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New York Islanders

Rosner: One Star Won’t Fix Offense, Others Need to Step Up



New York Islanders

J.T. Miller, missed. Johnny Gaudreau, missed. Nazem Kadri, still to be determined. One dominant offensive player would sure help the New York Islanders, but 2022-23 will not be any different than 2021-22 if the current rostered New York Islanders forward group does not rebound.

The NHL, unbias opinion, is the greatest sports league due to the competitive balance. Yes, there are teams that struggle mightily year in and year out and some teams that absolutely dominate. But at the end of the day, one superstar player is not enough to win a Stanley Cup.

Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. But over his 17-year NHL career, he only has one Cup to his name, which came in year 13.

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who is by far the most talented player to ever lace up the skates, has made the playoffs in four of his seven NHL seasons, yet until this past postseason, had never played past the first round.

It’s about the supporting cast.

In what was a nightmarish season, the New York Islanders finished 10th worst in goals (229), with their forward group combining for 185 of them.

Besides Brock Nelson‘s 37 goals and Anders Lee‘s 28, most forwards underachieved.

Mathew Barzal, who is known more as a playmaker, still has the ability to score goals, yet only lit the lamp 15 times in 73 games (.21 goals per game). It was a shortened season for everyone, yet in the 55-game campaign in 2020-21, Barzal notched 17 goals, .309 goals per game.

Not to mention, his 82 giveaways, while not a career-high, was a rough uptick from his 45 in 2021-22.

Barzal is set to become a restricted free agent come season’s end and it’s still up for debate whether he is someone the Islanders will commit to long-term. Adding a linemate that can skate with Barzal and finish off his chances is surely an important get for Lamoriello to get the most out of the 24-year-old.

Anthony Beauvillier had a disastrous season, with just 12 goals in 75 games. He missed the net 47 times on 154 shots. In 2020-21, Beauvillier had 15 goals in almost 30 fewer games (47), with 33 misses. He also turned the puck over a career-high 54 times.

Beauvillier, 24, has two years remaining with a $4.15 annual cap hit.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri both had much stronger second halves, which was a positive sign for the New York Islanders given their contracts.

Pageau had 18 goals in 77 games after 14 in 54 games in 2020-21.

Now, there is speculation that Pageau is not completely healthy after being injured during the 2021 postseason, which required hand surgery last offseason. In 37 games in the first half of 2021-22, Pageau had just five goals. In 40 second-half games, Pageau lit the lamp 13 times.

Pageau has four years remaining with an annual cap hit of $5 million.

Kyle Palmieri, in his shortened first half of just 29 games, (lower-body injury) had just one goal to his name. In 40 second-half contests, Palmieri scored 14.

Palmieri, after an impressive 2021 postseason, signed a four-year, $20 million deal ($5M AAV).

Who we missing?

The longest-tenured New York Islanders player, Josh Bailey, looked lost on the ice in 2021-22. For all the talk about his hockey IQ, there were times when the 14-year vet looked like a rookie, given his careless mistakes with the puck.

He did score 14 goals in 75 games, but his inability to make quick decisions made it rather difficult for his linemates on the ice. Bailey and his $5 million cap hit is a contract that if moved, gives general manager Lou Lamoriello significant room to work with.

But if he is not moved this offseason, there will be a ton of pressure on Josh Bailey to show signs that he can still play and help the club.

22-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom never really took that next step in his third NHL season. Yes, he scored 13 goals, a career-high, but his inability to understand and play to the system cost him minutes and opportunities. Even when paired with Mathew Barzal, the expected magic never happened.

Former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz was very hard on Wahlstrom, limiting his minutes often, benching him, and even calling him out at media availabilities on more than one occasion.

The Islanders fourth line, which used to be one of the strongest “bottom” lines in all of hockey, was a shell of his former self.

Matt Martin, who had offseason ankle surgery, was not his usual hard-hitting self. Not that Martin is known for his offensive production, his three goals were tied for the fewest goals in a season for him over his 14-year career (three in 2017-18 on Toronto Maple Leafs).

Martin is entering the second year of his four-year deal, which carries an annual cap hit of $1.5 million.

Casey Cizikas, the energizer bunny for the Islanders, scored 10 goals in 74 games in 2021-22, with a career-high 48 penalty minutes while also recording the second-most giveaways of his career with 32. He had seven goals in 56 games in 2020-21.

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign, Lou Lamoriello and Cizikas’ camp came to terms on a six-year, $15 million deal ($2.5 M AAV).

Zach Parise, the least expensive forward the New York Islanders have on their roster ($750k), was the most consistent forward, and the only forward to play in all 82 games. He is 37.

Despite Lane Lambert being an associate coach with the New York Islanders since 2018, there’s a chance for players to get a clean slate, a fresh start, with him now at the helm.

The acquisition of a proven goal scorer would do wonders for the offense. But if you look at every Stanley Cup-winning team, it’s about the depth scoring. The stars still need to do their thing, but without that supporting cast, ultimate success is not possible.


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