The New York Islanders’ struggles on offense this season may be the result of a lack of talent, in addition to a lack of execution.
On Wednesday, the New York Islanders offense floundered in a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
For the eighth consecutive game, the Islanders failed to record more than three goals. Over this stretch, the Islanders have managed to light the lamp just 14 times, their worst total since November 2016, according to Eric Hornick of NYISkinny.
Unsurprisingly, the power play has also struggled as of late. The Islanders are 1-for-28 on the man advantage in their last 12 games, and 5-for-57 dating back to Nov. 1.
Staggering, because the Islanders had one of the most explosive offenses in the league last season. Predictable, because at the end of the day, the Islanders are lacking in offensive talent.
Lou Lamoriello decided to proceed cautiously after John Tavares bolted Long Island for Toronto on July 1. For the duration of the offseason, Lamoriello refrained from making any big free agent signings, choosing instead to add versatile fourth liners and an inconsistent netminder.
Considering that he failed to replace his top scorer with any forwards of significance, it should have come as little surprise that the Islanders would struggle to score.
Yet, for whatever reason, it still feels like the Islanders are on the verge of breaking out offensively.
There are likely two reasons for that.
Firstly, the Islanders do not have the adequate talent to put up big offensive numbers — but they still have enough talent to be competitive. The Islanders are missing more than just Tavares’ production this season. They are now forced to bump all their centers up to a higher line.
Mathew Barzal is a tremendously skilled player, but he has not yet proven to be able to handle first-line duties. Brock Nelson has been shockingly effective this season, but he still isn’t a top-six forward. Valtteri Filppula is more than a fourth liner, but he isn’t really much of a third liner. Casey Cizikas is very productive anchoring the fourth line, but the fourth line is known more for its checking than its goal scoring.
The Islanders’ offense is the sum of its parts, and this season, the parts just aren’t good enough. Consider the Islanders’ fledgling power play, which features Cal Clutterbuck on its second unit. Clutterbuck has 2 goals and 3 assists this season, which makes him a less-than-ideal choice to put on the man advantage. However, his potential replacements aren’t all that impressive, either.
Casey Cizikas, Leo Komarov, Matt Martin and Anthony Beauvillier are the only forwards currently not routinely featured on the man advantage. None of these players inspire much confidence.
Worse, the Islanders haven’t received enough production from Jordan Eberle, and by extension, Mathew Barzal. Some pundits have placed Barzal’s struggles squarely on the second-year forward, but Barzal, the ultimate playmaker, needs someone to finish for him. Eberle just hasn’t been that guy this season.
All that can change if Barzal and Eberle get going — quickly.
In addition, the Islanders have a lot of talent — in the minor leagues. This is a transition year for the club, with Lamoriello stating that he would be using it as an opportunity to evaluate who the Islanders presently have.
There is some talent — Barzal and Josh Bailey, Eberle and Anders Lee. This summer, Lamoriello will be tasked with surrounding that talent with more talent. If the Islanders hope to go on a playoff run this season, he may need to get that help before the trade deadline.