From the start of the season, the ineptitude of the New York Islanders offense has been the biggest concern. There’s a lot of talk amongst the Islanders’ faithful about a lack of skill as the reason for their offensive woes. But that’s not it.
It’s a lack of commitment.
Islanders bench boss Barry Trotz has continued to emphasize the lack of his players’ attention to detail. It was a key reason why Oliver Wahlstrom’s minutes have been cut short as of late and why Robin Salo took a seat, instead of Grant Hutton in Thursday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks.
This issue often arises with young players, as the NHL level’s speed takes some getting used to. However, for seasoned veterans, the struggles have been rather problematic.
Not one player currently on the roster has lived up to expectations. Kyle Palmieri and his one goal in 18 games have been a source of concern, more so after he was signed to a four-year, $20 million deal this past offseason.
Prior to the 2020-21 regular season, in which Palmieri netted a total of 10 goals split between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders, the Long Island native was as consistent as they come. He scored at least 20 goals in five straight seasons, surpassing the 25-goal mark three times, including a 30-goal campaign in 2017-18.
A player like that does not wake up one morning and forget how to score.
Anthony Beauvillier, who made a few mistakes in overtime Thursday night, has not provided the offense expected after he accepted a qualifying offer this past offseason that carries an annual cap hit of $4.15 million.
The Quebec-native has lit the lamp just three times in 17 games this season, coming into a year full of high expectations. Over his six years in the NHL, he has provided one 20-plus goal season, which came back in 2017-2018. Since then, he has hovered around the 20-goal plateau with 18 goals both in 2018-19 and 2019-20 (shortened season).
Last season, Beauvillier played in just 47 of the 56 games on the schedule, having scored 15 goals over that span. Although projections over an 82-game season are merely that, he was potentially looking at a 26-goal campaign, which would have been a career-high. There’s no guarantee he would have hit that, but at least he was on that kind of pace despite the streakiness in his game.
He did not forget how to skate and score.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been a real letdown, with just one goal in 17 games. Wahlstrom, who was red-hot for a few games, has zero goals in his last 10 games and only five on the season in 18 games.
Zach Parise, who is on a one-year deal, has not scored a goal despite chance after chance to capitalize. Islanders captain Anders Lee has just four goals on the season and should have had five given his prime back door chance Thursday night.
But it is not just about scoring goals. It’s been about the transition game where the lack of commitment has been at the forefront. And it’s just not on the forwards either.
Passes from the defensive zone are not connecting with the forwards in the neutral zone. Sebastian Aho fumbled the puck a few times in the loss on Thursday, as well as Noah Dobson. Even when the passes came to their stick, the forwards in the neutral zone could not corral the puck. The only option then is getting the puck deep.
Josh Bailey was the main culprit of that on Thursday.
The talent to make simple plays did not just leave the sticks of the Islanders.
These players are the same players, for the most part, that has been a part of two elongated postseason runs and know what it takes to win in this system.
And while the defensive-minded system has its flaws, the chances to score have been there when the defense struggles to do its job like it has this season.
The Islanders faithful begged for general manager Lou Lamoriello to bring in a goal scorer this past offseason but to no avail.
One goal scorer is not changing the Islanders’ fortune. One goal scorer is not making a player like Beauvillier score more or making any other depth forward produce.
It’s an internal issue.
Skill does not just disappear. These players on the roster have the talent to be much more effective than they have been, and the Islanders will only be able to turn their season around if they start doing their jobs on a nightly basis.
Until the players can play to the best of their abilities, which they haven’t the entire season, expect the struggles to continue.