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New York Islanders

Trotz Makes Statement on Wahlstrom’s Development, ‘Don’t Be Impatient’



New York Islanders

The New York Islanders biggest storyline continued on Saturday in the 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues as 21-year old forward Oliver Wahlstrom, despite having scored a big goal, played just 8:52 minutes. It was Wahlstrom’s first goal since Feb. 1 against the Ottawa Senators and it gave the Islanders a lead against the second-best team in the Central.

It’s not that New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has a vendetta against him.

Oliver Wahlstrom has areas of his game that he needs to work on, areas that he will improve upon with experience as his career progresses. Trotz has publically criticized Wahlstrom’s game at times, but both have had conversations about what needs to change to get his game to the next level.

“Yeah, just talking about getting back to my game and keeping things simple and also just relaxing out there,” Wahlstrom said. “Just play my game and don’t think too much.”

“It’s been a good learning lesson for me this year for sure.”

The consensus by the New York Islanders fanbase is that Oliver Wahlstrom needs to be on the top line with Mathew Barzal. But Trotz has not gone that route just yet, and he, for the first time, addressed why on Saturday.

Barry Trotz has been around the game of hockey for quite a while. He’s been a head coach at the NHL level since 1997 and has played a role in developing players. There’s a reason for everything he does and he understands the fans that want Wahlstrom on the top line already.

But that’s just not the route that sets up a player for long-term success.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, put them on the first line. They’re going to have great success.’ You put them on the first line they’re playing against NHL stars, and they don’t have success,” Trotz said. “And what happens is there’s nowhere to go when you’re there. There’s no run. The only run that you can go is backwards. So it’s okay to start here. He’s going to get to the next rung and the next rung, and you know that’s one of the growth plates for long-term success.”

“Anybody can come into this league and have great success short term. Wally’s understanding the importance.”

What more does Trotz want to see before Wahlstrom gets more of a prominent role?

With Trotz, he needed significant attention to detail. And that’s been one of his biggest knocks on Wahlstrom’s game, as well as other players.

Trotz picked a play from Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks to give us more of an idea of what kinds of plays he was referring to.

There was a time in the second period when he had two defensemen on the ice, exhausted, that desperately needed a change. The forwards had changed, and his two youngsters in Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows were fresh on the ice.

But Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows turned the puck over a few times, and the exhausted defensive pairing had no chance to get off the rink. The defenders needed support and help from the young forwards and did not get it.

“And that part of the game, understanding not only that situation because it’s you know, they feel fresh on good, let’s go, that’s not how you have to play it,” Trotz said. “Sometimes you have to take care of the guys that are hanging on, then take care of the management of the game.”

“Those are the intangibles that young players have to learn.”

Trotz’s next statement caused the media room to crack up, but the response was more towards the fanbase, where the frustration on Wahlstrom’s playing time and role rise daily.

“He’s got lots of talent. Don’t be impatient. He’s gonna be good. He’s gonna be fine,” Trotz said. “You guys are like McDonald’s. You guys want everything like right now.”

Hockey fans, sports fans, are impatient, especially fanbases who have not seen their teams win championships in quite some time. Unless you were around in the early 80s, all you know of the New York Islanders has been losing until the last couple of seasons, where the Islanders have been competitive and performed deep into the postseason.

But as Barry Trotz has said, it’s all about the process. And with Wahlstrom, this is about long-term success for a player that has the potential to be an elite forward at the NHL level, not just an elite scorer.


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