Three lessons the New York Jets can learn from their Islander friends

The New York Jets have been staples of the Islanders’ postseason tour on Long Island. Perhaps they can learn a thing or two along the way.

In following the New York Islanders’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Jets have traded in green and white for blue and orange. They’ve engaged in (Bud) light debauchery and have gone viral in the process as the Islanders are halfway through their quest for a fifth Stanley Cup hoist.

The next step of the journey begins on Sunday afternoon when the Islanders battle the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Nassau Coliseum will host the third, fourth, and (if necessary) sixth games of the series, and it’s very likely that members of the Jets will attempt to take their usual seats for those contests. 

Is it possible that, in their fun, they might actually learn a thing or two along the way?

Class is in session, courtesy of ESM…

Have Depth Stars

On Long Island: Save for Mathew Barzal (appearances in the last two exhibitions), the Islanders are not a team of perennial All-Stars. John Tavares’ absconding for Toronto was supposed to be their downfall, but they’ve responded with playoff series victories in three consecutive seasons while the Maple Leafs have been relegated to opening round exits.

The Islanders are a team that has gotten by with a group of gritty, skilled players whose union has worked wonders. Nothing showcases their depth and consistency better than the grouping of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin, a trio of bottom-six forward staples since 2014. Nicknamed the “Identity Line”, NYI head coach Barry Trotz says that the group sets the tone for what they’re trying to accomplish on the ice.

“They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want,” Trotz said after a dominant January 2019 over Tampa, per Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com. “They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity. If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

In Florham Park: The Jets tried to go the big-spending route over the last few seasons, but marquee signings have not panned out. Right now, they’re actively paying Le’Veon Bell and Trumaine Johnson to keep their distance, for example.

Blessed with one of the highest offseason budgets in the NFL, it would’ve been easy for the Jets to fall to temptation and spend big money on a blockbuster talent (i.e. J.J. Watt). But once it became clear that the big names wanted to move on to contenders, the Jets bolstered their depth so more parts of the depth chart provide production and security.

This offseason has still seen some big contracts bestowed…Carl Lawson and Corey Davis are a combined $26 million cap hit…but many others signings have been about providing depth. They’re not the flashiest arrivals by any stretch, not the type of names that one can put on a parking lot light pole’s banner, but they’re the type of depth options the Jets needed at this point in time.

Jarrad Davis is a redemption-seeking first-round pick whose success in the 4-3 sets of the Florida Gators could come up big. At receiver, Davis is one of several names with the potential to become a No. 1 target. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder return from last year’s team, while Elijah Moore was drafted in the second round. Uncertainty lingers at tight end and in the secondary, but the Jets’ thriftiness could pay big dividends, as undrafted free agents Kenny Yeboah and Isaiah Dunn could come up big.

Make Sure Special Teams are Special

On Long Island: Since Trotz took over in 2018, the Islanders have improved by leaps and bounds in almost every major statistical category with the exception of their power play. New York ranked 20th in the final regulars season rankings with a man advantage, though they were the only team in the NHL that did not allow any shorthanded goals.

The Islanders, however, rose to the occasion on the penalty kill, coming home sixth in the category over the regular season. Doing it in the postseason has been a work in progress…they’ve killed off only 61.5 percent of their infractions…but the power play came to life in spectacular fashion in Monday’s Game 5 showdown in Boston. Facing a Bruins squad that led the league with an 86 percent kill rate during the regular season, the Islanders scored three power play goals that forever changed the course of the series. Barzal scored on a chance in the first period, while Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Eberle earned extra-man tallies in the second.

The power play success not only provided the difference in the goal category but more or less shifted the entire course of the game. Taking advantage of the opportunities allowed the Islanders to not only withstand a late Boston rush, but they were able to earn a momentum-shifting victory on a night where they were outshot 44-19.

In Florham Park: There’s major hope for the Jets entering the 2021 season, even if reaching the playoff is still a tall task for the time being. But there’s no doubt that they’re still developing, still a work in progress, particularly on an offensive end that’s debuting a new quarterback and receiving corps. Thus, special teams must be addressed.

Confidence for a developing offense can be built by getting points on as many drives that end in opposing territory as possible. That comes through reliable field goal kicking, an area where the Jets have fallen woefully short since Jason Myers left for Seattle. Chris Naggar has been brought in to compete with incumbent Sam Ficken for that role. General manager Joe Douglas has shown that he’s not afraid to use valuable assets to address special teams. He used the last pick of his first draft to pick up punter Braden Mann and has tried to fill in the Jets’ Andre Roberts-sized void at returned through additions in the 2021 draft (i.e. Michael Carter).

Perhaps the most telling sign of Jets management’s willingness to bolster the special unit came through the retaining of coordinator Brant Boyer, who has now survived the purges of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s doomed staffs.

It All Starts at the Head

On Long Island: Again, no one expected the Islanders to be in his position three years ago. This, after all, was a team that just lost the face of its franchise, perhaps the one thing it had going for it since the immortal early 1980s.

The hire of Trotz in 2018, however, may go down as one of the most fateful moves in franchise history.

Trotz had already developed a reputation as a strong nurterer of young talent and helping woebegone franchises find their path. He put the Nashville Predators on the NHL map as the franchise’s original head coach (serving 16 seasons at the helm after their 1998 inception). He then moved on to Washington, where he helped the Capitals removed the playoff monkey from their backs. Only under Trotz has Alex Ovechkin been able to reach hockey Nirvana in the Stanley Cup Final.

Once Trotz was voted out of Capitol Hill due to a contract dispute, the Islanders pounced and have been reaping in the benefits ever since. Under Trotz, the Islanders have won playoff rounds in three consecutive seasons for the first time since their quartet of Cup hoists (1980-83). Trotz’s status as a players’ coach that is nonetheless willing to hold his guys accountable has been a delightful contrast to the recent slew of also-rans. Doug Weight’s animated style, for example, was refreshing when he first took the reins but it quickly ran its course.

Trotz credits his success to looking at his status as a head coach as not a position of superiority, but one that leads to a partnership with his players.

“I look at coaching, my time, as I’m in a partnership with the players,” Trotz told Mollie Walker of the New York Post in March. “We’re in a partnership to win hockey games. The other partnership is to make you the best version of yourself, whatever that version is.”

In Florham Park: There’s no doubt that, despite the nine-win ledger, that the Jets had some talent on their roster over the last two seasons, better known as the Adam Gase era. Look no further than the names the Jets gave up on before him: Robby Anderson, Avery Williamson, Le’Veon Bell, and Steve McLendon accounted for only part of the list. But help has arrived in the form of Robert Saleh,  whose hiring has been universally praised.

The difference between the arrivals of Saleh and Gase are best contrasted by player reaction to the news. While Gase’s landing was met with mostly indifference…and whatever honeymoon there was quickly ended when he won a power struggle against Mike Maccagnan…Saleh’s arrival has been praised by players both domestically and abroad. It’s created an energy field in Florham Park not seen since, arguably, the Rex Ryan days.

“You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” former Saleh pupil Richard Sherman said of his potential as a head coach in December, per the Associated Press. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men and that goes a long way.”

As the Gase era showcased all too well, talent means nothing when the right man isn’t in charge. Though vital downs have yet to be played, it’s safe to say the Jets feel that they have found the perfect curator and developer in Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Islanders’ Barry Trotz should be a favorite again for the Jack Adams Award

A week ago, NHL.com posted its first “Trophy Tracker” piece in regards to who their panel of writers would choose as the Jack Adams Award winner at the midpoint of the season. The main focus was on the Florida Panthers’ Joel Quenneville and the outstanding job he’s done this year down in South Florida. The Panthers are currently third in the standings in the Discover Central Division. Quenneville in a vote by the panel received the most first-place votes as the unanimous winner.

You know who didn’t receive any votes for that nod? Islanders bench boss Barry Trotz. And while it might be small potatoes to the overall bigger picture — Trotz and the team have Stanley Cup aspirations after coming within two games of the playing for the silver chalice last summer — he should absolutely be a favorite to take home the award for the third time in six years.

“He’s very detailed, and he’s going to hold you accountable — those are the two biggest things he’s changed within our organization,” forward Matt Martin said in an interview with ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “But he also has good composure.”

With all due respect to all the other phenomenal coaches in the league, no one has been able to get more out of their team than Trotz. That’s been the common theme since he arrived on Long Island back in the summer of 2018.

Two years ago, he turned the Islanders from the worst defensive club in the league to the best, which helped contribute to the club’s goalies (Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss) being awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy. Last season after the COVID pause, he had the team ready to go for the challenge of playing in the bubble in Toronto. That preparation helped propel the team on their long postseason run.

What Trotz has been able to accomplish with his rag-tag bunch this year might be his best coaching job yet, and it’s taken place a COVID-induced, truncated environment.

Trotz once again has the Islanders atop the East Division and has them playing like the stoutest defensive team in the game. Under his tutelage and his system, the Isles have given up the fourth-least amount of goals in the league (73). He’s been able to get the most out of rookies Oliver Wahlstrom and Ilya Sorokin, both of whom have become the most impressive of the freshmen class in the NHL this year. Beyond the kids thriving, he’s also been able to get a lot out of his group from an offensive standpoint, a department many feel the Isles continue to lack in. According to the league’s website, the Islanders’ 98 goals for rank 13th among all teams.

Another challenge is now facing Trotz and his group with the news last week of his captain Anders Lee being done for the rest of the year. But just like he does, and how he’s implemented this same attitude to his team, they will forge on by committee.

That’s what a great coach does. And it’s a quality like that which makes Trotz one of the best — if not the best — behind the bench in the game.

There are still another 20-plus games left in this season, but Trotz has proven again he is deserving of being in the conversation for the Jack Adams. He has the Islanders succeeding again even after they keep being counted out.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Islanders’ g.m. Lou Lamoriello has one thing on his mind when it comes to next month’s trade deadline — making sure it’s the right fit for his squad. Lamoriello sat down with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and had this to say:

“We’re pretty comfortable with the people we have, the depth we have, because we are a team when you look at our scoring, it’s so spread out and it’s so balanced. But in saying that, and I said it earlier, we certainly will see what is available but we won’t make a trade just for the sake of making it happen.

“In other words, it has to be something that works for the team, that works with reference to the chemistry; it doesn’t upset the room, all the variables that to me are extremely important.”

Islanders’ head coach Barry Trotz has every right to be upset with his team

Rarely if ever during his tenure behind the Islanders’ bench has Barry Trotz shown his angry side after a game. But following last night’s loss, it’s easy to see why he’s upset with his team.

Trotz’s skaters were 26.4 seconds away from gaining a point before the Caps’ Justin Schultz wired a shot under the arm of Semyon Varlamov for the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win. It was a gut-punch which hurt even more because minutes earlier the penalty kill did a spectacular job killing off a inexcusable five-minute major taken by Leo Komarov.

“This is a playoff mentality right now,” Trotz said in curt tone after the game. “I’m not sure we have that playoff mentality. And it’s pissing me off.”

Pissed off? Damn straight Barry.

Sunday’s loss in New Jersey wasn’t great. Last night’s was awful.

Forget the mere fact the Capitals were basically without a majority of their impact guys. And forget the mere fact it was once again the first line again who only showed up. These are the types of defeats that can come back to haunt you later on in a season where every point is crucial.

It didn’t help that every game in the East Division last night outside of the Isles, Rangers and Devils tilts was a three-point game. And those are the kind of things that will go on a lot the season.

So, every point counts.

But Trotz’s frustration goes beyond just points in the standings.

There are a ton of guys he’s throwing out there who aren’t making a difference. Josh Bailey has one point in six games. J.G. Pageau only has two. A lot of people will point out to Pageau not having something to work with, and they’re right to a certain degree. But he’s supposed to be the driver of his line and that’s only come in spurts so far. Anthony Beauvillier had just one point before getting hurt. Even the fourth line looks hasn’t been nearly as effective.

Hard to recall when Trotz has ever called out the club’s “Identity Line”. He did last night.

That’s when you know things are going wrong.

“I need more from them,” Trotz stated.

The Islanders have now played six games and have collected just six points out of them. They currently sit seventh in the East and the bright side is no one is running with the East at the moment.

There’s still time to get things turned around and it has to start Thursday night when they play the Capitals again.

If not, were going to see plenty more of Barry Trotz’s angry side and that something neither his player or the fans should want.

Mathew Barzal and Noah Dobson continue to shine even in defeat. They were easily the two best players on the ice last night for the Isles.

Dobson’s night included his first goal of the year.

“Just try to throw a puck on net, got a good bounce, he said. “But, I think just trying to get better each game, learn and keep going on that track.”

Both their starts should have Isles fans very excited.

Trotz said changes were coming for Thursday and that should only mean one thing: PLAY THE KIDS!

Oliver Wahlstrom has yet to appear in the game. So too haven’t Otto Koivula, Dmytro Timashov and Austin Czarnik.

The Isles need a spark and those guys have the chance to provide it.

 

 

Giants’ Joe Judge channeling some of what Barry Trotz did to turn the Islanders around

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Don’t look now, but the New York football  Giants have crawled out of the abyss and are sitting in first place in the NFC East.

Hats off to Joe Judge and the tremendous job he’s done so far to get things turned around and get all his guys to buy in.

But where have we seen this quick transformation before?

Look no further than when Barry Trotz took over behind the bench for the Islanders. From the moment he arrived, the entire atmosphere around the franchise had changed.

The culture — most overused but important word in sports. Accountability. Attitude. Standards. All of it felt different.

More than all of those things: he instilled belief in his players. That’s what Judge is doing in bunches.

“I think the beginning of the season is when the team and the guys and the coaches proved to each other what type of team we really have,” DE Leonard Williams has said. “It’s easier to be happy and see the good things when you are winning, but I feel like we all see the good things in each other and what we have, even when we were losing. That just helped continue to build our confidence in each other and build on what we have working here. Eventually, it turns into a snowball and it keeps building up. I feel like we have a real culture here.”

The G-Men have now won four games in a row and just pulled off their biggest triumph in over four years, a 17-12 win in Seattle this past Sunday.

Even more impressive than that victory, they’ve done it with stout defense — a Trotz specialty. They’ve also gotten the job done without superstar running back Saquon Barkley, who’s been absent after he suffered a season-ending injury in week 2 against Chicago and their franchise QB Daniel Jones for the better part of the last two games.

Doesn’t that storyline sound familiar? Albeit not as much anger.

But in all seriousness, Judge is showing what happens when you have guys all buying into the same program. The kind of program where it’s team over individual. The kind of program that leads to success. The kind of program that bears similarities to Trotz’s which now has gotten the Islanders two consecutive playoff appearances and within two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Judge didn’t roll into the Giants’ gig with the same resume as Trotz; the latter had just won a title the previous season, his first. But Judge did come down from the coaching tree of all trees, Bill Belichick’s. That does amount to something, but not everything.

Judge is definitely building something his way  in East Rutherford and it’s starting to show.

The Giants haven’t won anything just yet, but they are in a position now where their future looks brighter than it has in a long time. Joe Judge deserves a ton of credit for it.

Time will tell if Judge’s Giants follow the same trajectory as Trotz’s Isles, but he’s got them back to winning and people feeling proud about the franchise once again.

And he’s accomplished that by channeling his inner Barry Trotz.

 

 

 

This is it for Josh Ho-Sang and the Islanders, and just maybe he finally gets it

The New York Islanders are trying it one last time with Josh Ho-Sang.

Yesterday the organization and Ho-Sang, who was a restricted free agent, settled on a deal before the 24-year-old was set to go to arbitration Friday.

The deal was for $700K and 225K.

The agreement from both sides came as a shock to some especially after g.m. Lou Lamoriello’s comments about the situation last week. But as I pointed out a few weeks ago —when Ho-Sang was one of the RFA’s qualified by the Islanders — there still something there between the two parties.

The question that remains now is will Ho-Sang finally get it?

This might be his last chance at salvaging his pro career. For him to do so as a part of the Islanders would be quite the turnaround after the road the team and player have been down.

To say the relationship between Ho-Sang and the Islanders has been anything but rocky would be putting it nicely.

It began the moment the team drafted him in 2014.

Then Isles’ general manager at the time, Garth Snow, received criticism from pundits on Ho-Sang who was said to have been a possible top-5 pick if not for character issues. Ho-Sang then overslept on the first day of training camp in 2015 and was immediately sent back to juniors.

Even after he sparked the club at the end of the ‘16-‘17 season, Ho-Sang got sent back to the AHL early on the following season and wasn’t called back up. The maligned forward got another short stint up with the Isles two years ago, but only lasted ten games.

Last year seemed like it would be the final straw when the 24-year-old requested Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello to trade him after he was the last forward cut before the regular season. Lamoriello told Ho-Sang to stay home while he tried to find a suitor, but to no avail. Ho-Sang eventually returned to the team, settling in Bridgeport in December after the Islanders lent prospect Oliver Wahlstrom to Team USA for the World Juniors.

There’s been other infractions along the way, but those are in the past.

Now, the ball is in Ho-Sang’s court.

The team has showed their faith in him. And as his agent Patrick Bedell noted yesterday, he’s ready to do anything to play for the Islanders this coming season.

“Josh is ready to give everything he has to earn a spot in the National Hockey League. This contract provides him with some financial security at the AHL level, but he intends to force his way into an NHL line-up,” Bedell told the New York Post’s Mollie Walker.

“We believe this contract best allows for that as well. There was interest from teams overseas, but again, at the end of the day, Josh’s focus is being a contributor for an NHL team. Conversations with the Islanders in furtherance of this deal were strong, and no matter how the upcoming season shakes out, we are focused on achieving our goals. Josh would like to thank the Islanders for believing in him.”

Just hearing those words are a very encouraging sign and a far cry from some of the things Ho-Sang has said in the past. Maybe now he does finally understand what it will take to be a regular in the NHL.

But actions speak louder than words.

He’s going to have to prove it to Lamoriello, Barry Trotz and the rest of the staff.

There are a lot of people who still believe he can be a big part of the Islanders moving forward and helping them continue their recent success. We all know how talented and skilled Ho-Sang is, and the proof is there that the team plays well with him around. It needs to translate even more now — if he does make the team — especially with the Isles coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

No other organization would stuck with Ho-Sang as long as the Islanders have. They believe he can be a difference maker.

That means something.

These next few months will tell if Josh Ho-Sang has any part in the future of the Islanders.

This is his final chance. He knows it. Everyone else does too.

Maybe he finally gets it now.

Josh Ho-Sang getting a qualifying offer signals Islanders still see something in him

Josh Ho-Sang still seems to be a part of the New York Islanders’ future.

Yesterday, Ho-Sang was tendered a qualifying offer from the Isles along with seven others players — Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews, Ryan Pulock, Mitch Vande Sompel, Kyle Burroughs, Parker Wotherspoon and Grant Hutton.

News came out last week that the Islanders were expected to offer Ho-Sang a deal according to his new agent Patrick Bedell. This came as a shock to many who believed his time with the organization had finally reached its demise. The 24-year-old Toronto native has had as contentious a relationship with the Isles from the very beginning.

Starting with him oversleeping the first day of training camp in 2015, to g.m. Lou Lamoriello asking him to stay home after he requested a trade and sitting out the first ten weeks of last season after not making the big club out of camp, and a laundry list of other events, there really hasn’t been a dull moment for the 28th overall pick from 2014. That’s why it still befuddles some as to why the Islanders haven’t just sent Ho-Sang on his merry way.

But there could be a reason for that. Maybe, just maybe, Lamoriello and his staff still see obviously see something in Ho-Sang in a positive light.

The talent has always been there with Ho-Sang. It still is. He had ten points in 16 games after returning to AHL Bridgeport last December; another three in six games when he was loaned to the Blues’ affiliate in San Antonio at the trade deadline. That’s never been the issue. Ho-Sang’s age too — he still being just 24 — leaves a lot to be desired; the Islanders are still trying to get younger despite an aging core and Ho-Sang remains one of those younger assets. Truthfully though, it’s always been his inability to grasp the defensive game and somewhat his character.

Those two things have kept him from succeeding at the NHL level after he came shot out of a cannon in the second half of the 2016-17 season. And for a franchise like the Islanders, where the organizational emphasis instilled by Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz the last three years is ‘we over me’, a personality like Ho-Sang at this point in time seems like it wouldn’t be in the cards. Yet, he we are.

Ho-Sang is still is a vital piece to the Islanders despite a lot of people saying he has next to no value. And there’s no question he can definitely still help them in a couple of ways, whether he’s still with the team or not.

Who knows, Ho-Sang could be a part of a package deal at the draft — the draft is tonight and tomorrow — to bring an established scorer to the organization. Or it’s possible he gets dealt as a way for Lamoriello to add some draft capital. Or even further to that, Lou and Co. had a serious sit down with Ho-Sang and made it clear they want him to be a difference maker for this team as they forge forward toward contending for a Stanley Cup over the next several years. Some forget, beyond Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows, the franchise doesn’t have those big time young guys who possesses speed and skill at the forward position. Ho-Sang is really one of the very few.

However you may perceive it, the Islanders aren’t giving up on Ho-Sang. For him to get qualified again, it shows there still something to be had. We will find out soon what his future with the organization may be depending if he accepts the offer or not.

But for now, Ho-Sang still has a place in this organization until further notice.

New York Islanders: The one quote from Lou Lamoriello yesterday that stuck out than the rest

This offseason was already going to be a vital one for the New York Islanders to build off their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 27 years. And now after general manager Lou Lamoriello’s comments yesterday, there’s even more to that notion.

“There’s room for improvement internally and if we can get better externally, we’ll certainly do that,” Lamoriello told reporters yesterday in his first presser since the Isles left the bubble. “But right now we’re going to focus in on keeping our team together.”

Keeping the core of that the organization has assembled might very well be Lamoriello’s focus presently, but it’s the first part of his quote which speaks more to how the franchise could take that elusive next step towards a Stanley Cup.

Everyone knows who those internal pieces are — Oliver Wahlstrom, Simon Holmstrom, and to a further degree, Kieffer Bellows. You can even throw Josh Ho-Sang in that mix, despite his shortcomings; his agent confirmed to Arthur Staple of The Athletic that the team will be qualifying him as a restricted free agent. Wahlstrom is the key to that trio though. He’s the proverbial “goal-scoring threat” the team hopes can be that missing link which improves the Islanders’ offense.

As for the outside alternatives, the names are ridden with potential star power. Patrik Laine. Mike Hoffman. Evgeni Dadonov. And there could be more where that came from, according to Lamoriello.

“There could be a lot more players available than people think,” he said.

That can either hurt or help the Isles, depending on how Lamoriello maneuvers his way around getting his top three RFAs — Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews — and some of the club’s other UFAs locked up as well with only $8 million in cap space to play with. The team’s unrestricted free agents include Matt Martin, Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andy Greene and goalie Thomas Greiss.

Lamoriello all but assured that Greiss probably won’t be back when he too said it’s “obvious” where the Isles’ goaltending situation is with 25-year-old Ilya Sorokin now aboard and Semyon Varlamov locked down for another three years.

The other names on that list, there are cases to be made for why they should or shouldn’t be brought back.

Let us start with Matt Martin.

  • He’s been a key piece of the organization in the last decade.
  • A valued member of the best fourth line in hockey since their inception.
  • A respected leader in the locker room and one of the faces of the franchise in the Long Island community.

The reason not for not retaining Martin’s services comes down to one name, Ross Johnston. Johnston is a younger version of Martin, and a much cheaper option to boot.

Andy Greene:

  • Came in at the deadline and “fit in like a glove” (Lamoriello’s words).
  • Is a Lamoriello disciple and has already been given a boost of confidence in the club wanting to bring him back
  • Showed his metal in the postseason even at age 37.
  • Definitely a cheap option for a defensive core that has a number of established guys on it.

The issue here is that the Islanders’ blue line is crowded. And with the emergence of Noah Dobson and a few others in the organization’s pipeline — Bode Wilde, Parker Wotherspoon and Samuel Bolduc — as possible NHL options soon, it’s hard to see where Greene fits in.

Derick Brassard and Tom Kuhnhackl:

  • Both showed what they could be capable of in the early portion of the bubble postseason; Brassard also was a solid contributor as the later rounds proceeded too.
  • Reasonably cheap bottom-six options.
  • Established veterans who have a winning reputation.

The Islanders still need to get younger upfront. So by letting these two walk, it opens up the possibility for the team to explore their options. Brassard did struggle in the regular season more than expected and was scratched four times in the playoffs. Head coach Barry Trotz gave his reasons for it, but it’s still something to keep in mind if he’s not re-signed.

The work for Lamoriello and his staff has already begun with the more important date coming two weeks from now when free agency opens. But from his comments, this club can improve in one way or the other.

How that happens remains to be seen.

The good thing, is Lamoriello won’t be sitting on his hands.

 

J.G. Pageau believes Islanders can “win year after year”

J.G. Pageau believes the New York Islanders are in a place where they have the chance to win with each passing season.

Pageau, who signed a six-year extension with the organization after the Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello traded for him at the trade deadline back in late February, told an Ottawa newspaper there are reasons for it while touching on several other topics.

“The whole team should look the same over the next few years and for fans and for the team, it’s encouraging to have come this far,” the 27-year-old said to leDroit. “We have a team that has a chance to win year after year.”

Pageau’s feeling about the Islanders comes after the team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. They were ousted in six games by the Cup winners — the Tampa Bay Lightning — who actually won it all last night over the Dallas Stars.

“I can’t wait to start training again,” Pageau added. “The end of the season that we had, it makes me hungry to continue to work hard. I can’t wait to have my next chance to win the cup with this team, ”he said.

 

The Ottawa native has been in this position before too when it comes to seeing a bright future for his club after they almost reached the pinnacle. Pageau was a member of the 2017 Ottawa Senators who went on a wonderful run that ended with a game seven loss in the Conference Final to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins; that team was dismantled by g.m. Pierre Dorion after that run. Pageau’s current club is in a much different spot. They are still very much at the beginning of their window being open even with most of the organization’s core all in their late-20s and early-30s.

But then there’s what the Isles do have. Which is, players still in their early 20s — Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Devon Toews, etc. — who have now been together for almost three years now while also gaining huge experience from the last two years with long playoff runs. A 25-year-old goalie in Ilya Sorokin — who was the best goaltender not on this side of the pond now signed for next season — and is expected to be the franchise’s future in goal. Some top prospects coming soon (Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows) and a defensive system which has made the team improve by a mile the last two seasons. Add in the GM of the Year in Lamoriello, arguably the best coach in the NHL, Barry Trotz, and the culture those two have instilled in the franchise since they arrived, and it’s easy to spot why Pageau feels so highly about the team’s future.

Now, Lamoriello does some work to do this offseason to validate what Pageau sees. This means finding a way to add cap space — the team only has just over $8 million to work with — while trying to add a quintessential piece or two to the puzzle. He too has to get the team’s most important RFAs, Barzal, Pulock and Toews, all signed. If he can maneuver his way through all that, there’s no doubt the Isles will be ready to roll come time puck drops in late December or early January.

Still, the enthusiasm oozing out of Pageau, already a fan-favorite, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Islanders’ franchise has taken monumental steps in the last couple of years. And, it’s only going to continue to get better on and off the ice. Pageau is, and has already been, a major part of that. He believes this team can be a consistent winner.

They are on the right path to do it too.

 

 

The Islanders’ goaltending situation is the best it has been in a long time

It’s been a few days now since the New York Islanders’ fantastic playoff run came to an end. That time has allowed for a lot of reflection on how they got as far as they did and what the future may hold heading into next season, whenever that begins.

One of the keys to the future — and hopefully more success for the organization — is their goaltending situation. Even with the news this morning that Thomas Greiss — whose been a soldier for the team the last five years and is an unrestricted free agent going into next month — will most likely test the market, the Isles’ situation in goal is as good as it’s been in a long time.

Now some can argue their goaltending had reached its peak two years ago. The duo that season, Greiss and Robin Lehner, backstopped the team to a 103-point season, a first-round sweep of the Penguins and was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy while Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Or even prior to that when Jaro Halak and Greiss manned the net a few years back. Both those situations brought good success to the Islanders, but didn’t last long-term. But what they have now has the makings of being one of the best in the game, not just now but for the foreseeable future.

It begins with Semyon Varlamov and ends with Ilya Sorokin.

Varlamov’s coming off a career-reviving playoff run and has solidified himself as the true No. 1 in net. After a so-so regular season, he proved a lot of his doubters wrong by backstopping the Islanders get to the Eastern Conference Finals and nearly stealing the series against Tampa. His wonderful performance also showed why Lamoriello was so keen on getting him last summer.

“Varly has been there for us all along,” were the words of teammate Cal Clutterbuck during the Tampa series. Heed the words of Andy Greene as well too. “He fights out there and battles with us.”

Varlamov has another three years left on his contract, but after his performance this summer, it feels like he’s got a couple of good years ahead of him. Maybe not only as a starter but a mentor also to the phenom about to be described.

That phenom is Sorokin. This is where things look even brighter.

Sorokin, is the 25-year-old Russian star whom the organization finally was able to sign and get over to North America this summer. Despite not having played a game yet on this side of the pond, he is expected to be the future in goal for the franchise for what should be the next decade.

All the Islanders can do is look a few miles down the road to Manhattan and see what the Rangers have with his friend and fellow countrymen, Igor Shesterkin, for what they hope to see.

The numbers he put up in his KHL career were incredible and earned him the reputation as the “best goalie not in the NHL”. To the Isles’ fortune though, Sorokin is already signed for next season and got to experience the likes of the postseason because of the time he spent with the team while they were in the bubble.

“From an organizational standpoint, he’s working with our goaltending coaches all the days,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Sorokin last week. “He’s taking English lessons daily, with a tutor and learning that, and he’s getting English all day and hanging out and getting the personalities. From a standpoint of integration, if you’re a player coming in, there couldn’t be a better situation.”

“With Ilya’s background, that could create some tension. It has created zero tension, and you find out what a terrific person he is and how he’s integrated with the other players. He’s fit in seamlessly,” Trotz also added.

The Islanders have a lot to look forward to in the coming years. Their goaltending though, might be the most exciting out of all of it.

Their situation is in really good hands and is the best it’s been in a long time.

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz must Change the Lineup for Game 7

New York islanders, Jordan Eberle

The New York Islanders have blown their 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. Game 7 is on Saturday, and the Islanders need to make some lineup changes. With little to no momentum on their side, the Islanders need to come out swinging. Not literally swinging, but pressuring the Flyers as they did in game 1. I’ve penciled in 3 lineup changes that I believe are detrimental for the Islanders to close out the series.

Thomas Greiss

Before overtime, the Flyers had 20 shots on net, and the Islanders had 50. What was the score, you wonder? 4-4. One out of every five shots that the Flyers took went in. This is not how you win a series. Thomas Greiss is the only solution to this problem. Greiss made some huge saves during game four as the Islanders took a 3-1 lead in the series. Griess isn’t always the most reliable, but Varlamov isn’t either right now. It’s a risky move for sure, but I believe this change must occur.

Tom Kuhnhackl

Tom Kuhnhackl was excellent against the Florida Panthers and was only taken out because of the Isles’ inability to stop the power-play. Now, the Flyers’ power-play is even worse than the Islanders’. Komarov isn’t better than Kuhnhackl on offense, and the offense is what the Islanders need right now. Kuhnhackl’s forechecking works perfectly with Pageau’s ability to jump up on the defense. You can either play Kuhnhackl and get more offense or stick with Komarov and see what works.

Jordan Eberle

Jordan Eberle had at least four chances to end the series last night. Playoff Eberle has fallen off the map completely. He’s taking enough shots, but none of them are going in. I believe he has to move down a line. I don’t know who you would move up because the “B-B-B” line is doing so well. Maybe moving Josh Bailey up a line is the right move, but that’s Trotz’s decision.

Conclusion

The Islanders only have one more shot at winning this series. This is the biggest game in Islanders’ history in 27 years. The pressure is on.