In 2022-23, the New York Islanders barely qualified for the playoffs with a record of 42-31-9.
This year, their chances of returning are slim, especially after much of the Eastern Conference has improved.
I’ve already covered what it will take for the Islanders to make the playoffs. But what cracks in the foundation could have them taking an early summer vacation?
Impotent Power Play:
The Islanders made the playoffs last season despite sporting the league’s third-worst power play.
All year, it was the same old rhythmless song that the Islanders skated to with two left feet while they struggled to generate any sort of pressure. Even when the Islanders did manage to set up their attack, their decisions with the puck rarely led to goals.
During his June 6 press conference, Islanders’ president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello mentioned that he felt the power play’s issues were a result of inconsistency. Lamoriello also referenced that the team was much more successful on the man advantage in the latter half of 2021-22 with the same personnel, which is likely why he hasn’t made any moves this offseason to fix the problem.
Now, the Islanders are set to open the season with the same power play unit that scored on just 15.8% of its chances a year ago. They’ll be kept on a short leash because another season with similar results won’t end well and shouldn’t be tolerated either.
Lack of Scoring Depth:
The Islanders should have enough firepower in their lineup to keep them in games. However, aside from Brock Nelson, Bo Horvat and Anders Lee, there’s no one on the roster that I think you can confidently predict will score 25-plus goals this season.
A few players are certainly capable, but each comes with a caveat.
Kyle Palmieri has scored 25 goals or more four times in his career but hasn’t since joining the Islanders as he’s battled injuries.
Alongside Palmieri on the second line, Pierre Engvall is coming off a year during which he reached a new career-high of 17 goals. He was a revelation for the Islanders after they acquired him at the trade deadline, but his production for them came in a limited sample of 24 games while he was an impending free agent. It was enough to earn him a new seven-year contract this summer, but who’s to say what version of Engvall the Islanders will get this season?
The true wildcard is Oliver Wahlstrom. His potential as a sniper has been talked about for years, but we’re yet to see the former first-round draft pick show realize it. Wahlstrom is yet to crack the 15-goal mark in his career, and that alone could be a challenge for him as he returns from a lower-body injury that forced him to miss 47 games last year.
Too Weak In Front of Their Own Goal:
So here's the good news. Per Moneypuck, the #Isles had the 7th most high-danger shots for at 5v5 during the regular season with 194. The bad news is they barely broke even and allowed the 6th most at 190. Speaks volumes to how important Sorokin was to their success this year
— Andrew Fantucchio (@A_Fantucchio) June 2, 2023
The Islanders are far too reliant on their goaltending to bail them out on the defensive end. Granted, that’s what goalies are there for, but it takes its toll in the long run.
Sorokin played in 62 games for the Islanders last year and carried them on his back to the postseason. However, there were some moments in that series with the Carolina Hurricanes where Sorokin looked fatigued and wasn’t as sharp as usual.
Maybe if he had taken fewer shots here and there during the regular season, there’s a real possibility that Sorokin could’ve stolen that series for the Islanders.
Goaltending is the Islanders’ backbone. But just because it’s their strength doesn’t mean it should be treated as a crutch.