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New York Islanders

Roy Cracks Whip; Says Islanders Must Improve Compete Level To Make Playoffs



AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

East Meadow, NY– Patrick Roy has only been the head coach of the New York Islanders for eight games, and he’s already pinpointed the biggest issue that has plagued the team since the beginning of the season.

“The one part in our game that I think needs to improve is the compete level,” Roy said on Wednesday after pushing his team through a grueling practice at Northwell Health Ice Center. “If we want to go to the next level, that’s what’s missing in our game.

“It’s a big part of the game. How do you go into those battles? How do you compete in every area? It makes a difference between winning and losing. There are things that numbers cannot show, and one of them is the compete level. You can see after a game, and you watch the statistics, if you win the contest battle or not.”

Will, effort and togetherness were pillars of the Islanders’ identity when they made consecutive runs to the Stanley Cup Semifinals in 2020 and 2021 as a team that played greater than the sum of its parts.

This year’s iteration of the team is arguably the most talented group the Islanders have had in more than a generation, with a young core in that should make other teams around the league envious. Still, the essential qualities that made the Islanders so successful in the recent past seemed to have been left there.

There have been times this season when the Islanders have risen to their competition, such as last week’s convincing victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. But as soon as the Islanders took a step forward, they took another two back, dropping a pair of games to the Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken without putting up much of a fight.

“We want a team that works hard,” Roy said. “Every time we put our skates on the ice, we’re going to work hard. We’re going to be ready to out-compete whoever we’re playing. That’s the culture. That’s the DNA you want to have as a team.”

With 56 points and a record of 22-18-13, the Islanders sit seven points out of a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division. Now, their most likely path to the postseason is a wild card spot, which they’re three points back of.

The hole the Islanders dug themselves was already waist-deep when Roy arrived just before the All-Star break to replace former head coach Lane Lambert.

In his first week on the job, all Roy saw was a renewed conviction from both the team and its fan base. But now that the initial high has faded, he’s seen the team regress back to their old ways and heard the fans respond accordingly.

“[Against Seattle], I was like the fans,” Roy said. “The fans didn’t like the two minutes we were in our zone, and they booed the team, which is okay. I understand that. They deserved to do it. They paid for tickets for this. I think if we were to compete a little bit better, we could have fixed that.”

At the end of practice on Wednesday, Roy bag-skated the Islanders, doing his best Herb Brooks impression while having them skate up and down the ice on end. Tired and out of breath, the players clearly understood Roy’s message.

“We have to add some desperation into our game,” Noah Dobson told Hockey Now. “There’s no time to waste. Games are running out. We got some points to make up, so by adding that desperation and playing with a playoff mentality each night here from here on out, the rest will take care of itself.”

The practice was similar to one a team would have during training camp. But with only 29 games remaining on their schedule, the Islanders cannot go back to the beginning.

All they can do is push forward and make sure Wednesday wasn’t just a one-off.

“Time will tell,” Roy said. “I think this is a good group. This is a group that wants to do well. It’s what you do every day that builds that. It’s not just saying, ‘I want to be there today.’ No, it’s who embraces it and what you do every day about it.”




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