The Islanders have legit scorers this year who should ignite the offense

The Islanders and their fans should be hoping one facet of their game takes a big step forward this season. What is it? Scoring.

It’s no secret the Isles’ offense has been questioned for the lack thereof despite how much team success they’ve had over the past three years. They ranked 21st twice and 20th in Goals Per Game in the regular season, that according to foxsports.com. In that time, they’ve also not had a 30-goal scorer; the last was captain Anders Lee during the 2017-18 season when he tallied 40 goals.

Having a forward of that caliber probably could have increased those numbers slightly or maybe a wide margin. And it hasn’t been for the lack of trying. General manager Lou Lamoriello took a swing for Artemi Panarin in free agency two years ago, and this summer the team put their hat in the Vladimir Tarasenko sweepstakes. Both were unsuccessful, even with Tarasenko still possibly lingering out there.

But the Islanders might have finally solved that glaring issue. Lee and the newly re-signed Kyle Palmieri have the ability to give the offense a true shot in the arm, and both do have 30-plus goal potential.

Lee has already surpassed the 30-goal plateau twice in his career. As stated earlier, he notched 40 red lights four years ago and had 34 the season before that. Before the 31-year-old went down for the season in March, he had 12 goals and was on pace to come near or eclipsing that mark again. Could Lee have gotten there? It’s fair to say yes with the bounce back season he was having and how the line of he, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle were progressing.

Lee is now fully recovered from his injury and he will be back with Barzal and most likely Palmieri. That trio should have more of an attack mentality, meaning more offense and more goals.

Palmieri is a former 30-goal scorer in his own right from his years with the Anaheim Ducks, having done it in 2015-16. He’s expected to replace the production of the departed Eberle. He and Barzal showed some chemistry in the few times they were together during the postseason.

Barzal truly has never really had someone like Palmieri, and vice versa. The former just might be the most skilled forward the 30-year-old Palmieri has lined up with in his career. That should account for something. Palmieri’s shoot-first mentality should add a new dynamic for the first line as a whole.

The offense should also see more balanced scoring with Oliver Wahlstrom, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, and the addition of Zach Parise. Nelson has yet to score 30 in his career, but this might be the year he finally breaks through. Wahlstrom on the other hand is the team’s most complete sniper, but he is still raw and reaching 30 goals as a third liner seems a bit farfetched. But, if he does get a shot on the first line — which some may think he might — all bets are off.

As much as the Isles are a defense-first squad, offense shouldn’t be as hard to come by as its been in years past. They have some firepower that could do some damage this season.

Three players the Islanders will need to step up against the Penguins to ensure success

For any player participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the new season provides a second chance not only to write the wrongs of the regular season but also show the type of metal they possess. The Islanders know all to well about this.

In their 2019 first round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins — the team they will also be up against in the first round of these playoffs starting Sunday — they witnessed Jordan Eberle have a phenomenal showing (six points in four games) after a so-so performance over the 82-game slate. Eberle did get hot towards the end of the year and it translated into the postseason, which changed the course of the series and gave the Islanders’ a significant advantage. Last year in the bubble it was Anthony Beauvillier, who was a bolt of lightning in the qualifying matchup against Florida and the first round beating of the Washington Capitals.

This opening round against an elite opponent has the chance to give a couple of Islanders a fresh start. Three of them elevating their game could help make the difference in them moving on or possibly going home.

We’ll start with Kyle Palmieri.

It’s not a secret that Palmieri’s stint with the Islanders has been disappointing since being acquired back at the trade deadline from New Jersey. He recorded just four points in 17 games and head coach Barry Trotz had a difficult time finding the right spot for him. He was even given a shot to play with Mathew Barzal in the second to last home game, and even that led to no results. Trotz has given Palmieri ample opportunities to try and get going, but now there is no more time for waiting.

It would be a surprise if Trotz decided to sit Palmieri if he struggles — usually he gives veterans the benefit of the doubt — but you never know what he’s thinking.

Over the last few games the 30-year-old did look a little more motivated, so maybe this is a sign of things to come. The Isles’ offense would gain a real boost if Palmieri’s goal scoring touch returned. He would also really help the team’s ability to roll their four lines and the power play which will oddly enough have the advantage going into the series.

If Palmieri is crucial offensively to the Isles having a strong series, Scott Mayfield is the one on the backend.

Mayfield didn’t have the best time in the truncated 56-game sprint. A lot of it came as a result of having to adjust to a new D-partner in Nick Leddy. Mayfield’s regular partner for over a year and a half, Devon Toews, was traded to the Avalanche in the offseason. Leddy’s solid play and numbers masked a lot of Mayfield’s declining play in his own zone.

The Isles can ill-afford to have the 28-year-old make the same mistakes especially against the speed and skill the Penguins are equipped with up front. Mayfield gets caught flat-footed a lot and sometimes goes backwards instead of going north which in the regular season led to turnovers on far too many occasions.

That was the bad. Here’s the good: Mayfield is one of the best penalty killers in the game, as Trotz referenced too last month. The Penguins own one of the top man-advantages this year. Mayfield will have his hands full with that facet, but as he’s shown over time, that’s where he’s most valuable and shines the most.

Now for the third player, and this one is a bit of a wild card: Leo Komarov.

Surprised? Don’t be. Because for as much as Komarov is loathed by a portion of the fanbase — he’s been on Barzal’s wing over the past few weeks — he will be important in trying to get the Penguins off their game.

Uncle Leo is a pest and he does his job very well. He knows how to get under the opposition’s skin. And that definitely plays a factor in the mental grind of a series opposed to the other areas which the Islanders might be lacking.

I know Leo isn’t a fantasy hockey favorite, but we’re not playing fantasy hockey,” Trotz has said about Komarov. “We’re playing with real lives bullets in the NHL. It’s nothing about analytics. It’s about heart and guts and playing the right way, being committed, and playing in these heavy games.”

So, don’t expect Komarov to be producing points — although he did when inserted into games in last year’s postseason — but expect him to do the dirty work and try and make Sidney Crosby and Co.’s life miserable.

 

New York Islanders: Production is needed from new players

Kyle Palmieri, islanders

The New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot with their dominant win over the New York Rangers on Saturday. Off of the hangover, the Islanders blew a 2 goal lead to the worst team in the league. I will not blame individual players, but something has to be done about Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Both of these newly acquired players are not living up to their playing abilities at all. Travis Zajac has become a 13th forward, as he lost his starting spot to Leo Komarov. While Kyle Palmieri is on a total dry streak and looks totally out of place most of the game. What is the solution to finally get these players rolling before the playoffs come along.

First Line Time For Palmieri

I still don’t understand how Leo Komarov/Travis Zajac,/Josh Bailey all got first-line minutes before Kyle Palmieri. Head coach Barry Trotz loves running the first line with a true power forward and 2 elusive playmakers. Kyle Palmieri is literally the definition of a power forward, so it makes no sense why the Islanders won’t at least try the combination. Mat Barzal’s play-making abilities, mixed with Jordan Eberle’s good Hockey sense, could definitely catapult Palmieri’s production. Islander fans saw Anthony Beauvillier revive his season when Trotz brought back the second line from last year’s playoffs. I don’t see why Palmieri being on the first line won’t do the same.

What About Zajac?

Travis Zajac was brought to the Island just in case another forward went down. JG Pageau took last night’s game off due to injury, and Zajac was brought in to clean up the third line. Zajac played as bad as Ross Johnston does. If Zajac played at least decent last night, I bet he would’ve taken Komarov’s spot, who took 2 penalties. Zajac high-sticked a Sabres’ player when the net was empty, on purpose. Never won a single 1v1 battle. It totally stunted the momentum of the third line. To sum it up, Zajac can either pick it up when he gets another chance, or he can find his way into free agency quickly.

The Islanders have to find way to get Kyle Palmieri going

When the Islanders made their major deadline move for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac a few weeks back, g.m. Lou Lamoriello acknowledged chemistry being one of the crucial factors that got the deal done. It’s something he and the organization value a ton. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Palmieri — and Zajac got that matter — would fit seamlessly with how the Isles play and are built.

Or so we thought.

Nine games since the deal got made and things really haven’t gelled the way many have hoped for. The Islanders are just 4-4-1 in that span and their offense has once again been hit or miss. Palmieri — and he is more of the focus here because he was who the trade was centered around — has only registered a goal and an assist thus far in blue and orange. That certainly isn’t going to cut it for someone fans had heard would add his goal-scoring prowess; Palmieri had tallied 20 or more goals in his previous four seasons.

Head coach Barry Trotz has tried to find him the right line mates, but nothing has translated to consistency. Palmieri himself looks like he’s going through the motions too. Look being traded to a new team means adjustment, but after let say five games, playing in a new system should become easier to figure out.

“I think the first couple of weeks all you’re really focused on is fitting in and getting to know the guys and the systems and being an impact [player],” Palmieri said last week. “They brought me in for a reason and that’s to come in here and help this team win.

So what can be done to get the 30-year-old finally going?

The options are limited. Palmieri’s been on the third line, second line and the power play already. That leaves just one alternative: giving Palmieri first line duties with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. This might be the actual solution.

Palmieri can score and has an underrated shot that line has been lacking for a long time. There’s been flashes of it over his short stay with the club so far.

Trotz indicated yesterday after his team practiced that he was going to switch some things up on the top line to find a spark following a bad 6-3 loss on Saturday night at home to the Capitals. Palmieri getting the call for that switch could be a huge motivator. It would show the trust the coaching staff has in him to do the heavy-lifting on that line despite he being more of a skill guy. Trotz has thrown Zajac and Leo Komarov up on that line recently because they play that heavier game. As great as that sounds for the kind of balance the Isles  love having, production matters more in the long run. That’s where Palmieri fits into that equation.

Furthermore, when he was in New Jersey before guys like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier came around, Palmieri was one of the go-to guys and thrived in that setting.

The playoffs are mere weeks away and the Islanders need to have Palmieri at his best. They acquired him because they believe he’s one of the pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle. It’s crucial Palmieri begin to find his way. The Isles must help him do that beginning right now.

Yesterday marked the 46-year anniversary of the Islanders pulling off one of the greatest postseason comebacks in sports history, when they came back from down 3-0 to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

One of the great tales from that series was Ed Westfall — the Islander who scored the lone goal in game seven which was also the game-winner — having to go out for beers with the Penguins after the win because the Isles players had already abandoned the locker room while Westfall was showering.

The newly announced deal between the NHL and TNT could lead to some legendary television. Just imagine it now, Charles Barkley critiquing Mathew Barzal when the puck is on his stick. I’d pay a lot of money to watch that.

The Islanders are “All In” with their latest move

All In.

That was the feeling that took over the blue and orange cult of fans that make up Islanders Country just before 8PM last night, when news broke that the team had acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for two picks — a 2021 first-rounder, 2022 conditional fourth-rounder — and minor leaguers Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer. And with that one move the Isles made their intentions clear to the rest of the division and the league for that matter: they believe they can win a Stanley Cup.

Anticipation had been building that g.m. Lou Lamoriello was going to strike sometime before the trade deadline next Monday. Even prior to captain Anders Lee going down with a season-ending injury last month, there was plenty of chatter the Isles would be buyers. Lee’s setback only increased that thinking, as did his $7M cap hit which now became available for the organization to use. It seemed like something was afoot too from the outside when the organization’s top targets, Palmieri and Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, were being sat out by their respective teams over the past few games. Well, Lamoriello chose what he believed to be the better package, getting a two-for-one special.

The way the team responded to [Lee’s injury] and the way they came together, certainly played a role in whatever I could do to get them some support and some help,” Lamoriello said to the media following the deal. “Certainly a first round pick is what it is. I’m extremely excited about the young players we have and how they’ve come along and how they are going to gain experience through this process. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all making the decision, especially when you’re able to acquire the two players that we did in Kyle and Travis.”

Palmieri and Zajac both bring something different to the table that won’t only help the Islanders down the stretch but in what they hope to be another long postseason run. The 30-year-old Smithtown, Long Island native brings his goal-scoring prowess to an already well-balanced attack. As my friend and colleague James Nichols pointed out this morning, Palmieri has scored 140 goals since the 2015-16 season & is scoring at a 41-point pace in 2020-21(19 goals, 22 assists). His teammate Zajac bolsters an already formidable bottom-six, is a stout penalty killer and brings plenty of veteran and championship experience. Zajac was on the Lamoriello-led Devils squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

He also waived his full no-move clause for the trade to go down yesterday.

That’s a testament to how the Islanders are viewed as a franchise now, one that keeps trending in the right direction and is going for it. “It’s a bolt of energy for sure,” Zajac said. “You’re excited to come in this situation and coming to a team that just does things the right way. They know how to win.”

The Islanders have been in “win-now” mode since Lamoriello arrived three years ago. He struck out the first time when he went for Mark Stone. Last year, he made his mark to get his club reinforcements — Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau — in the wake of devastating injuries. We all saw how those deals have played out. They’ve been a rousing success. But this time, he made moves to make a statement. That’s what Palmieri and Zajac are.

Lamoriello believes this group is good enough to win a Cup this year. He might not be done either.

One thing is certain, winning at all cost is the expectation now for the Isles. The moment was seized to get better and from here on forward this team is all-in on getting to the promise land.

 

New York Islanders: What will the lines look like after the Palmieri trade?

The New York Islanders have successfully completed two huge trades for top 6 forwards in the past two years. Last year, General Manager Lou Lamoriello traded away a bundle of picks for JG Pageau. That trade was regarded as one of the best trades of last year and possibly recent Islander history. Lamoriello might’ve struck gold two years in a row as he completed another trade with the New Jersey Devils last night.

The Islanders acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for this year’s first-rounder, Mason Jobst, AJ Greer, and a conditional fourth-round pick. The Islanders added 2 impact forwards who will be plugged into the lineup and play as soon as possible. Where will the new additions play, though?

Kyle Palmieri

Kyle Palmieri should be playing on Mat Barzal’s left-wing as he replaces fringe bottom 6 forward Leo Komarov. This move will undoubtedly improve Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s assist and goal numbers. Palmieri brings the same physicality that Anders Lee always brought to the table. But, Palmieri also has an elite shot that Anders Lee does not possess. The only problem with Palmieri being on the first line is the fact that the Islanders would be brandishing three right-handed forwards on one line. It’s not a huge problem, as the second line powerplay features all left-handers, but it’s something to look out for. Palmieri brings a clutch factor that hasn’t been seen on the Island in forever and a nice power-play presence.

Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac was an interesting last-minute addition to the Kyle Palmieri trade. I believe the only reason the Devils added him to the trade was the fact that they didn’t want to resign him. Or, they felt that they couldn’t get a first-round pick for just Palmieri. Whatever the reason may be, the Islanders walk away with another good center. Zajac should not be playing center for the Islanders, though, as the Isles already have 4 good/great centers. Zajac will have to move to wing for the first time in his long, storied career. I believe he will fit in nicely on JG Pageau’s left-wing, as Oliver Wahlstrom stays at right-wing. Zajac brings experience, an excellent faceoff percentage, and an ability to play on the power play/kill.

Why the New York Islanders should stay far away from Taylor Hall

islanders, taylor hall

The New York Islanders are in the trade market after their captain Anders Lee was placed on LTIR with a torn ACL. The Islanders were gifted back Anders Lee’s cap hit for this year, which is about $7 million. The Islanders need a top 6 forward to help out Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. There are several targets, and most of them are appealing. Guys like Conor Garland, Phil Kessel, Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Brown, Viktor Arvidsson, and many more. One of these targets, Taylor Hall, is a guy the Islanders need to stay far away from.

The Reasoning

Taylor Hall has been quite rough in his last 2 years as a player and is playing his worst Hockey right now. Currently, this kid has 2 goals, and he played alongside Jack Eichel. I know Eichel wasn’t playing his best Hockey either, but I think his stats would be inflated if Hall actually scored more than once a blue moon. All the fans keep saying is that the Isles need a goal scorer, but when it comes to Hall, there’s an exception. Hall has only one more goal than Michael Dal Colle. Taylor Hall has been on 3 teams, now 4 teams in the last 3 years. That says quite a lot about a player. And it’s gonna take value to actually get hall: Kieffer bellows, a second, and another good player. Hall would only be a half-year rental too, and it’s not worth it.

Other Options

Conor Garland is a perfect top 6 forward for the Islanders for many reasons. Garland is currently rocking 10 goals and 18 assists in 37 games for the Arizona Coyotes. He’s putting up good numbers while having Nick Schmaltz and Michael Bunting on his line. The only problem is that he will be an RFA this offseason and will look for well-deserved big money. I also believe Kyle Palmieri is the best and most realistic trade for the Islanders. Palmieri is already sitting games ahead of the trade deadline, as he currently has 17 points in 34 games. Alongside some struggling young forwards, Palmieri is due for a change of scenery. It’ll be a relatively cheap trade to get him.