Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

After making two straight playoff appearances and winning their first playoff round in 23 years, the New York Islanders entered this season with considerable optimism. Sadly, things have gone off the rails. The Islanders find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with their playoff hopes fading. 

Defense and goaltending are the Islanders’ main weaknesses. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres give up more shots-against per game (34.0 and 33.0 respectively) than the Isles (32.9). Their penalty-killing percentage (79.7) ranks among the league’s bottom third.  

Their goals-against per game (2.95) is also among the league’s worst. For too long, they carried three goalies in Thomas Greiss, Jean-Francois Berube and the now-demoted Jaroslav Halak. It made it difficult for one of them to establish themselves as the clear-cut starter.

The Islanders are near the top-third offensively (2.78 goals-for per game). However, they’re still feeling the effects of losing core players Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin to free agency. General manager Garth Snow failed to find suitable replacements. 

Should the Isles fail to reach the playoffs, Snow could be forced to consider a rebuild. The question is, will franchise player and team captain John Tavares approve? He’s eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2018. While he’s been committed to the Isles, his patience could be tested if management opts to shake things up.

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