One of the biggest keys to success for the 2017-2018 New York Islanders will be if their secondary scoring can find new life.
Throughout the 2016-2017 season, and particularly towards the end, the New York Islanders saw glimmers of the franchise’s future. With Matthew Barzal knocking at the door (and expecting to be on the opening night roster in 17-18) plus the continued maturation of Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang depth scoring is well on the way…in a few more years.
The Islanders in November looked like a team that was dead in the water. Just a few months after winning their first playoff series in 23 years, the franchise was dead-last in the Eastern Conference and it looked like 15-16 was just a Cinderella-story.
Once the firing of Jack Capuano came around and Doug Weight took over, the Islanders soared to the second-best record in the NHL since Weight’s first game as Head Coach. Despite missing the playoff by a single point, and being the second-best NHL team to NOT make the playoffs (94 points), there is good reason to be hopeful after seeing Weight’s Islander team.
But management knows, as do the fans, that there are still some pieces missing.
The Islanders struggled with depth scoring and have since the end of the 14-15 season. While Anders Lee of the former “kid line” took the next step players like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome have shown gross inconsistency. Nelson may have scored 45 points this past season for a career high, but he potted only 20 goals. That’s a six goal regression from last year after netting 20 in his rookie year.
Strome has been in Capuano’s doghouse since the 15-16 season, and was rightfully stubborn for most of the season until the Weight era began. Once Weight took over as head coach, Strome’s creativity surged. The 23-year-old forward was getting hot in the second half, but unfortunately an injury to his wrist shut him down for the rest of the season.
If these two key players cannot figure out their game next season, Snow must attempt to offload someone in a package deal for some change. The Islanders signed Strome to a two-year, $2.5 million “show me” type of deal for the young forward. There were some good flashes under Weight, and he needs to carry that into 17-18 or run the risk of rolling the dice on another team.
Both forwards are young, raw potential but their game needs time to develop in the AHL still. They posses flashes of greatness, but their game is far too unrefined for the speed and physicality of the NHL. Their ice-time increases the risk of seeing more rushed rookies on the Islanders. Some time in the farm would do them well.
The Islanders would do well in attempting to explore the trade market in the moments preceding the NHL entry draft. General Manager Garth Snow would do well in making some more phone calls to Joe Sakic, checking in again on the price for a forward like Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog.
The Islanders aren’t sitting well with the cap right now, but the possibility always exists to see if Vegas can absorb the remaining year on Mikhail Grabovski‘s $5 million salary.
Whatever the roster for next season looks like, the Islanders cannot afford to have the same offseason they did last year. They put too much stock on the kids bouncing back, and when they didn’t, there existed no fall-back options. Snow should be, and likely is, exploring his options on the trade market. Nothing changed from March until now that pulled Colorado out of “fire sale” mode, especially after losing out badly for the first overall pick. Snow must find some help for his team offensively before October.
Now that the “new” Islanders have had a year to understand each other better as a team, they need to get their act together in terms of offensive consistency.