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Rosner: Deep Breath, Trotz and Lamoriello Aren’t Going Anywhere

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New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello

After back-to-back postseason runs to the semi-finals, the New York Islanders have hit a wall in 2021-22.

They are 15-15-6 on the season, 15 points out of a wild-card spot (four games in hand), and have struggled to play the shutdown style of hockey that a team with offensive struggles needs to play to collect two points.

In the last two games, the Islanders have squandered last-second goals in periods that have impacted their ability to collect points against tougher competition. That’s been their biggest issue all season.

In the wins against the weaker opponents, the New York Islanders have been able to survive their mistakes and score. But against teams over .500 this season, the Islanders are 4-13-3 and have been outscored 63-33. Against teams currently holding down a playoff spot, the Islanders are 2-13-2 and have been outscored 58-26.

It’s been a train wreck.

But the panic on social media, especially the screams to fire head coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello are a bit extreme, given that the Islanders have yet to play a full season, let alone half of one.

And even then, their jobs are safe. Why?

Not only did the New York Islanders start with a 13-game road trip, but they went through COVID-19 hell and back, having to play through it mind you. The Islanders lost their second-best defenseman in Ryan Pulock, who, after more than nine weeks, is back on the ice skating with his teammates for the first time.

Brock Nelson, the Islanders leading goal-scorer with 11 goals through the first 14 games of the season, and second-line center, played just four games in 34 days thanks to a lower-body injury, a stint in COVID-19 protocol, and the postponement of contests.

Despite his early-season struggles, Kyle Palmieri missed 42 days, 10 games, with a lower-body injury.

The starts and stops have disallowed the Islanders to establish any kind of rhythm, and for a streaky team, that’s a need.

Many players have struggled mightily to produce, like Anthony Beauvillier (6 goals), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (5 goals), and until much later in the season, the Islanders’ fourth line, their identity line.

Now, that does not mean that Lamoriello and Trotz should not be free of blame for what has transpired.

Starting with Lamoriello, he dealt away puck-moving defenseman Nick Leddy because he needed to clear cap space without a proper replacement piece to fill his hole. Instead, 44-year old Zdeno Chara was signed as a last resort.

And although Chara has been integral in the exponential development of 22-year old defenseman Noah Dobson, Chara has looked his age more often than not, and goals have come of it.

What made matters worse is that Devon Toews was dealt two summers ago for two second-round picks and has turned himself into a top-10 defenseman on an elite Colorado Avalanche team.

Earlier in the offseason, Lamoriello elected to allow Seattle Kraken to select forward Jordan Eberle in the 2022 Expansion Draft, a player who was third on the Islanders in goals (18) and points (33) during the shortened 56-game season in 2021.

Instead, Lamoriello elected to sign Kyle Palmieri, his key 2021 Trade Deadline acquisition, to a four-year, $20 million deal after he scored seven goals in 19 postseason games.

Although it made sense at the time, given Palmieri being the more consistent goal scorer of the two, Palmieri has failed to live up to expectations with just one goal in the 26 games he’s played in.

Is that on Lamoriello or the player?

Ask yourself that.

Jordan Eberle is an All-Star with 12 goals and 24 points in 41 games, while Palmieri has one goal and seven points in 25.

The last two postseason runs showed that the New York Islanders needed to add an impact scorer a guy like Vladimir Tarasenko, who was available and who Lamoriello actively inquired about.

An injured past clouded the judgment of many general managers as Tarasenko stayed put in St. Louis.

Lamoriello filled out his offseason bingo card with Zach Parise, signing him to a one-year deal at $750 K, a player that has received little credit despite the tremendous job he has done this season.

If you have a problem with that statement, take it up with my manager.

Lamoriello’s decisions have not had the impact that was needed. The back-to-back postseason successes (if we can call them that) made it appear the Islanders were closer to being a contender than they really were.

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline on March 21 should be an active one for the Islanders, as Lamoriello more than likely will look to trade off pieces to get the Islanders in a stronger position to compete in 2022-23.

Onto the man behind the bench, Barry Trotz.

It’s been a tough season for him for a few reasons, but Trotz will not be needing a new job anytime soon.

Most of what was said above impacted his job. Trotz has not been given enough from the roster handed to him for this season. Trotz, who relies so heavily on the defensive side of the puck, does not have the same defense he’s had in years past.

Should Trotz have changed his system?

Despite having offensively gifted forwards, in Mathew Barzal, Oliver Wahlstrom, and a few others, the Islanders do not have enough to be an offensively talented team. Although Trotz is the reason for the defensive system, he had no choice given how inept the Islanders were on the defensive side of the puck when he took the job in 2018.

He had no choice.

Trotz’s short leash with younger players and the lack of one with his veterans is something to discuss. Players like Josh Bailey and other long-time veterans have faced no repercussions for inexcusable play, yet the young players like Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows come out of the lineup immediately.

Now, I understand why Trotz has done what he’s done, as he tries to groom his youngsters into responsible two-way forwards, but the Islanders need offense, and they need it badly.

Elongate the leash in the second half of the season, especially if the New York Islanders decide that this one is over.

Trotz has shown major dedication to his goaltending tandem this season since Semyon Varlamov got healthy, but it’s clear that Ilya Sorokin is the no.1 netminder on this team. And Sorokin is a player who played all the time in the KHL, and in the NHL, he has not been able to do that.

But Trotz understands that with the number of games in the second half of the season, a tandem is needed to make a playoff push which is why he looks to keep both of them engaged.

ALL this being said, breathe.

Now’s not the time to throw the “F” word around with 46 games left in the 2021-22 regular season.

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David Jones

You basically hit the nail on the head, Stefen. This season they’ve really beaten only one true “A” team, in the Bruins. The wins against Vegas and Edmonton don’t qualify, as they aren’t that strong (as their records show) this season. What I found rather disgusting was Trotz’s downplaying of Wahlstrom’s superb effort in getting that diving goal against the Wild last night(1-30-22). Try looking for Trotz’s post-game comments. It’s as if Trotz is anti-Wahlstrom!! That kid has a fantastic nose for the net. And an awesome wrist shot to go with it. As a younger player he’s going to… Read more »

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