- Craig Custance
December can’t come soon enough for the New York Islanders. Saturday’s loss to the surging Philadelphia Flyers dropped the Islanders to 4-8 in November, locking in a losing month. It makes the 2008 Islanders the last team from this franchise to have a winning November.
According to team statistician Eric Hornick, the Islanders are now 9-22-5 in their past three combined Novembers.
The Islanders made the playoffs last season. Little did we know how much that success had to do with the lockout wiping November off the calendar.
Instead of building off that impressive stretch drive and playoff performance last season, the Islanders are going the wrong way. Saturday’s loss to the Flyers was their third straight, a clean sweep of their three-game road trip. They’ve lost seven consecutive games on the road, and their bigger sin in those games is not finding ways to at least get into overtime and earn a loser point. Each of those losses has been in regulation.
To be fair, the Islanders' defense is crushed by injuries. They already lost captain Mark Streit in the offseason, a hole that was never replaced. This season, Lubomir Visnovsky has been out for an extended time with a concussion, while Brian Strait is out with an upper-body injury. Neither has a timetable to return.
When I spoke with coach Jack Capuano recently, he said those losses can’t be underestimated.
“Strait is a good, solid defensive defenseman. Visnovsky has got an element we don’t have,” Capuano said. “He’s an [Erik] Karlsson-type guy, a [Kris] Letang-type guy. Mobility and agility to beat the first guy. Get up the ice. You lose quite a bit.”
Of the four defensemen who played more than 100 minutes during the Islanders' postseason this past spring, only Travis Hamonic is currently taking the ice for the Islanders.
On Saturday, it got worse. Thomas Hickey left the game early with a lower-body injury after he blocked a shot.
That leads us to our first Next Question of the week: How do the Islanders get out of this mess?
There will be some calls for Capuano to be replaced, but if GM Garth Snow wants to be fair, he needs to get a defenseman immediately in trade before making any change behind the bench. The current market for defensemen is paper-thin, which doesn’t help the cause. Snow has been able to work his magic on the waiver wire in the past, but that doesn’t seem like a reasonable option.