Back in November I declared that I was dumbfounded or mystified by several things the Isles were doing. They were as follows:
1) Why Gordon separated Tavares, Moulson & Okposo when they had been so productive for the first 2 weeks.
2) Why Jon Sim was playing over Tambelli and Schremp.
3) That the team was repeatedly blowing leads in the 3rd period.
4) That Gervais was underwhelming - along with the rest of the defense.
Turns out -- I was right about most of this.
Item 1: We saw Tavares go through an extended slump as Gordon rotated the guys on his wing. In the second half of the season he played with more guys than a whore in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. How can someone become "consistent" and "comfortable" if they have different line mates every night. Then finally in the last few weeks he was reunited with Moulson and they both started finding the back of the net again. Sometimes Gordon just over-coaches.
Item 2: OK, I said some crappy things about Sim on more than one occasion. Mostly because I saw him playing on a top line or getting PP time. That is just asinine. Anyone whose seen Sim play knows that he plays hard, he is a scrappy guy, a pesky troublemaker and a garbage goal-scorer. Now a goal is a goal is a goal. However, when you have a guy with the talent of Schremp sitting on the bench for a team that is struggling offensively and someone like Sim is getting line 2 or 3 playing time it just doesn't make sense. I've heard Schremp has focus issues and/or trouble keeping his game at a consistent level at both ends of the ice. But when given some consistent ice time -- like we saw in the middle 3rd of the season -- we saw Schremp emerge as a real play-maker and someone probably capable of scoring 20-25 goals if given a real chance. If Sim stays as a 4th line agitator, then that's fine -- but Schremp needs to see the ice more. As for Tambellini -- I just have no answer for what is wrong with him. He has brief (very brief) moments of brilliance - like when he scored a hat trick or during the shoot out - but then he'll go a week or two being completely invisible. I think we all might need to finally accept that he would benefit from change of scenery. Only problem - he played so little & Gordon has criticized his play enough that he probably has little to no trade value.
Item 3: Late game collapses. Once the Isles young guys got some experience under their belts we saw them play a little more consistently late in games. I think having Roloson emerge as a solid net minder also allowed the team to relax a little and not be so worried that a mistake would cost them the game.
Item 4: No production from Gervais specifically and from the defense as a whole. With the exception of Streit (whose production dipped from 16 goals last year to 11 this year) the defensemen scored a total of 17 goals for the season!!!! That is putrid. That is also the exact output from the defense the year before. There are teams with a single defensemen with 17 or more goals -- and the entire defensive unit for the Isles had only 17 - again, taking Streit out of the equation. Now for Bruno. He had 3 goals and 16 assists last year for 19 points. This season - 3 goals again and only 14 assists for a mere 17 points. That is ANEMIC and he actually played 2 more games this year. He was a -15 last season and a -15 this season. So, essentially there has been no improvement in his game statistics-wise. I know stats don't tell the whole story -- but I have season tickets and I watched Bruno make mistake after mistake with the puck this year. Meanwhile Hillen went from 1 goal, 5 assists and a -9 in 40 games last season to 3 goals, 18 assists and a -5 in 69 games this season. He showed some improvement and his stats may have been a little better if he didn't get his jaw broken so violently. I am sure that has to have an impact on his play.
Lessons learned from above --- don't monkey with lines that are working; Schremp has earned the right to more ice time and, yes, Sim has value - just as a 4th line guy, and the Isles need to SERIOUSLY upgrade their defense.
In about 2 months from now is the draft. The Isles have the 5th overall pick. This is a draft allegedly rich in quality defensemen - so Garth should have his pick of a handful of qualified candidates. Plus, with only 11 players under contract and the team more than $15 million under the minimum payroll, we should see some free agent spending this summer.
Next up: I play swami for the Isles pick and free agents.