The following is an excerpt of the upcoming book Hockey Prospectus 2011-12. To see a preview of several New York Islanders player profiles, as they will appear in Hockey Prospectus 2011-12, click here for the .pdf.
During training camp, impish forward Rob Schremp reflected upon the 2009-10 season, in hopes of a potentially competitive season ahead for the New York Islanders. Remembering how New York was in the playoff hunt well into the second half of that season before a seven-game losing streak in late January and early February knocked them off the pace for good, Schremp rather innocently commented that all the team needed to do was
avoid those seven-game losing streaks. If he only knew what was in store for the Islanders.
Getting out of the gate a promising 4-1-2 over their first seven games, superficially it looked as though New York might actually prove to be a playoff contenderthe goal that owner Charles Wang and general manager Garth Snow set for them in the preseason. Unfortunately, key injuries had already started to sap the team's strength even before they broke camp, with number one defenseman Mark Streit (who posted a heroic 16 goals, 40 assists, 56 points, plus-5 for the abysmal 26-47-9 Islanders of 2008-09) out for the season and top-six forward Kyle Okposo out indefinitely, both with shoulder injuries. The fragile depth of the team was quickly tested by more players dropping out of the lineup. Schremp, veteran forward Trent Hunter, top-four defenseman Andy MacDonald, third-pairing defensemen Milan Jurcina and Mike Mottau, and venerable captain Doug Weight were also lost for significant periods of time within the first two months, while the enigmatic Josh Bailey's early progress was hampered by a hip injury. Others, like Mark Eaton and of course, Rick DiPietro, missed significant time later in the season (In fact, most of the goaltenders in the organization missed significant time to the Islanders injury jinx).
So after that nice start, the increasingly depleted Islanders proceeded to lose an incredible 14 games in a row and 20 of 21 games between October 23rd and December 13th, going 1-17-3 with a mere five points over what amounted to exactly a quarter of a season. Not surprisingly, head coach Scott Gordon didn't survive. Gordon only made it that magic seven games into the losing streak before being replaced by Jack Capuano, brought in from the Islanders affiliate in Bridgeport.
While all teams have injuries and while bad luck hits worse in some years than others, the New York Islanders have been particularly snake-bitten over the course of the last several seasons, averaging 99 more man-games lost per season than the second place Colorado and over 150 more man-games than the third place Flyers. Consider that in their relatively "fortunate" season of 2009-10, the Isles were still fourth in man-games lost, while they easily topped the league in both 2008-09 and 2010-11. While clearly not every injury is equal (consider the Penguins loss of Sidney Crosby this season), there's no denying that New York has faced some particularly bad luck with injuries
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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