New York Islanders Coach Weight Should Shuffle Forward Lines

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The  New York Islanders made some minor moves at the trade deadline, acquiring a depth defenseman and a bottom six forward. They weren’t monumental deals, and it may be too little too late. The squad has struggle of late. Recent lack of offense should make Coach Weight consider shuffling his forward lines.

The New York Islanders have a talented team, but right now the only forwards producing steady offense are Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. The first line’s production has slowed nearly to a halt. Critics argue that as a unit they aren’t fast enough to be fully effective.

I’d like to add someone speedy to play with John Tavares, maybe help him get better zone entries. Josh Bailey is having a great season, but can he keep it up without Tavares? Anders Lee‘s game style should allow him to be effective on any line. Go to the net, wait for the puck…

Meanwhile the third line is a mess.

Tanner Fritz

works hard, but seems outclassed at the NHL level. NY will have to find a spot for him where his line mates can help shoulder his burden.

Brock Nelson

has had a rough season in his contract year, and

Andrew Ladd

isn’t doing much better since getting bumped off Barzal’s line.

The fourth line is still doing its thing, grinding away. They’re a pretty solid unit that does its job, no need to mess with a good thing. They can’t be counted on for much offense, but that isn’t their role.

I came up with some different line variations to add depth and spread the scoring around. I tried to spice it up with what few seasonings were available in the cabinet.


Line 1: Beauvillier-Tavares-Eberle (Scoring)
Line 2: Ladd-Barzal-Fritz (Scoring)
Line 3: Lee-Nelson-Bailey (Scoring)
Line 4: Wagner-Cizikas-Clutterbuck (Checking)

Beauvillier and Eberle stay together but join Tavares to add speed. Barzal plays with Tanner Fritz and Andrew Ladd, who brings size and two-way play. The 4th line stays intact, but it’s the third line that will hopefully be activated. A line of Lee-Nelson-Bailey should be talented enough to pick up points against third line opposition, giving the Islanders three lines capable of scoring.


Line 1: Ladd-Tavares-Eberle (Scoring)
Line 2: Nelson-Barzal-Fritz (Scoring)
Line 3: Lee-Beauvillier-Bailey (Scoring)
Line 4: Wagner-Cizikas-Clutterbuck (Checking)

Ladd and Eberle were both acquired to play with Tavares, but both ended up on different lines. Together they ought to remain deadly offensively, while having slightly better speed and defense than the current first line of Lee-Tavares-Bailey. I left Lee with Bailey since they play well together, but threw Beauvillier down the middle for speed.

Nelson-Barzal-Fritz could be interesting. It’s structure is similar to Barzal’s current line with Eberle and Beauvillier; sniper, playmaker, energy player. Hopefully he can jump-start Fritz’s and Nelson’s games as they’ve both struggled this season, if so that line could pump offense. Again the fourth line stays put.


Line 1: Tavares-Beauvillier-Bailey (Scoring)
Line 2: Ladd-Barzal-Eberle (Scoring)
Line 3: Lee-Nelson-Wagner (Energy)
Line 4: Johnston-Cizikas-Clutterbuck (Checking)

Tavares plays the 16th most minutes per game for a forward in the NHL. With the addition of Wagner the Islanders now have six centers. Moving Tavares to the wing for 5-on-5 allows him to play a 160 foot game with less defensive responsibility. This would lead to him having more energy for rushes, back-checking and special teams. Beauvillier brings speed to the first line.

The second line should be effective offensively as well as reliable defensively. The proposed third line would be a good energy line. Game plan: get the puck low, get a good fore-check, send Lee to the front, Nelson to the slot, put pucks at the net and look for rebounds. The fourth unit is a bruiser line, and many fans would be happy to see Johnston sub in for Fritz.


Line 1: Tavares-Barzal-Fritz (Scoring)
Line 2: Lee-Nelson-Bailey (Scoring)
Line 3: Ladd-Beauvillier-Eberle (Energy/Scoring)
Line 4: Wagner-Cizikas-Clutterbuck (Checking)

My personal favorite. Tavares and Barzal together are deadly, and should be talented enough to activate speedy little Fritz. Fritz showed a nose for the net in the AHL, but is still trying to find his game at the NHL level.

Tavares on the wing means Tavares getting up ice faster for offense. It’s worth a try, especially if the season continues to slip away. Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux moved out of center to the wing and is having one of his best campaigns.

Lines two and three are fairly equally divided to add secondary scoring. As always the fourth line remains a checking line. With the addition of Wagner the Islanders fourth line has two of the top five checkers in the league once again.

Next: Isles Defense Needs Restructuring

I wouldn’t mind Coach Weight trying some of these combinations, just to give the boys a spark. What do y’all think? Do you have a better lineup you’d suggest?