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Islanders Q & A With The Athletic’s Arthur Staple

Arthur Staple took time to discuss everything Double G Sports could ask regarding the New York Islanders

Good Evening, #islestwitter.  I was able to get a hold of the great Arthur Staple and ask him some questions about the state of the Islanders and what his thoughts are on a lot of things.  Art covered the Islanders for Newsday for many years and will now embark on a new opportunity as a contributor of more in-depth Isles coverage for The Athletic. I hope you enjoy.

1) Thank you Art for taking time out of your day to answer these questions.  The question everyone has.  Do you believe JT will re-sign with the Islanders given all of the issues on the roster?  What does he need to see other than a permanent home & a competitive team?  If he doesn’t sign with the Islanders who do you think are the favorites to sign him?

I was around 65% yes last summer and I’m probably down to 60% now… So it’s definitely close but I still think he signs. The arena was a big plus — and quite honestly, I think playing games at the Coliseum the next three seasons is also a plus, because Tavares and the players much prefer it — and now I think it comes down to where he feels he can win. There are some pluses in the Isles’ favor there, despite the mediocre record this year. He may not have someone like Mathew Barzal as his No. 2 center elsewhere and the team can certainly parlay some assets into a better goaltender and a top-4 defenseman this offseason.

If it’s not the Islanders, I get the sense (without much info to go on) that he might like to be out West. The Kings could be a destination, if they can sort out their perennial cap issues. The Leafs will always be in the mix because that’s home for him and they are a team on the rise. But I sense the teams that are already making some noise about pushing hard for him (Montreal, for example) aren’t that appealing.

2) What do you think the Islanders need to do to turn this season around?  Even when they’re winning they give up 3-4 goals.  Is it more a structural issue, a youth issue, or an effort issue?

The amount of goals they give up is really astonishing — on pace right now to give up the most of any team since 2005-06! That’s hard to do. Even harder to believe that they’re still in the playoff hunt despite that. There are a lot of issues that have gone into their poor performance — lousy goaltending the first few months of the season, missing some key defensemen (de Haan, Boychuk) of late and generally a lot of missed assignments/lack of determination in the neutral and defensive zones. It’s all added up to a mess and that really leads to a collective fragile mindset — like, “here we go again” once the shots and goals start coming.

I’m not sure they can fix it before the end of the season. It’d be a big adjustment for the coaches to change their message and the players to change their play with only 27 or so games left. Something has to give.

3)  What kind of moves do you see Garth Snow making before the trade deadline?  With Scott Mayfield out for an extended period of time, they should focus on their defense.  Are they mostly going to be depth moves, as they are traditionally under Snow?  How about a guy like Matt Martin coming back?

When we roll out our site at The Athletic NYC on Monday, I’ll have a long Q&A with Garth Snow. He did discuss some of his trade deadline thoughts, as he has with a couple other outlets and he definitely sounds uninterested in trading any of his four picks in the first two rounds in June for a rental player. There aren’t many players out on the market with term left on their deals, either, so I tend to think there will be more moves around the edges as Snow has done in years past. They could certainly use a goaltender, a defenseman and a depth forward. Whether they can get one, two or all three for low cost is unlikely. But I think Snow is saving his ammo for draft time in June.

4) Speaking of Snow, how hot is his seat?  Do the new owners trust him to lead the team in the right direction, or does another forgetful season mark the end of the Garth Snow era?

As I wrote a few weeks ago at my old work home, Newsday, the owners had their chance to make a change in April. They talked with any number of longtime executives, agents and former players about a team president role during last season and they hadn’t committed to Doug Weight as full-time coach. But they decided to stick with Snow and hire Weight, keeping the status quo. To tear it all down now, at a pivotal time of the season, wouldn’t make much sense, as good as it might make some fans feel. So I’m sure this will be revisited in the offseason, especially if they miss the playoffs again. But then you’ve got the Tavares decision and that doesn’t seem like the right time to be cleaning house.

5) What is going on with Brock Nelson?  He’s always been a very streaky player, but he’s disappeared for weeks at a time.  He looks like a ghost out there.  Do you think it’s him finding the right guys to play with (he has played better), or is he just a streaky player?

Nelson is in a tough spot. Barzal has pushed him down the depth chart and the Islanders haven’t been deep enough to put talented wingers with Nelson like the ones he’s had most of his career. So he’s had to be a different sort of player this season and it isn’t going well. Some of that is on the personnel around him but some of that is on Nelson, who needs to show he deserves more time and more consideration for better line mates. Even with all that, he has 11 goals and a decent run gets him to 20 again. When fans want him benched, my answer is usually, “OK, who goes in for him?” He’s the best option they have for that third line right now.

6) Why should Islander fans still be hopeful that this team can make a run in the playoffs?

They do have Barzal, who is truly a wonder. Tavares is still JT. Josh Bailey is having a terrific year, ditto Anders Lee. Anthony Beauvillier looks like a legit NHLer of late. So their top six is pretty darn good and the main reason they’re even within sniffing distance of the playoffs. If Jaro Halak can weather the storm every night and they get Boychuk back to solidify the D, this team is no worse than any of the ones around them in the Metro. So yeah, a playoff spot is certainly within reach.

7) How are you able to deal with the madness of #IslesTwitter (especially when they’re losing) in such a professional manner, like you always do?

(Haha) Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m handling it that well! It’s a matter for me of recognizing that 99% of Islander fans come to me to vent, or asking questions they feel I can answer thanks to my access to the decision-makers. That’s all really flattering and even if I break out my sarcastic side a bit too often, I do appreciate and understand where almost everyone is coming from. It’s sports, not war coverage or the police beat and I try to have fun with it. And in my new role at The Athletic, the stories I’ll be working on will dig a little deeper on some issues and concerns fans have, so hopefully those will answer questions and keep everyone a bit calmer.

Who am I kidding, though? Calm is not the #IslesTwitter default setting. It’s still so fun though and I hope that most of the folks out there see that.

Thanks again to Art for taking time out of his busy day to answer some of the questions we all have.  He makes a lot of good points regarding the trade deadline, Garth Snow and the stability of the front office, and some positives heading into the home stretch of the season.  Make sure to catch all our Islanders coverage @SupRos22 and all sports coverage @DoubleGSports.

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