My last few recaps have been the definition of mailing them in considering I only watched the horror show against Toronto last Thursday of the last handful of games. Not that mailing it in makes me any different from the team itself with all of their mail-in performances on the road. In my defense, even if I wanted to watch tonight’s latest crapfest I couldn’t have. By the time me and my friends even got to the bar it was already 0-3 after the first period in another typical slow start, so there wasn’t exactly a lot of urgency from anyone to get them to change a channel over to the game. Ironically enough the Ranger game was still on a couple of TV’s despite it being even less meaningful than ours since the only relevant team in town right now IS the Islanders, sadly.
Yet even with this sorry team in a lost season I do want to continue at least giving my own thoughts on each game, even when I don’t watch or don’t exactly feel like commenting. Only 35 more to go I suppose…the All-Star break/bye week couldn’t come soon enough. I would have gone to Saturday’s game against the Ducks but with the snow in store for the weekend I wanted no part of the travel, so I sold those tickets too. While recently the Ducks have been just as bad as us they did actually show some signs of holding their roster to account with recent trades and demotions/promotions from the minor leagues. So far the changes seem to have sparked a better effort against the Wild, maybe at least their long losing streak will be over before they limp into the Rock on Saturday.
Speaking of tickets there is something (sort of) to comment on, as season ticket holders got the notice that everything about next season’s pricing and benefits will go out on the 30th this month. Good timing for me before I have to officially decide on renewing – and thus using my buyback credits for several games the next two months – or not. Despite my protesting I probably will renew, I do love my seats even if I’m not wild about the organ-eye-zation right now but a big price hike coming off this crapola season with no real promise of things getting any better in the offseason would be a bit offensive, even leaving out the financial disincentives to renew considering you can get tickets on the secondary market for almost every game at sth or below prices. Of course they won’t be aisle seats directly behind the net so I am spoiled in that sense.
Let’s see, is there anything else to comment on without commenting on the game? Well, there is the matter of the schadenfreude certain pockets of the fanbase are now feeling with Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders rolling with a real structure in place for the first time since…when Peter Laviolette was there? Sure they’ve made the playoffs in certain seasons but have never looked as solid or disciplined as now, and the big joke of it is, is it came after losing John Tavares. Classic Lou, lose your franchise player and keep on keeping on* (*except for Parise and Kovalchuk). Although to be fair, I’m not sure how things would have turned out if they didn’t luck out with Barry Trotz suddenly becoming available after a historic Stanley Cup win in Washington. Trotz is a good enough coach to gloss over a lot of things, while our coaches only seem to exacerbate the team’s issues.
I have to admit going back and forth on the schadenfreude part. Yes I did criticize Lou in his later years for bad drafting plus an arrogant decision keeping our first-round pick in 2013 instead of surrendering the 29th overall pick (who turned out to be an attempted troll pick in Stefan Matteau that backfired), which would have given us a top twelve pick in 2014 instead of another bust in John Quenneville at #30 OA. Also for chasing ghosts trying to contend with a rotted husk of a team after Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left and other guys like Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias got old. It was time for a change, things had gotten stale here.
That said as much as people mocked things like the lack of social media presence and marketing under Lou, what good is all that stuff going to do now when the team’s terrible anyway? I miss having discipline and structure over mottos and marketing. I hoped making the playoffs last year would finally allow us as a fanbase to move beyond the Lou era but this year has provided even more fodder to revive the comparisons. As annoyed as I was at Lou for chasing ghosts from 2013 on, I’d prefer that extreme to the overtly cautious one now where we’ve wasted cap space galore for years, not even attempting to get better in the short term but instead settling for a celing of mediocrity and hoping for more Taylor Hall lotto luck. Whether you want to blame ownership or just make the case Ray Shero’s being ‘patient’, either way Shero owns this mess now both with the lack of use of our cap space and the recent extension coach John Hynes got.
I feel like I’m going to repeat myself five hundred times between now and July 1 but this is an absolutely vital, crucial moment for this organization. Not just for the fact Hall can be extended (or refuse to sign one), but other key guys like Nico Hischier, Will Butcher and Sami Vatanen have to be extended or in Vatanen’s case traded if he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. I could see an offseason where everyone re-signs and pieces are added both via FA and trade. I could also see an offseason where Hall and Vatanen don’t re-sign, we are compelled to trade them and start the ‘process’ all over again. This thing could really go either way and having a bad year with a questionable (at best) staff is starting to give me chicken little syndrome.
As far as tonight’s actual game went…certainly a predictable result with Lou’s hot and structured Isles team rolling over our pathetic un-structured team. Part of me wanted to laugh when I heard the Isles were up 3-0 with Mackenzie Blackwood giving up goals on three of his first five shots, but because it’s Blackwood I don’t take much pleasure in him getting lit up. Even if I was glad I started Robin Lehner over him in a fantasy league. Fortunately it sounded like this was more bad D (as usual) and he was able to straighten out the rest of the night, not allowing another goal – but with this popgun offense the usual road no-show in the first period was more than enough to condemn us to a 4-1 defeat. We even did coach Trotz a favor by possibly allowing him to play his #1 goalie (Lehner) back to back nights.
Your 2018-19 Devils, everyone’s favorite houseguest!