While Ownership And Front Office Sit On Their Hands, Already-Damaged Fans Have Become Even More Alienated

By Jeff Capellini
WFAN.com

The whole thing is just a fiasco.

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Not too long ago, a 5-0-1 run moved the Islanders within earshot of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Things were clearly looking up following a dismal start that featured just six wins in their first 20 games.

But that small bit of good fortune turned out to be one hell of a tease.

The Isles have since fallen into the depths of despair, otherwise known as the basement of the conference. Spirited victories over the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers and Blues have been replaced by one late-game debacle after another. The Islanders are winless in their last five (0-4-1) and are a stunning 13 points out of the second wild card heading into their road game at Boston on Tuesday.

Nothing is going right for this team. Like literally nothing. But that also begs the question whether the Isles deserve anything more than their current status as NHL bottom-feeders. I’ll get to more on that in a bit. First, let’s look at some disturbing numbers.

The Islanders have been outscored 24-12 during their slide, including an utterly dreadful 6-2 home loss to Ottawa on Sunday night. As bad as they have looked in their own end of late, their follies on offense continue to be the real story. The Islanders have been outscored 11-0 in the third period over their last five games. Their inability to play 60 minutes has reached tragically sad proportions.

Yet general manager Garth Snow doesn’t appear to be phased by any of it, at least not publicly.

New co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, you ask? I don’t know who they are. Do you?

Head coach Jack Capuano? This guy is aging exponentially by the minute, but, if we’re being honest here, most fans turned their backs on him a while back.

From where I’m sitting, the root of this team’s problems stopped being about the players weeks ago.

For some reason, Snow still has this undying belief in his subpar roster. He spoke to a chosen few season ticket holders prior to Sunday’s game and reiterated his earlier stance that the Islanders are a lot better than their 11-14-6 record indicates.

“I have a lot of belief in these guys. There’s a lot of fight in that locker room and a lot of belief in one another,” Snow said during the gathering.

Snow then watched his team get steamrolled in the third period by the Senators, a good team but one that had played the night before in New Jersey.

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After having a front row seat for all that has happened this season, one would think the current state of affairs would compel him to do something. Yet to operate with so little urgency is equal points confusing and infuriating. At the very least he should start maneuvering some pieces to give the Isles a decent shot of rebounding this summer, right?

You may be wondering why I am assuming Snow will be the one calling the shots going forward.

Well, the truth is I have no reason to think otherwise.

Ledecky and Malkin are apparently on some kind of covert fact-finding mission, trying to put all their ducks in a row before they at the very least utter a single word on their horror show of a team. You know, the one Ledecky promised would be “world class” in many respects. At this point we have no idea if either owner is even upset with the job the front office has done. Sure, there have been reports about the possibility of ownership bringing in a director of hockey operations to oversee everything, and, presumably, to make changes, but how sure can we be?

Why would you believe any report or rumor at this point?

As for Capuano, he often looks out of sorts during his postgame news conferences. To be fair, when you lose in pretty much the same fashion every night, looks aren’t too deceiving. You have to give him credit for one thing, though. He still believes in this whole “battle level” thing.

“I sound like a broken record with our effort,” Capuano told reporters following Sunday’s loss. “The third goal was a big goal for them. The power-play goal that they got — we had three guys versus their two at the net. So that’s what you want to talk about. Lift their stick, have some battle level in (you), have some fight. That, to me, that was a big goal for them. They didn’t generate much tonight, I can tell you that.”

Yeah, but nobody wants to hear that kind of stuff anymore.

The bottom line with the Islanders is they are a gigantic disappointment. I have read comparisons between this team and last season’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Like the Islanders, much was expected of the 2015-16 Jackets out of the gate, but they struggled and eventually fired coach Todd Richards and brought in John Tortorella.

A year later, Columbus is a machine churning its way up the East standings. Could the same sort of thing happen next season with the Islanders? To me, it’s really not a great comparison because the Isles had a body of work to build off of coming into this season. Back-to-back 100-point campaigns and last season’s first playoff series victory since 1993 should have been enough of an impetus for Snow to take the team to the next level personnel-wise. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, had made the playoffs just twice in their 14-year history, last doing so in 2013-14, and finished in 11th place in the East prior to getting their dose of reality to start last season.

I hate to put absolutes on anything, but the Metropolitan Division is a bear. Five teams already have more than 40 points, while the entire Western Conference only has two. Barring a miracle, an act of God that would turn the NHL on its ear, the Islanders’ goose appears to be already cooked.

This franchise is a mess right now. It was in no way expected. I’d like to think Islanders ownership’s lack of action has had more to do with a temporary catatonic state than a lack of understanding, but with each passing day it looks more and more like the shot-callers are content to punt on this season.

If indeed that’s the case, I wouldn’t blame any Islanders fans who turn their entertainment dollars elsewhere.

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Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @JCapWFAN