The New York Islanders are now just three days away from the start of the season and to say expectations are as high as they’ve ever been would be an understatement. New York’s top line has looked strong in its two preseason games this year and Ilya Sorokin appeared to be picking up where he left off last year.
Still, in a year where the Islanders are playing their first full 82 game schedule since the 2018-19 season and a crop of players who are up there in age playing important positions, there are still plenty of questions. Not to mention the fact Lou Lamoriello may still not be done configuring the roster before Thursday.
Here are five questions facing the Islanders.
Did the Islanders do enough to replace Nick Leddy?
This will be one of the biggest questions asked throughout the regular season. The New York Islanders traded Nick Leddy at the beginning of the summer to create more salary-cap space, but the thought was that Lou Lamoriello would bring in someone to fill the void Leddy left. Sure the Islanders added Zdeno Chara and Noah Dobson will take over the second pair role and can quarterback the power play, but will that be enough?
The Islanders’ blue line got significantly older this offseason between Chara and Andy Greene returning for another season. And in just his third NHL season, Dobson is being called upon to step up in a big way this year offensively. Leddy was known for his skating and offensive contributions, now that role will fall on Dobson who had 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 46 games last year.
It seemed as though Erik Gustafsson was going to be, in some way, used to help fill the Leddy role. While his defensive play was suspect, he was only a few seasons removed from a 60 point season and had a good showing at training camp this year. However, the Islanders cut him on Sunday.
Now the responsibility will fall on Dobson. Is he up for the challenge this season?
Are the Islanders done constructing their lineup?
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz threw a bit of a curveball at everyone over the weekend when he said that general manager Lou Lamoriello was still looking at making a possible trade.
“He’s working the phones, checking with teams, trying to figure out what they might need versus what we might need,” Trotz said Saturday. “He’s not finished assembling the roster. He’s still trying to do some things. We’ll have to make some decisions by (Sunday). Some guys might have to go on waivers.”
What could those potential deals look like and what type of player would Lamoriello be looking to bring in. Considering the forward group looks like it’s been set for some time, could it be a defenseman to help bolster the blue line a bit? Even that feels like a bit of a stretch.
Still, Lamoriello has been known to be full of tricks. so would it surprise anyone if he pulled off one last move before the season started for the Islanders on Thursday?
What Impact Will Varlamov injury have?
Semyon Varlamov has not practiced with the New York Islanders at all during training camp. He has skated on his own, which is a good sign, but the odds of him being ready to play opening night are slim at best. The Islanders have maintained that they are being cautious with Varlamov as he works his way back from “soreness,” but one can’t help but wonder what would happen if this lingers on.
Ilya Sorokin played well last year in a limited number of starts and during the playoffs, but the Islanders’ success relied a lot on the success of Varlamov. At 19-11-4, Varlamov put together a lot of wins early in the year for New York which paved the way for them to make the playoffs even after an end of the season slump.
The 13-game road trip the Islanders have to start the season is sure to make those early games tough, but without Varlamov, it could be even tougher.
Sorokin played well in the preseason, making 13 saves against the New York Rangers and 11 saves against the New Jersey Devils. In his only full game, Sorokin did allow five goals in the preseason finale to the Rangers. Schneider has had an alright exhibition season, with Trotz telling reporters last week that the veteran needed the good start he had against Philly.
Is Anders Lee Going to Regain his Form?
There didn’t seem to be much hesitation from Anders Lee in his first two games back for the New York Islanders. Lee scored twice on Saturday in the preseason finale and had a goal earlier in the week against Philadelphia. He had been slated to appear in the final three games of the exhibition calendar, but a power failure in New Jersey curtailed that plain.
“It was nice to do it in a game,” Anders Lee said about getting to battle in front of the net during the preseason. “It’s tough to replicate in any other way that type of intensity. Especially tonight to get some of those battles in was awesome. I felt good in them. It’s just tough to do during the summer and offseason, even in the rehab, to get that same level of battle.”
Early on it seems that Lee will be just fine, but could any lingering issues rear their head during the season? We’ll find out.
— Nicole Shirman (@nicolefshirman) October 10, 2021
Is this Finally the Islanders year?
The Islanders have made it to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, but is 2021-22 the year they return to the Stanely Cup Final and win the whole thing? Islanders fans have been waiting a long time for that question to be asked without any sense of sarcasm behind it. This year it is a genuine thought. The Islanders are viewed, by some, as a favorite to win the Cup.
It’s been 41 years since the Islanders won a Stanley Cup, will that finally change this year?