The New York Islanders’ season is doomed. After starting the campaign with a 15-8-0 record as one of the best teams in the Metropolitan Division, then going 18-14-2 as a borderline playoff team, they are now a 23-20-5 team that is out of the postseason. The last nine games have been particularly disappointing, with just one win, spoiling what was a promising season.
Unless the Islanders turn things around by the All-Star break, they could trade some players at some point. Considering their start, the decline is surprising, especially since they were poised to compete in the Eastern Conference again this season. So, what went wrong? How did the islanders become isolated and is there light at the end of the tunnel?
The Islanders’ injuries piled up
Injuries have ravaged the Islanders’ roster and derailed their season. Top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech Has not played since December 6 St. Louis Blues loss, although the top-six forward, Kyle Palmieri, has not played since Dec. 16. Oliver Wahlstrom hasn’t played since Dec. 27, and depth forwards Cale Clutterbuck, Simon Holmstrom and Hudson Fassing have also missed time, complete havoc. Forward unit. Additionally, the goal scorer Semyon Varlamov The misses in the week have limited the Islanders’ options in net. This notable absence has forced the team to constantly change lineups, limiting chemistry and the ability to build reliable units. Furthermore, they lack reliable contributors up front who can boost the offense.
The question is if this failure is by design, especially with the front office’s moves in recent years. Every roster deals with injuries, but they seem to have taken a greater toll on the Islanders because their roster is built on depth and not star power. While a deep roster helped them reach the Stanley Cup semifinals in 2020 and 2021, they need a full roster to compete, and when some players are injured, offensive production drops. That’s the risk general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello took when he built the team and kept the roster intact in the offseason, failing to sign a star player like Johnny Gaudreau or Nazem Qadri. Lamoriello trusted his roster, but unfortunately, injuries piled up for the second straight season, and the team unraveled.
Furthermore, injuries tend to occur when a roster is veteran-heavy. The Isles have ten players age 30 or older, the same number as last season’s team. Lamoriello could shift to a younger lineup, doubling down, re-signing both 35-year-old Clutterbuck and 38-year-old Zac Parise. End of last season. An older roster won’t stay healthy for all 82 games, especially since recovery times tend to be longer for veteran players, which we’re seeing this season.
The Islanders have become very dependent on Sorokin
The starting goaltender was Ilya Sorokin Named after the All-Star Game, carried the team until he did. His .924 save percentage (SV%) and 2.37 goals-against average (GAA) on 1,062 shots and 19.8 goals-save average (GSAA), make him one of the favorites to win the Vezina Trophy. However, a lack of goal support from the offense and help from the defense let him down and set the Islanders back.
Early on, Sorokin, Varlamov, along with veteran backups, helped turn the Islanders into an elite team. However, goaltending is what can push a team so far. With the rest of the roster struggling, opponents will find the back of the net, even when Sorokin is playing at a high level. In 3-2 Overtime loss to the Buffalo SabresHe saved 42 shots to help the Islanders earn a point, but the rest of the roster failed to step up, resulting in a tough loss.
Lambert’s aggressive style delivers highs and lows
Coming into the campaign, the Islanders knew the ceiling First year head coach Len Lamberts Faster system. Defensemen were joining the rush, shooting the puck more often and taking on bigger offensive roles. The forwards play more aggressively and beat opponents in space, allowing the Islanders to win games with speed.
The problem is Lambert’s system only succeeds when the offense plays well and consistently finds the back of the net. Defensemen can be aggressive, risking other scoring opportunities, if it pays off and the team continues to win high-scoring games, as they did to start the season. However, the offense looked helpless. The result is not the same as a talented defense. In particular, the defense looked disorganized and out of position. Over the past nine games, they’ve allowed 30 goals while allowing opponents to find open shots at will.
The Isles’ top-six forwards have either disappeared for stretches or been inconsistent all season. Brock Nelson is one All-star-caliber player But did not score until the eighth game of the season and went without a goal in 14 games from 17 December to 19 January. Matthew Barzal Went 18 games without scoring a goal to start the season, and Anders Lee went 13 consecutive games without a goal, leaving the team without one of their most reliable scorers.
Likewise, Jean-Gabriel Pejau, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier The forward is playing a major role in the unit and has combined for just 25 goals and 40 assists. The offensive stars aren’t playing at a high level, and while the team isn’t built on star power, the best players have failed to step up. The Islanders have played 48 games and don’t have a 20-goal scorer on their roster, only six skaters with 10 or more goals and, thanks to a lack of production at the top, have one of the worst offenses in the league.
How did the Islanders turn out this season?
The most important thing right now is getting the Islanders healthy. When some of their players return, especially Pelech in defense and Palmieri in the forward unit, the team will start playing better. At full strength, they are one of the best teams in the league, as the first two months of the season showed.
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That said, the Islanders will need to bring up some young players from the American Hockey League (AHL) and put them on the NHL roster. William Dufour fought in his debut on January 18, 4-1 A loss to the Boston Bruins, but Holmstrom and Aatu Raty made their case to stay in the lineup. The team needs a new look and a young presence to balance the veterans.
When Lamoriello Fired former head coach Barry Trotz And in hiring Lambert, he said he wanted a fresh voice to lead the team. Halfway through the season, the Islanders need new faces to help them recover. Otherwise, Lamoriello may not last long as GM. His gamble on an aging roster, refusal to make a splash in free agency, and head coach change are all backfiring and looking worse with each loss.
However, if they can turn things around, they’ll be right back in the Eastern Conference mix. A hot streak to start the season could put them back in a playoff spot, and the Islanders have a schedule that should allow them to gain ground in the standings. After the All-Star break, they faced the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals three times, two Metropolitan Division teams ahead of them in the standings. They can and should win those games to ensure a playoff spot to leapfrog both teams in the standings.
Mike Fink joined Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL, looking at general topics Potential cities for NHL relocation per Akhara tradition across the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts For more Islanders and general hockey insight.