Cheap Throwback Edmonton Oilers Jerseys

Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers

Drake Caggiula was ready to face the music even before several of his teeth ended up on the ice amidst a pool of blood last month in Anaheim.

It was a “pretty gross” scene according to Ducks’ eyewitness Rickard Rakell.

The Edmonton Oilers’ winger knows he’s had a very ordinary second NHL season.

He hasn’t found any traction with eight goals and 18 points in 50 games, moving all around the lineup, missing nine games to injury or sickness and sitting out as a healthy scratch.

But do we know where Caggiula fits? Not in the least.

He feels he can be a top-nine NHL winger. But he’s also played in a checking role, and with the top dog, Connor McDavid, which is the rub. The coaching staff is searching for where he belongs. He’s played with the captain; he played with the since-traded Mark Letestu. He’s played both wings, on the power play some, killing penalties some. He’s only had three games with more than a single point.

On Saturday, he was in the press box, not playing. A rarity when he starred at University of North Dakota.

In 110 NHL games (60 last year, 50 this season) he has 36 points. Maybe he should have gone to Bakersfield in the AHL last year as a rookie pro to get more work, but he had to clear waivers this season, so the Oilers couldn’t send him to their farm. So, he’s been an everywhere man.

It’s been a major struggle. “There’s been spurts where I’ve played well and others where I haven’t. Times where I’ve got rewarded for playing well and others when I didn’t,” he said.

Injuries, not feeling well, and games where he’s played 17 minutes, others when he’s got seven.

He’s very much a bubble player right now.

“I’m not sure where I fit,” admitted Caggiula. “I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve played left-wing, right-wing. Played on the first line, the fourth line, been a healthy scratch.

“I think I can contribute more offensively in a top-nine role, but have to do it more consistently. I have to have more to show for what I’ve done.”

The Oilers organizational talent pool is very thin of young forwards, so Caggiula has a prime opportunity here. He just has to seize it. He can skate and he can hit, but after being one of the NCAA’s best players, he has to find a way to be a 35-40-point NHLer to be a top-nine guy.

“I don’t think many of us have reached our expectations after last season,” he said.

He’ll get the down and dirty from general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan at season’s end during player exit interviews, but what does he want to tell them?

“I’d like to consistently play one spot, with consistent linemates definitely helps build chemistry, leads to more offence and stuff,” said Caggiula. “I started out the year with Leon (Draisaitl) on the second line, but by the start of the (regular) season, I was on the third or fourth line and back to the first. It creates a bit of a whirlwind situation for myself. I need to find a spot in the lineup I can call home.

“But I need to play well enough so the coach has confidence in me and he can trust me. There’s been times where Todd’s had that with me and let me play 18-19 minutes, and others where I’ve played six or seven. I have to build that trust. It’s been difficult. I’ve never been a healthy scratch in junior and college until I got to the NHL.”

Caggiula has worn a full cage since a puck smashed into his face a month ago. It’s hot, the sweat builds and he can’t see out of it well, so he’s always taking it off to clean the windshield. He hopes to get it off later this week after seeing the dentist Tuesday.

Rakell thought he saw six teeth on the ice, but Caggiula, who had badly swollen lips, corrected him.

“Just two or three, and they were probably cracked or broken anyway,” he said. “Not a great feeling for myself and people watching maybe, it was sickening but that’s hockey.

“Three teeth gone and one that was cracked in half. I’ve been to the dentist three times. I’ve had a root canal and need a couple more. I’ve had some root tips pulled out, and a cracked tooth filled in. Lots of needles and they don’t feel good. I don’t like the freezing. You’re trying to drink something and it’s pouring out your lips.”

Cheap Throwback Los Angeles Kings Jerseys

Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings

The Vegas Golden Knights have an MO. They’re fast, they generate good scoring chances, they get in close to the net, and they frustrate you with their tenacity. I don’t think the Los Angeles Kings have quite solved this puzzle yet, and there were a lot of indications on Monday night that this incarnation of the Kings might never totally do it.

Unless Jonathan Quick plays like he did last night, in which case, you’ve got a 50-50 chance. Bet it all on black and cross your fingers.

The Kings found themselves, as they have so many times this season, trailing by a goal, then two, in the third period. They’ve been remarkably good at finding a goal to get back in it, and they’ve had several occasions where they tied (or appeared to tie) the game. This was the first time this year that they sealed the deal after trailing by two in the third, though, and they did it on a night where Team USA showed up.

How’d the Kings get in this type of situation, yet again? The way a lot of teams have against Vegas; one very costly mistake in coverage that was inevitably punished…

…and one effort-driven play by the line of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson.

Last game against Edmonton, mistakes by Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, and Alec Martinez — The Big Three on D! — all ended up behind Jonathan Quick. Muzzin was the only one to make a glaring error tonight, though Doughty lost a battle with Smith on the Knights’ second goal. We’ve had our eyes on Forbort, Folin, LaDue, and Gravel to do their part for the bottom pair, but if the Kings’ big guys on the blueline can’t clean up their act, it’ll be for naught. The good news? Martinez pulled out a couple of big-time shot blocks, and Dion Phaneuf had his best overall game in a Kings uniform. That helps.

The defense also got a major helping hand from Quick. LA allowed fewer shot attempts than they did in either their first or second matchup against Vegas, but they allowed more scoring chances. That’s where Quick came in. Often brilliant and only rarely out of position tonight, Quick pulled out some huge saves throughout the evening. Alex Tuch could have had a hat trick. James Neal, who left early after an awkward hit on Muzzin, got seven shot attempts in eight minutes. David Perron is still annoying! But Quick kept the Kings within reach, even if it felt like the Kings were fighting the most uphill of battles.

It took 52 minutes for the Kings to beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who was spectacular in the final ten minutes of the game but didn’t have to make many difficult saves up to that point. Jeff Carter had nine shots on goal — the second-most by any King in a game this season — and yet it took a deflection of Cody Eakin’s face to get him a goal. I accepted it, knowing that the Kings still needed a hellacious push in the final five minutes to make that goal matter. LA got that push, and after Quick stopped a 3-on-1 the other way, the Kings went all-out on the Vegas goal. Just as it looked like Fleury was going to repel the charge, Phaneuf passed instead of shooting.

Until then, Kopitar had been handling the puck a lot during the 6-on-5. Just as the Knights stopped paying attention to LA’s leading scorer, he got open for his second of three points on the evening. LA had stolen a point, and much to the Knights’ chagrin, they ended up stealing two after a Vegas crossbar and a Colin Miller hooking penalty. Vegas will have a chance to get redemption tonight; for Dustin Brown, who nearly pulled off two goals in ten seconds against Edmonton before having the second disallowed, redemption didn’t take long either.

 

Cheap Throwback Florida Panthers Jerseys

The Florida Panthers have their team and they are sticking with it, passing up deals including their top prospects on a trade deadline day that general manager Dale Tallon called “frustrating.”

Despite entering the playoff picture by winning nine of 12 games since the All-Star break, the Panthers did not make a move. Entering Monday, reports suggested the Panthers were interested in big names like Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.

But the team and Tallon stood pat, with last week’s acquisition of Frank Vatrano from Boston for a third-round pick as the lone transaction leading into the deadline. Tallon cited the high costs on the trade market in explaining the reasoning behind not making a move.

“We gave it our best shot on a couple deals,” Tallon said. “Obviously, it takes two to tango. We made some legitimately strong, solid offers and, at the last minute, we just were not able to get it done. Frustrating, but we protected a lot of our good young assets. A lot of the teams wanted our top players and we weren’t willing to do that but we were close on a couple of really good deals.”

Among those assets is Henrik Borgstrom, the University of Denver center that doubles as the Panthers’ top prospect. The 2016 first-round pick likely joins the Panthers next season and currently leads his team with 41 points on 18 goals and 23 assists.

“Everybody’s high on him,” Tallon said. “We’re higher on him. He’s the real deal and we’re excited about having him in our system. We’ll be a better team with him in the lineup long-term. There was a lot of requests about him and we were reluctant to do anything.”

By not making a deal, the Panthers also held on to prospects in juniors like Owen Tippett, Aleksi Heponiemi, Adam Mascherin and Jonathan Ang. Tallon said he Panthers were “unwilling to give up our top prospects, that’s the bottom line.”

The Panthers also held on to any draft picks. In the week leading into the trade deadline, seven first-round picks were swapped, including deals that featured players like Evander Kane, Tomas Tatar, Paul Stastny and Ryan Hartman. Any major trade that would have included the Panthers likely would have sent a first-round pick away from Sunrise.

“I don’t like giving up first-round picks,” Tallon said. “I like drafting.”

Since the All-Star break, the Panthers have been one of the league’s best teams, chipping away at a 12-point deficit in the standings to push their way into postseason contention. Entering Monday, Florida was five points back of Columbus with three games in hand.

Tallon said the hot streak placed Florida in the buyers category, even if the club couldn’t swing a deal.

As the Panthers stood pat, the Blue Jackets made a series of moves. They acquired Mark Letestu on Sunday from Nashville (via Edmonton). On Monday, the Blue Jackets picked up defenseman Ian Cole from Ottawa and forward Thomas Vanek from Vancouver.

Other teams in the Atlantic Division made moves. Tampa Bay landed McDonagh in a trade that also gave the Lightning J.T. Miller for five pieces, including top-line forward Vladislav Namestnikov. Toronto traded for Tomas Plakanec. Boston got Rick Nash.

Before the deadline, Panthers coach Bob Boughner said “you got your eye out and seeing who’s doing what.” Tallon said other moves did not impact the club.

“We don’t do deals based on what other teams do,” Tallon said. “We do deals based on what’s best for the Florida Panthers. That’s how we operate.”

But Florida’s holes remain the same as they push towards the playoffs.

Their forward depth grew thinner with news that Denis Malgin is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Their defense gives up the second-most shots on goal in the league and is on pace to allow the most goals in franchise history.

“We have a good young team and we didn’t disrupt it and we didn’t give up our top assets moving forward,” Tallon said. “All in all, we’re in good shape. I like the position with games in hand and a chance to make the playoffs with this young team. We’ve maintained and kept all the top prospects in our system.”

Cheap Throwback Minnesota Wild Jerseys

Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild

Assessing the ability of a general manager fairly is difficult and impossible to do in a vacuum. When a GM is exceptionally good, it’s pretty clear to everyone. The same goes for the truly terrible GMs that end up hurting their team for years after their run in charge is over. Most of the rest are somewhere in a mushy middle. There are some good moves, some bad moves, and in either case some luck likely played a role. Part of the reason for this is that managers are working with (and against) each other. Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher isn’t making trades with a computer, but with another general manager who wants to get a good deal for his club just as much as GMCF does. Free agent signings are with players that have their own agenda, most obviously to get a good payday, but also to end up on a team that is a contender or where they can have a better role.

Another reason for the mushy middle is the difficult nature of the Entry Draft. GMs are guessing at how players, drafted while teenagers, are going to perform at the highest level of competition, sometimes several years down the road. The guessing is informed by scouts and prospects’ performance at the lower levels, but it is still asking GMs to predict these young players’ futures. Difficult, but it doesn’t involve the back and forth that trades and free agent signings does. During the Entry Draft, if a player is still available and GMCF has the next pick, he can draft that player. There’s no negotiation with the player, at least at this stage. There is, of course, the added complexity of the wheeling and dealing among GMs to acquire or trade picks to select particular players, so even here managers are not working in a vacuum.

Still, drafting provides one of the most straightforward ways to judge the ability of a GM. Does he identify NHLpotential consistently or does he choose first round busts? Does he have a knack for finding value in the later rounds, where the odds of a finding a NHL contributor are much smaller? To answer these questions, I’ve constructed an all-drafted roster from the Minnesota Wild’s draft picks over the years. I’ve included the player’s draft round beside each of their names and a symbol (* for Chuck Fletcher and # for Doug Riseborough) to indicate which Wild GM selected the player.
Jason Zucker (2nd)* – Mikko Koivu (1st)# – Marian Gaborik (1st)#
Luke Kunin (1st)* – Mikael Granlund (1st)* – Alex Tuch (1st)*
Benoit Pouliot (1st)# – Erik Haula (7th)* – Cal Clutterbuck (3rd)#
Tyler Graovac (7th)* – Joel Eriksson Ek (1st)* – Kurtis Gabriel (3rd)*
Jonas Brodin (1st)* – Brent Burns (1st)#
Nick Leddy (1st)* – Matt Dumba (1st)*
Marco Scandella (2nd)# – Gustav Olofsson (2nd)*
Anton Khudobin (7th)#
Darcy Kuemper (6th)*

You can quibble with some of the player placement with this roster (personally, I’d probably split up Dumba and Leddy to capitalize on the offensive advantages they offer), but there’s no getting around the fact that this is a below average team overall. The forward group is short on scoring and was so thin at center I had to move Granlund back there despite winger being a better fit for him. For a team that has had a lot of depth at left wing in reality, the draft-only team is especially desperate there.

The defense is unequivocally the strength of this team. Only Gustav Olofsson remains an unproven NHLer, and with Brent Burns, Nick Leddy, Matt Dumba, and Marco Scandella, this is a team that is spoiled for choice on the power play and can count on offense from the back end.

The goaltending looks questionable with two career backups splitting the job as a platoon. With Josh Harding’s early retirement due to complications from multiple schlerosis, the lack of recent success in drafting a goaltender is stark. A few prospects are still working their way up to the NHL right now, but in the meantime, this team has to rely on Khudobin (career .917) and Kuemper (career .913) in net.

Another thing I noticed, this team is largely made up of early round draft picks but there are some key contributions coming from seventh round as well (one center, one left wing, and one goaltender). It seems that the Wild over the years has had some success with finding diamonds in the rough, but has had almost no success in the middle rounds of the draft, partially due to having traded away many of those picks. It will be interesting to see how players like Carson Soucy (5th), Louis Belpedio (3rd), Kaapo Kahkonen (4th), and Kirill Kaprizov (5th) turn out.

Riseborough is responsible for seven of the 20 players on this roster. Seeing as Fletcher has been the Wild’s GM since April 2009, I can’t decide if I find that surprising or not. On the one hand, top NHL players frequently play for more than a decade in the NHL, so it is possible that players from any of Riseborough’s drafts could be active NHL players. In fact, with Gaborik still active, this is the case. On the other hand, Fletcher has been at the helm for exactly as many Entry Drafts as his predecessor. Shouldn’t more of his picks be on the team by now? The most recent drafts are mostly prospects that haven’t had time to reach the NHL yet, but the NHL journeymen that Fletcher might have selected in his early drafts are largely missing.

One important caveat to keep in mind with all of this is that the Wild’s GM, especially Fletcher as he is the current one, have been drafting in response to what the team possesses in reality. For example, with the trade to acquire Devan Dubnyk working out so well, Fletcher hasn’t needed to drop an early round draft pick on a high level goaltending prospect, which he almost certainly would have been forced to do in this alternate reality.

There’s also the matter of the Wild’s draft position to consider. The Wild have never selected earlier than third overall and have selected within the top ten only seven times. This has severely limited the number of “can’t miss” picks the Wild GMs hae enjoyed. Instead, they’ve been somewhat victimized by the Wild’s success and been forced to pick in the middle or bottom of the draft rounds where prospects are much less certain of making an impact at the NHL. Fletcher has done well with the two opportunities he has had, drafting Granlund (9th overall) and Dumba (7th) overall. Riseborough’s picks have had the most impact with Gaborik (3rd overall), Mikko Koivu (6th overall), and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (8th overall), but also included several busts like Benoit Pouliot (4th overall) and James Sheppard (9th overall).

In the end, I wouldn’t rate the draft work of either Riseborough or Fletcher particularly high. The former was especially underwhelming with much of his work, and the effect (or lack of effect) his picks are having on the team still to this day are negative save for Koivu. The job of NHL GM is undoubtedly a tough one, but the draft needs to be an area of strength in the salary cap world. So far, it hasn’t proved to be one for the Wild.

Cheap Throwback Montreal Canadiens Jerseys

And anyone who thought the Canadiens’ two wins during Super Bowl weekend thrust the team back into the playoff hunt got a cold dose of reality Thursday night in Philadelphia.

In the first of three games the teams will play this month, the home team blew two leads and surrendered a late power-play goal by Brendan Gallagher before Ivan Provorov’s empty-netter squelched any hope of the Canadiens extending their modest winning streak.

The losing team didn’t play a bad game.

But nor did the Canadiens play particularly well.

The only two lines that consistently generated time in the Philadelphia zone were the third and fourth units: Artturi Lehkonen-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher and Logan Shaw-Byron Froese-Nicolas Deslauriers.

As has been the case too often this season, Jonathan Drouin was invisible against the Flyers: 2-6 in the face-off circle, little in the way of creativity beyond an assist on the late Gallagher goal that made things fleetingly interesting.

Max Pacioretty also was MIA. The Captain came briefly to life during the late-game flurry but was otherwise ineffective.

Even Paul Byron wasn’t his usual energetic self: One shot attempt, 5-8 on faceoffs. (The Canadiens were 20-37 on draws.)

Alex Galchenyuk and Nikita Scherbak showed flashes of creativity in the offensive zone.

But Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol’s key move, after a scoreless 20 minutes, was moving his line of Travis Konecny-Jakub Voracek-Sean Couturier away from the vigilance of Plekanec, Lehkonen and Gallagher. Playing against Galchenyuk-Drouin-Scherbak, Konecny scored 42 seconds into the second period.

Konecny’s second of the game also came against the Drouin line.

The Flyers enjoyed several sequences of solid forechecking and deft puck movement to set up high-quality shots in the Canadiens’ zone – something opponents have accomplished in almost every game this season.

On the back end, Jordie Benn was plus-1 and Victor Mete played a solid 15 minutes.

Carey Price made some big stops but looked bad on the second Konecny goal.

It was, on the whole, a reversion to form by the Canadiens.

And P.K. is coming to the Bell Centre on Saturday.

Cheap Throwback Nashville Predators Jerseys

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators

NEW YORK – The Predators understandably were displeased with the NHL’s decision Sunday to suspend all-important forward Filip Forsberg for three games.

But it happened, and there was nothing they could do about it.

So the Predators pressed forward without him Monday against the New York Islanders, just like they recently did for a month with him on injured reserve.

► More: Predators surprised by NHL’s decision to suspend Filip Forsberg

Nashville certainly could’ve used Forsberg on a defense-optional evening in New York, but his teammates still managed to engineer a late-game comeback to defeat the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.

Here are three observations from Monday’s win:
Comeback kids

Among the components responsible the Predators’ success as of late has been a more structured defense.

Before facing the Islanders on Monday, the Predators had allowed a league-low 23 goals in 12 games since Jan. 2, the date of defenseman Ryan Ellis’ season debut.

► More: How will Mike Fisher’s return impact Predators’ trade deadline plans?

Nashville wasn’t as sturdy in that regard to start Monday’s game against one of the league’s highest-scoring teams, letting in three first-period goals. Pekka Rinne, whose personal winning streak stretched to eight games, surrendered some questionable early goals, including two scored by Islanders defensemen from outside the circles.

He eventually composed himself and buoyed the Predators’ rally by making 24 saves and thwarting multiple high-quality chances in crunch time, including an eye-popping stop in overtime when he slid across the crease to snare Islanders forward Mathew Barzal’s point-blank shot with his glove.

Predators center Ryan Johansen’s last-minute equalizer led to captain Roman Josi’s overtime winner on a give-and-go with center Nick Bonino.

Fiala’s on fire

After a brief slump, Predators forward Kevin Fiala has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch. Two goals in the first period — a slick finish on center Kyle Turris’ cross-ice pass and a tap-in on a rebound — earned Fiala his third multi-goal performance in his past seven games and second in a row.

Fiala has 17 goals this season, tied with forward Viktor Arvidsson for the team lead. The Predators, who pounded the leaky Islanders with 47 shots, won for the first time in 13 tries this season when trailing after two periods.

With suspension comes opportunity

The absence of Forsberg and the impending return of Mike Fisher creates a small window for lower-tier forwards to receive elevated roles.

On Monday, Colton Sissons, who scored in each of the Predators’ previous two games after enduring a 29-game drought, initially stepped into Forsberg’s left-wing spot alongside Johansen and Arvidsson.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette later swapped Sissons and Pontus Aberg, presumably in search of offense. They combined for three shots Monday.

Cheap Throwback New Jersey Devils Jerseys

Taylor Hall, Keith Kinkaid, Mirco Mueller and Nico Hischier will lead the New Jersey Devils into their first game out of the All-Star break when they visit Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Hall, Kinkaid and Mueller will all return to the lineup after injuries forced them to miss time. Hall and Kinkaid miss the past three games, while Mueller has been out since Nov. 12 with a broken clavicle.

The Devils have lost four straight games and are 1-0-1 against the Sabres this season.

Here is the AP recap of the game:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Taylor Hall scored in his first game after missing three with an injury to his right hand, and the New Jersey Devils snapped a four-game skid with a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Kyle Palmieri scored an empty-netter and added an assist, and Miles Wood also scored for the Devils. Backup goalie Keith Kinkaid stopped 27 shots in his first game since missing three with a groin injury. He started in place of Cory Schneider, who missed his fourth game since also hurting his groin.

Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe spoiled Kinkaid’s shutout bid by scoring a power-play goal with 5:02 remaining. Buffalo, however, failed to convert on another power-play opportunity when Devils rookie Nico Hischier was penalized for cross-checking with 2:45 remaining.

Kinkaid made a key save during the Sabres’ final man-advantage during a scramble in front with 1:30 left. He reached out with his left arm to turn aside Ryan O’Reilly’s chance from in close.

Hall showed no effects of the hand injury, putting the Devils up 2-0 with 14:29 remaining. Set up alone on the left wing by Jesper Bratt’s no-look backhand pass, Hall stepped into the circle and fired a shot that went in despite goalie Robin Lehner getting a piece of the puck with his glove.

Wood used his speed to open the scoring 5:49 into the second period. Will Butcher sent a pass that hit Wood in stride while streaking up the left wing, catching Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen flatfooted. Wood made a bee-line toward the net a step ahead of Ristolainen and cut through the crease before backhanding the puck into the open far side.

Wood’s goal ended the Devils’ scoring drought at 116 minutes, 46 seconds, dating to Damon Severson’s goal in the second period of a 3-2 loss at Boston last Tuesday. New Jersey was shut out the following game, a 3-0 loss to Detroit on Thursday.

The Sabres, meanwhile, were coming off consecutive shutouts and allowed their first goal in a span of 199:19 — a little under 27 minutes short of the franchise record — shared by Lehner and backup Chad Johnson.

Lehner, who finished with 25 saves, set a career best with his shutout streak that ended at 145:15, topping his previous best by more than 19 minutes. He had stopped a combined 63 shots in a 5-0 win over Edmonton and a 4-0 victory over Vancouver last week.

NOTES: Before the game, the Sabres held a moment of silence in tribute to USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson, who died unexpectedly on Jan. 21. General manager Jason Botterill, U.S.-born coach Phil Housley and forward Jack Eichel spoke fondly of Johannson in a video broadcast on the scoreboard. Housley referred to Johannson as “the classiest guy you’d ever want to meet.” … Devils coach John Hynes said Schneider is scheduled to begin skating on his own in the next day or so. Schneider missed his second game since hurting his groin in the loss at Boston last Tuesday. … D Mirco Mueller returned after missing 31 games with a broken clavicle. … In discussing the Devils’ skid earlier in the day, Taylor provided an amusing quote that didn’t exactly add up by saying: “Hockey’s a funny game. It goes in 10-game segments. We started off 9-2 and then in our last 11, I think we’re 2-9-2. So what team are we?”

UP NEXT

Devils: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Cheap Throwback New York Islanders Jerseys

New York Islanders
New York Islanders

The Islanders are a talented team slowly surmounting inexperience only to be stymied now by injury. Shorthanded, NY finds mostly veterans on the IR list. Fans worried John Tavares may leave hope for a playoff run to show him NY can win. They’re calling for a trade to replenish the ranks.

The Islanders score lots of goals but let in about as many. Their current play forecasts a battle for lower level playoff contention. Fans hope the team wins, convincing John Tavares to re-sign.

At the time of writing the Isles are missing two of their top four de-men (C. de Haan, J. Boychuk) and three of their top penalty killers (A. Ladd, C. Cizikas, N. Kulemin).

The trade deadline is less than a month away, and many Long Islanders are calling for GM Garth Snow’s head if he doesn’t supply an improvement through trade. (I still have faith in the process. I liked the Hamonic trade…)

With so many considering building by trade though, I’m taking a stab at it. I looked to address gaps in the roster; a goalie, a third line center or wing, a larger, reliable defenseman capable of clearing the crease, anyone at all who can help on the PK.

If the Islanders can find a way to activate their third line offensively or lock it down defensively they’ll outscore their opponents most games, regardless of how their defense does.

However, despite the many glaring holes in the team right now, I’d say the Islanders biggest need is someone who can help clear the crease to reduce screens and rebounds.

Here are some proposals that could help tweak the team and get the boys churning again. There are, at least, some new names mixed in here.

Cheap Throwback New York Rangers Jerseys

Doug Weight
Doug Weight

The Islanders will reconvene on Friday after their week-long break with a load of questions about how they can rediscover the form that led them to a 15-7-2 start to this season.

They’re currently in a 6-11-2 funk, having lost five of seven after the three-day Christmas break. Only two of those six wins were in regulation.

There is ample time — 39 games, to be precise — for the Islanders to rebound and make the postseason. Let’s look ahead and see what’s to come and what the Islanders can do to turn this season back on the right path:

Making up ground in the second half of the season is like climbing a sand dune, as the Islanders found out last season.

They are only a point out of a playoff spot and have 14 of their final 39 games against Metropolitan Division opponents, starting with Saturday’s game against the Rangers.

That’s a lot of chances to make up ground. Or fall further behind, if you prefer a dimmer outlook. But the opportunities are there.

Doug Weight called his team frail during its five-game losing streak. Their late comeback against the Devils on Sunday aside, this Islanders team simply plays from behind too often.

According to research by Sportsnet’s Dimitri Filipovic, the Islanders have trailed 41.1 percent of the time in their games. Only the 10-win Sabres have trailed more this season. The Islanders have led 26.8 percent of the time, 23rd in the league as of Wednesday.

Last season, the Islanders were blowing leads and points late. This season, with much of the same personnel, they can’t seem to keep from falling behind and staying there.

It’s not a matter of turning into an anti-offense team to protect leads or stay close late in games. If anything, the Islanders of the first two months of this season were better possession teams because they had the puck more and generated more offense. Weight stands behind that theory.

“We’ll have more scoring chances if we make smarter plays with the puck,” he said last month. “You’re not always going to be flying around the [offensive] zone, but when you make the other team defend and chase, that’s the goal.”

In-house solutions

The Islanders’ top two lines have been superb this season. The Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk pair has been good, though it dipped as the team started to dip, likely because of whatever injury Boychuk was trying to play through before he realized he needed a break.

A lot of the rest of the lineup has been in flux as Weight and his staff search for consistency. The answers to at least a couple of problems may be in Bridgeport.

Anthony Beauvillier is there now and, even playing only three games, seems to be invigorated by his first AHL demotion. Josh Ho-Sang was a healthy scratch on Wednesday for the Sound Tigers. Although he has recorded 12 points in 15 games in the month since he was sent down, it seems that Ho-Sang has more maturing to do in the eyes of the organization.

But these are desperate times for the Islanders. If Ho-Sang and Beauvillier both return, the bottom six could have what it needs to avoid being a black hole of possession and offense. Whether it’s a Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Ho-Sang line or Beauvillier plays with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck — or Nelson goes with the latter two — the Islanders can improve their bottom six from within.

On defense, Boychuk’s health is key. Calvin de Haan won’t be back, so this essentially is a six-man group now, with Dennis Seidenberg there in case of emergency.

Christopher Gibson could be a more stable solution in goal than Thomas Greiss, who would easily clear waivers with two more years left on his deal. Gibson hasn’t been lights out for Bridgeport, but changing things in net seems like a must.
Outside solutions

Garth Snow certainly is texting and talking with his fellow general managers, but things have not shaken loose with six weeks still to go until the trade deadline.

The Islanders could have claimed Cody Franson on waivers from the Blackhawks, but the sense around the team is that they prefer their younger defensemen. That would seem to apply to most of the pending free-agent defensemen who might be available. The other problem is that there’s only three teams that already are in sell mode (Sabres, Coyotes, Canucks), and they don’t seem to have what the Islanders are looking for on defense. Erik Gudbranson is available from Vancouver, but he’s more of a throwback-style defenseman and not the most mobile.

Teams will start to fall out of contention in the coming weeks, and more players will hit the market. The Islanders have extra first- and second-round picks from the Flames, and Calgary is on the playoff bubble in the Western Conference. The question for Snow: Will there be anyone with some term left on a deal who is worth giving up a potential lottery pick, either the Islanders’ own or Calgary’s?

The Islanders have seven games in the 12 days until the All-Star break, five on the road. This stretch will say a lot about the rest of the season and whether the Islanders are the high-flying team that raced out in October or November or the fragile one that sank back in December.

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Dion Phaneuf
Dion Phaneuf

OTTAWA —Dion Phaneuf was wearing a Hockey Day In Canada toque in the Senators dressing room, somewhat a scholar on the subject after playing his whole career in three Great White North markets.

But Friday might have been a day he wished he were an Anaheim Duck.

With Erik Karlsson trade speculation revived and the Sens captain reportedly feeling too sick to practise, it was down to Dion and a few others to face the cameras. Keep in mind their awful season already has the locals on edge and the prospect of moving Karlsson, though remote, was nonetheless not discounted by general manager Pierre Dorion the day before.

Karlsson is part of a larger story around owner Eugene Melnyk’s ownership of the team and talk of a new downtown arena.

“We’re in this situation because of our play,” said Phaneuf. “When you’re sitting in the spot we’re in (second last in the conference) there’ll be questions about our play and rightfully so. When you don’t have results, there’s change and talk of change.”

In Calgary and, more specifically, Toronto, where he was captain, Phaneuf was under a microscope. Here, some success last season and the rising star of Karlsson and others let Phaneuf be a more effective, worry-free top four defenceman.

Friday seemed a bit of a throwback, Phaneuf trying to explain why a good team had lost its way, but he’s an old hand at it by now.

“It’s part of playing in Canada, part of playing in a passionate market, the fans, the media, and we’re lucky to do what we do,” he maintained. “I’ve been fortunate to play a lot on Hockey Night In Canada, in Calgary on the late game, then Toronto, now Ottawa. That’s what you grow up watching. Tomorrow night is a rivalry game, I expect our building to have a lot of energy .”