Moritz Seider.

  1. Taro Jentzsch (LW/C) Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL. A power winger who has offensive upside and great vision. Questionable speed and 19 years old. 18G – 24A – 42P (53 GP)
  2. Nino Kinder (W/C) Eisbären Berlin, DEL. A playmaking forward who has a decent shot. Split time between the DEL and the U20 team. 17G – 24A – 41P (33 GP U20)
  3. Simon Gynp (LHD) Kölner Haie, DEL. Puck-Moving defenseman who has decent speed and a decent shot. Inconsistency in his game and needs to bulk up. Split time between the DEL and U20 team. 9G – 26A – 35P (29 GP U20)
  4. Tobias Ancicka (G) Eisbären Berlin, DEL. A smaller goalie (6’1″, 172 pounds), but can make a save when he needs to. Played for U20 but also DEL 2. 3.36 GAA and a .902 SV% (33 GP U20/DEL 2)
  5. Jan-Luca Schumacher (W/C) Jungadler Mannheim, DNL U20. A skilled playmaker with a smaller frame (5’10, 163 pounds), and needs to work on multiple parts of his game. 16G – 45A – 61P (34 GP U20).

Who Are The Top Draft Prospects For Next Year?

Next year you have guys like Tim Stützle (23G-32A-55P in 21 U20 games), who might be the best center since Leon Draisaitl to come out of the draft from Germany. You also have other talented players in John-Jason Peterka (45G-49A-94P in 48 Czech U20 games) and Lukas Reichel (11G-31A-42P in 32 U20 games).

Germany has a great future with young established NHL players (Leon Draisaitl) and young players making their way through the ranks of German hockey (Moritz Seider and Tim Stützle).

stats-from: Elite-Prospects

special thanks to: Tony Ferrari

photo credit – pixabay.com

New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Regular Season Was The Appetizer

The New York Islanders regular season has ended. 

This is the time when most people predicted the Islanders would have completed their exit interviews, taken all of their belongings and went to the place they all called home for the summer.

That obviously has not happened. They ended the regular season one point behind and three points ahead of the last three Stanley Cup Champions. There are three huge keys to what got the Islanders to this point one year after being blind sided losing their franchise player and receiving nothing in return and left for dead. Here are those keys to one of the most improbable seasons including last seasons’ Vegas Golden Knights in recent memory.

First Key

The first key was culture change. But, what exactly is culture change? The Islanders have been ranging between nipping at the fringes of NHL success and living in the basement of the NHL standings for three decades. The last time they had the home ice advantage in the ANY round of the playoffs was 1988. Despite having the legacy of maybe the greatest hockey team in the history of the game from 1979-1984 the Islanders suffered a myriad of ownership, management, arena and player issues that many books have been written about. Players did not want to be here. Owners did not want to own the team. The team tried for decades to get a new home. Management and coaches were people who had no experience running any kind of winning team. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Scott Malkin, the new power broker owner of the Islanders had the wisdom to reach out and grab Lou Lamoriello to run his rudderless ship. Lou’s resume of success is among the best in NHL history. He took a Devils team and turned them into a perennial NHL power. When the Devils moved on Lou went to Toronto and turned a team whose lack of success had reached comical proportions into a winner. Toronto decided to move Lamoriello to an advisory position Scott Malkin pounced and made him the new Godfather of the New York Islanders. When a guy like that, a proven winner comes in to take the reins it turned heads. Instantly with one hire Scott Malkin changed the culture of the New York Islanders.

Second Key

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The second key to success was coaching. Only through hiring an executive like Lou Lamoriello does hiring a coach like Barry Trotz even seem remotely possible for a team like the Islanders. Islander fans were justifiably for the first time in 30 years expecting the Islanders to follow-up the culture changing hire of Lou with a coach that could right the ship on the ice now that the front office was under capable leadership. Then in a flash it happened. The defending Stanley Cup Champions decided to move on from Barry Trotz as expected and much like Scott Malkin made the most of his opportunity to hire Lou Lamoriello, Lou made the most of his chance to hire Barry Trotz to take over the behind the bench duties for his new team. Now instead of a beleaguered 11 year general manager who was never quite able to make the most of his opportunity and a first year coach who more than a few times looked like he had zero answers on how to mold the Islanders into a winner the Islanders had a front office and coaching staff to rival any in the entire NHL.

Third Key

There was one other huge key that needed to be cut to open the door to success.

The final key was the players. The Islander players are the ones who have the play the games. Taking the wisdom of their new bench boss and apply it on the ice. So much credit rightfully so has been given to Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz for getting the Islanders to 103 points this season. The players had to buy-in to what their new general manager and coach were preaching AND be able to implement it on the ice in the division that produced the last three Stanley Cup Champions. They also needed to do this mere months after their long-term captain essentially told them “you guys aren’t good enough” and abandoned them, taking with him a lot of the respect he had in that locker room and burning most of the love Islander fans had for him with the swipe of a pen and one horribly timed tweet.

Adding Top 6 Forwards And Top 4 Defensemen?

In the aftermath, journeyman forward Valtteri Filppula, utility man Leo Komarov and jack of all trades Tom Kuhnhackl were brought in. Plus, the Islanders brought Matt Martin back to Long Island. Martin was a healthy scratch throughout the 2017-2018 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it was evident that the Leafs weren’t interested in keeping the enforcer long-term. But, Islanders fans near revolted at the guys Lou was bringing in.

Islander fans were hoping beyond hope that Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone or some other team’s star was going to be the answer they all were looking for was going to come in and save the day. Little did they know what was already in that locker room was the answer. Young defensemen Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech all flourished under Coach Trotz faster than anyone could have predicted.

Forward Group Re-vitalized

Mathew Barzal, who was like a wild, out of control stallion last season was taught to run in a straight line with the rest of the pack. Brock Nelson was written off by most writers and Islander fans has blossomed into a solid two-way center with career highs in points. Brock’s contribution to the team’s success this season cannot be under-stated. Casey Cizikas was put back between his favorite two partners in crime in Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin and given the ice time no other coach has given him obliterated his former career high in goals. Josh Bailey is a player who is still despite his All-Star season last year was written off as a product of playing with John Tavares thrived in the new system. Bailey makes up for what he lacks in flash and dash,  makes the right decision with and without the puck. New Captain Anders Lee took his new assignment as team captain with an infectious attitude that has spread to every corner of the locker room.

Losing Tavares, But Goaltending/Defense Becomes Elite 

Sure offensive production team wide was down. Losing your best offensive player for nothing will do that. Everyone knew the Islanders would be better defensively. No one predicted how much better. For the first time in 100 years. A team in the NHL went from worst to first in goals against.

That remarkable turn of events came with the two men tasked with patrolling the Islanders goal. Prior to the season, no one looked at the Islanders goaltenders and thought they were going to win any awards.

Robin Lehner

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Robin Lehner was cast-off by the Buffalo Sabres. Many Sabre fans blamed their team’s inconsistent play on Lehner himself. Lou met with Robin and a one year “prove yourself” contract was worked out. The deal was a no-risk/high-reward deal. 

Everyone knows of the struggles Lehner endured. He was brave enough to admit his struggles and he publicly addressed his mental illness and alcoholism. How has he responded in the Islanders system and with a clear head? Second in save percentage. Third in goals against average.

Thomas Greiss

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Thomas Greiss had one of the ugliest on ice seasons a full-time goaltender had in 2017-18. Dead last in save percentage and goals against average. Greiss worked his tail off in the off-season to get better for this year. Under goaltending guru Mitch Korn and coach Pierre Greco he has shut the mouths of every critic he had finishing fourth in save percentage and fourth in goals against average.

Taking Home The William H. Jennings Trophy

Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner won the William H. Jennings trophy. To put that in perspective here are some of the players who won the Jennings Trophy in recent history:

Jonathan Quick

Carey Price

Roberto Luongo

Braden Holtby

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Martin Brodeur

Tim Thomas

Chris Osgood

Dominik Hasek

Cory Schneider

Corey Crawford

All elite goaltenders that most share something in common. Out of the 12 goaltenders listed SEVEN of them have Stanley Cup rings.

This is not an award that is easy to win and the Islanders tandem of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner just won it one season removed from the worst of both of their professional careers.

That is the most incredible thing that has happened to the New York Islanders this past regular season in a season of many incredible things they were able to accomplish.

Time To Get The Cup

Islanders players and the fans are ready for the main course of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Will it be as surprisingly satisfying and delicious as the appetizer? The meal will begin to be served to a fan base starved for a great meal tonight.

stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

 

New York Islanders

New York Islanders: Back to Relevance?

The New York Islanders are relevant?

No one saw this coming.

There are four games left in the 2018-19 regular season and the New York Islanders, yes the same New York Islanders that lost their franchise player this past off-season are sitting directly between the two teams that have won the last three Stanley Cups in the standings.

This statement in of itself would have drawn laughter if predicted before the season began even if John Tavares did not discover his childhood dream at 28 years old on July 1, 2018.

Replacing him in the Islander lineup with Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Robin Lehner and Tom Kuhnhackl did nothing to divert that way of thinking. Everyone predicted that at best the Islanders would maybe challenge for a playoff spot and then fade away to play meaningless hockey after New Years. This was despite first ballot Hall of Famer to be and newly minted Stanley Cup Champion coach Barry Trotz steering the ship.

Defensive Concerns Are Gone

From game one of the season something seemed different. The Islanders were making the smart plays.

Prior to the season many fans questioned If they could chip the puck out of the defensive zone. Well, they’ve showed they can. They did it instead of the higher risk of skating or passing it out.  If they were challenged in the neutral zone and had no other option the puck was simply thrown into one of the corners harmlessly instead of turning it over, resulting in an odd man rush against.

Again, fans questioned the Islanders defense. Fans were worried about their defense shutting down opposing forwards from entering into their zone with the puck. But, the Islanders did it again. They ensured that their opposition had little to no room to create a scoring chance. Cross ice passes for open one timers were minimized. Game after game the Islanders frustrated the most talented offensive teams in the National Hockey League.

Barry Trotz calls it “playing the right way”.

What a night and day difference from the run and gun Islanders of 2017-18. The ones that allowed the most goals in the league. The ones that other players on the Lightning and Barry Trotz’ own Washington Capitals laughing on how easy the Islanders were to play against when they dropped five or six goals on Islander goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak.

The Roster That Garth Built

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The Islanders now sit number one in the NHL in goals against after being dead last last season with 90% of the same personnel, and 100% of the same defensive core.

We’ve never seen a team turn it around like this. How often does a team have a remarkably awful season, lose their best player and dramatically improve?

The Islanders have done it because of two simple facts. One, by doing the little things and doing them right.

Second, if it is one thing that the Islanders new regime has proven its that Garth Snow for all of his faults was not a bad judge of talent. Unfortunately, he was horrendous at was picking coaches. He was bad at forming a culture of winning. Snow was bad at putting a winning front office in place. All that is true. But, the Islanders are winning with a team primarily composed of players that Garth Snow brought here. That statement will definitively get all Garth haters fired up, but at the same time they cannot deny it as fact.

Now, before I alienate the Islander fans who ruthlessly attack anyone saying anything positive about Snow, please note that I was begging for him to be fired many years ago. He was a bad general manager. That being said you can’t deny the positives of the players on the team at this moment. They’ve helped drive this time from an abysmal season last year to a playoff berth and they’ve done it all without Tavares.

Trust The Process

Barry Trotz has the players believing. Barry Trotz and the Islander players got Islanders fans to believe again. Trust the process. Sorry Philadelphia for stealing your motto, but it’s true. Plus, the Islanders now have the rest of the hockey world believing. 

Finally, the New York Islanders are back after over three decades of failure.

player profiles from Hockey-Reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals