Lou Lamoriello is leading the New York Islanders into a new era, one that will be headlined by dominant and physical play from all members of the team.
John Tavares’ departure has clearly left a gigantic hole down the middle for the New York Islanders. However, Lamoriello does not seem keen on signing or trading for a top-six center to bolster the lineup.
84 points will be tough to replace. That is certain. To make up for Tavares, it is clear Lamoriello is thinking outside the box: why add 84 points and give up prospects in a trade, when you can give up fewer goals?
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It might seem crazy, but the Islanders really do not need John Tavares in this brand of hockey. Physicality and defense will do the trick, and this has been, and will continue to be, the plan for the offseason.
Defense, Defense, and More Defense
Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, Tom Kuhnakcl, Thomas Hickey, Valtteri Filppula, Robin Lehner. What do all these players have in common? These players whom the Islanders added or re-signed are all very physical players.
Defense starts up front, and the forward core has been rejuvenated with an influx of defensive specialists. Barry Trotz will implement a new defensive system, and all these players will be perfect for what is being asked of them.
They all can cover the point, get back on defense, block shots, and most importantly, play on the penalty kill. The Islanders finished last in the league in penalty kill percentage, killing off on 73.2% of opposing team’s power plays.
Komarov and Filppula are two very strong penalty killers, who will essentially replace Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin on the Islanders kill. That, mixed with Barry Trotz, should lead to less goals given up when short-handed.
Matt Martin is not exactly known for defense, but his physicality scares opponents and leads to errors. When Martin is on the ice, opponents tend to get rid of the puck early out of fear of getting rocked, which leads to scoring chances for the Islanders.
Plus, he is one of the best fighters in the NHL.
Even new-goaltender Robin Lehner is an absolute maniac. While he may be a goalie, Lehner always finds an opportunity to drop the gloves and rile up his teammates. There isn’t a more aggressive goalie the Islanders could have added this offseason.
The Blueprint for Success
Last season, with John Tavares suiting up for 82 games, the Islanders scored 261 goals, gave up 293 goals, and finished with 80 points. John Tavares contributed on 84 out of the Islanders 261 goals, which equates to 33%.
While this may seem daunting to replace, consider this: If the Islanders can give up the 2017-2018 NHL league average goals next year (244) and can replace 36 of Tavares’ 85 points, the Islanders can break even.
The Islanders blueprint this season starts with physicality and defense. Old-time hockey may have a negative connotation to it, but when you think about it, John Tavares’ departure could be a blessing in disguise.
Barry Trotz will do wonders for this team, and get the most out of his players just like he did leading Washington to the Stanley Cup. If the Islanders can be an average defensive team and continue their offensive success in their top-six, the Islanders will do significantly better than their nightmare that was last season.
More hits and better defense will be the formula to replace John Tavares. No trade or signing is perfect, but Lou Lamoriello is turning the Islanders into a team of goons. And it just might work.