The New York Islanders had a disappointing but promising ending to their 2017 season. They finished the season with 94 points, the same amount of points as the Western Conference champions Nashville Predators. Those points were not enough to get the team into the playoffs again. The Islanders missed the playoffs by 1 point. They finished a point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs who went on to lose to the Capitals in 7 games. That was the disappointing part of it, the promising part of it was their surge. The Islanders were way out of the playoff picture when they fired Jack Capuano. The Islanders promoted Doug Weight to interim head coach for the rest of the season and spoiler alert, he is here to stay. The Islanders finished 24-12-4 under Doug Weight for the rest of the season. He changed the culture around the team and pushed the team a little harder than usual, rightfully so. Some other promising signs was the resurgence of Andrew Ladd and Ryan Strome under Weight. Andrew Ladd struggled in the first few months of the season Capuano using him on the 4th line didn’t help. When Weight came in he put Ladd on the 2nd line and he played much better the rest of the way, finishing with 23 goals. Ryan Strome was always known as Capuano’s scapegoat. Strome would always find himself in the stands a lot under Capuano. Under Weight, Strome got more time and should signs of improvement. The Islanders team seems much more stable under Doug Weight.
Now with that said, what do we expect of the Islanders this season? Some questions the Islanders face are, Can Doug Weight have a full season of success? Can the kids make a significant impact? How will their defense recover with the loss of Hamonic? John Tavares contract? We can talk about some of those now. This is officially Weight’s team. He changed his coaching staff and had the summer to tweak his system. He seems to be very good with kids, which is a positive because the Islanders have a lot of youth. Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech all have a very good chance of playing NHL games this year, that’s young. Josh Ho-Sang and Mathew Barzal are two promising prospects that the Islanders have been waiting for. We got a glimpse of Ho-Sang last season, he brought life and energy to the Islanders helping them make a playoff push. Barzal on the other hand, well he led his team to the WHL championship to finish his junior hockey career. Losing Hamonic hurt the Islanders defense, but they hope for kids to jump in. Pelech, Mayfield, Pulock are all fighting for that final spot. The Islanders are also back to a 2-goalie system. Which means Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss will split starts throughout the season. The John Tavares contract situation will now enter into the season. We all know what he’s waiting for, that is to find out more about the Islanders future on and off the ice. The money won’t be a problem and he has shown how much he likes it here. But he needs to see roster improvement and clarity on an arena before signing that contract. The biggest acquisition of the summer was the addition of Jordan Eberle. Eberle was considered to have a ‘down year’ last year and he finished with 51 points. The vision of John Tavares and Jordan Eberle together on the same line seems pretty scary. That duo could do some damage and put the Islanders back into the playoffs.
Based on training camp, these are likely the Islanders lines heading into the season.
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd – Mathew Barzal – Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Josh Ho-Sang
Kulemin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck/Chimera
Leddy – Boychuk
De Haan – Seidenberg
Hickey – Pelech/Mayfield/Pulock
After a year off from the Fall classic, the New York Yankees are back. The Yankees clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. The last appearance for the Yankees was the 2015 Wild Card game in the Bronx vs the Houston Astros, where the Yankees ran into Cy Young Winner Dallas Keuchel. Last year, the Yankees sold at the deadline and still pushed for a playoff spot late. The reason they pushed late was the emergence of their young players. The biggest piece being Gary Sanchez. But also guys like Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin and Luis Severino. This year was very similar. Aaron Judge is having a bounce back, MVP type season. Gary Sanchez is crushing the ball and Luis Severino has emerged as an AL Cy Young candidate. Also with the additions of David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Sonny Gray that made them just that much better.
The Yankees still want to win the division, but with 8 games left it doesn’t seem likely. The Boston Red Sox hold a 4 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East. The Yankees are likely to have the Wild Card game at home vs Twins, Angels or Rangers.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman was on WFAN earlier today and was asked about when might OF Aaron Hicks return and what might follow. Cashman stated that when Hicks is taken off the DL, Clint Frazier will be sent down to the Yankees AAA team in Scranton. Frazier will still be in the majors for the at least another week as Hicks is not expected to resume baseball activities until they return from their road trip on Monday. Frazier is batting .298 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in his 13 games with the Yankees.
This comes as a surprising move to send down one of your hottest hitters, but it seems like the Yankees do not want to carry 5 outfielders. Frazier still has time to help the Yankees get back on track as they start a crucial series with the Seattle Mariners. Even when Frazier is sent down, he won’t be down for long as he will most likely be apart of the September call-ups when the rosters expand, barring injury.
The Yankees have a big decision to make going into the trade deadline on July 31st. Do they buy, sell or stay put. I’m going to tell you why they should be buyers. On July 31st 2016, the Yankees were sitting at 52-52 which put them a few games out of a playoff spot. They struggled all season long and were probably going to sell weeks before the deadline. This year is a different story. The Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball for the first couple months of the season. They started 38-23 and since that start they are 9-21. They are currently sitting in the 2nd wild card spot. The Yankees are only 1 loss away from not being in a playoff spot. The difference between this year and last year is not the record but it’s how they are playing. Last year the Yankees never showed signs of being a true playoff team any team before the trade deadline. This year the Yankees have played playoff type baseball. They have shown when they are healthy, they can compete with anyone.
The Yankees biggest needs are 1B, RP and they could now use a starting pitcher with Pineda being out for the season. Here are potential candidates the Yankees should target for each one of their needs.
Sonny Gray has been a name on the market for a while now. He is under team control until 2020. Which makes him valuable since he’s not a rental pitcher. Gray is 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA this season. He would cost more than a rental for sure and would probably take at least one of their top prospects to land him. Interesting to see if they are willing to pay the price but i’m sure they’re interested.
Yonder Alonso would fill a hole the Yankees have had ever since Greg Bird went down with an injury. The Yankees have had 7 different players play first base and are currently using Garrett Cooper. But rumor has it that the Yankees do not plan on using Cooper all year. They have expressed interest in Alonso recently. Alonso is batting .268 with 21 HR and 44 RBI. Maybe if the Yankees are really interested, they could work a package deal for both Alonso and Gray.
This goes without saying but if the Yankees want to make a run in the playoffs, they need to fix their bullpen. The Yankees bullpen which was a strength heading into the season, has turned into a weakness. Chapman has struggled as of late. Most recently blowing a save vs the Red Sox without recording an out. Betances is having the worst season of his career and Tyler Clippard is abysmal. Robertson is 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 13 saves. Bringing the former Yankee back would help their playoff push.
Those are 3 targets the Yankees should push for. The Yankees have a deep enough prospect pool to get at least two of these assets. Theyve shown they are good enough to compete. That should encourage them to buy this summer.