Through the first 19 games of the 2013-2014 season, the New York Islanders have been on a roller coaster. Unfortunately, they’ve seen more downs despite some impressive and confident wins sprinkled in. However, some players have continued to prove their worth to the team, even if it’s not on the highlight reel every night.
Casey Cizikas, the Islanders 4th round pick (92nd overall) in 2009, is in his second full season with the big club. On a given night this year, you’ll find him on the ice between Colin McDonald and Matt Martin, though occasionally Eric Boulton and Cal Clutterbuck are thrown in the mix.
Cizikas isn’t going to be a huge offensive force, though he does have the ability to score as he produced 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 games in last year’s playoffs. Speaking of ability, he is the team’s leader in face-off wins at 49.8% in 2013-2014 through the first 19 games, according to sportsnetics.com.
His speed, agility, and willingness to take the body allow him to get important minutes on the penalty kill and at 5 on 5, hem opponents in their defensive zone shift after shift. Cizikas goes to the dirty areas and is not afraid of team’s bigger defensemen, which he easily out skates. Defensively, Cizikas blocks shots, is conscious of the open man in front of his net, and wins battles along the boards to ensure the puck leaves the zone.
Currently, Cizikas gets fairly limited minutes, averaging 13:36 per game, 2:40 of that on the penalty kill, according to sportsnetics.com as of 11/13. With his skill set and the Islanders need for wins nearing the quarter of the season, it may be time to give him some minutes with more skilled players. For example, Michael Grabner may be able to feed off of Cizikas’ energy and speed to create more chances or perhaps Brock Nelson could finish some of Cizikas’ hard work down low.
Having said all that, my question is: What if Casey Cizikas was put in to a larger role with this club?
Right now, a shake up of lines, mostly due to injuries, wouldn’t hurt the Islanders current state, even if options are limited. If it doesn’t work out, Jack Capuano knows he works well with Martin and McDonald.
To make sure I wasn’t crazy thinking Cizikas may need to play a larger role, I asked some of the other writers here at Eyes On Isles what their thoughts were.
Michael Willhoft: “Calling Cizikas a ‘pest’ isn’t the most accurate description of his style of play, nor does it do him justice in terms of what he brings to the Islanders. His aggressive forechecking and face off prowess make him a difficult matchup for opposing teams’ top lines, which is exactly what the Isles want from their fourth-line centerman.”
Peter McEntee: ”Cizikas is the guy who leaves nothing out on the ice. He gives 110% every shift and every game. His vitality to the team has become even larger taking on a penalty killing role, and he’s the only center on the team who can consistently win face offs.
Andy Graziano: ”Cizikas has taken his game to an entirely new level this season, providing outstanding penalty killing to go with an increased role garnering about 13-14 minutes of ice time. Had only one bad game that I can remember over the first 17.”
Joe Powers: “Casey’s one of my favorite Islanders, a real team-first, 110% kind of guy. He was an absolute beast during last year’s stretch run, and I’d love to see what he could do with 17 or 18 minutes a game.”
Rich Dias-Rodrigues: ”Cizikas epitomizes blue collar grit and work ethic. Not filled with flash, but lots of fury. Filled with loads of heart and determination.”
What do you think? Should Capuano shake up the lines to give Cizikas more playing time with better players?