New York Islanders 2018-19 Roster: Should Have Seen it Coming

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: A general view of the arena during the game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers in a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 16, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: A general view of the arena during the game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers in a preseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on September 16, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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On Monday, September 24th, the New York Islanders made their second set of cuts to the roster. And they raised a number of question, like why sign players you’re still not certain about?

As the New York Islanders reduced their roster from 43 to 28 a few high profile young players were sent to the AHL. Both Kieffer Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang were sent to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the second round of training camp cuts.

Looking at the roster before training camp even opened we knew that it was going to be tough for Kieffer Bellows and Josh Ho-Sang to make the team.

The New York Islanders top six forwards are already cemented. With Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey set to be the top line. Followed up by Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle on line two.

It meant that Bellows and Ho-Sang would compete for a third line spot. A third line that was likely to be staffed by Andrew Ladd, Valtteri Filppula, and Leo Komarov. A third line largely built through free agency this season and given significant trade/NHL protection by the team. Showing the Isles were intent on playing then in 2018-19.

Breaking through that group was going to be difficult or virtually impossible. And in the end that’s exactly what happened. Bellows and Ho-Sang couldn’t out-play these vets in training camp.

Two Checking Lines

After making the cuts Lou spoke to the media. Which is in-and-of-itself a good thing. He only had good things to say about both Bellows and Ho-Sang. Both played well, but according to Lou, they didn’t outplay any of the veterans. Veterans the Isles needed to see first it seems

"“We have a lot of players under contract. We have to find out who they are and if they can play before any major decisions can be made,” – Lou Lamoriello"

Do they though? Why are the Islanders making it seem like the bottom six veteran issue was one that’s plagued the team since before Lou took over? Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Matt Martin, and Tom Kuhnhackl were all added during the free agency period.

The bottom six veteran clog was very much created after Lou got here.

I get that this approach isn’t the most popular one. I’m not pleased about the Islanders’ bottom six forward situation either. Especially since it seems that it’s their own doing. They brought in these players that are preventing youth from making the roster.

We all want to see exciting kids fly up and down the ice. A crew of vets that will essentially clog up the ice and try and choke the offense from the opposition doesn’t sound fun.

Say what you will about how the Islanders will have two checking lines and how Bellows and Ho-Sang don’t belong on a checking line. It’s true, Bellows and Ho-Sang don’t belong on a second checking line. But a second checking line doesn’t need to exist in the NHL anymore.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won two cups with a third line of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin. That’s not a checking line. That’s a depth scoring line.

Should Have Seen it Coming

With all that being said we should have seen it coming. This is the way Lou likes to play the game. You can say what you want about his time in Toronto, and how their roster construction went. But Lou wasn’t the one in charge there. He answered to Brandon Shanahan.

We saw this type of team for years in New Jersey. The Devils then under the management of Lou Lamoriello appeared in the playoffs 20 times out of 22 seasons between 1990 and 2012 winning the Stanley Cup three times and being the runner-up on two occasions.

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There shouldn’t be a problem questioning how Lou Lamoriello has built this roster. It looks like a roster that was built to win in 1992. The game has changed since then. We shouldn’t worry about asking: “Are you sure Lou?” It’s fair to be critical. I hope it works. But I’m not convinced it will.

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