Casey Cizikas is Islanders Unsung Hero

By James McDermott

Casey Cizikas skated at practice today with the New York Islanders after missing the team’s last two games, and this is very good news for the Islanders’ faithful.

When listing the most important forwards on the Islanders roster, it is unlikely that Casey Cizikas’ name would appear at the top of the list, but he has become one of the team’s true unsung heroes.

Cizikas, the Islanders’ fourth line center, is not a potent offensive threat, registering only eight points this season, but with him out of the lineup, the Isles’ lines shuffle out of balance, effecting the roster more than almost any other Islander.

The has natural centers playing on the wing, Josh Bailey, Ryan Strome and Mikhail Grabovski, on a regular basis. This would seem to imply that the team would be able to easily handle an injury to their bottom center, but none of them profile as a fourth liner. Moving a player from a wing position on a higher line to center the bottom unit has an effect on lines’ make-up, causing the Isles lineup to appear unbalanced when Cizikas in unable to play.

In his absence, Strome was given the task of filling in on the Isles energy line with Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Martin and Clutterbuck are not inept offensively, but they do not provide the type of skill set to really compliment Strome. Strome is a far more gifted player than Cizikas, but he does not play with the same grit that Cizikas provides night in and night out. He is far better suited to play alongside play-makers and finishers, not grinders and agitators. Good teams need balance, but up and down the lineup, but also within the lines themselves, Strome’s presence centering the fourth line took away from what that unit does best.

The 23 year old Cizikas’ game is a perfect fit to play with Martin and Clutterbuck, and when at their best the Isles fourth line stacks up very favorably to any in the league. They aren’t going to appear on the score-sheet all that often, but the trio excel at giving the rest of the team a boost when they are lacking for energy and are responsible enough to play in nearly any situation.