The New York Islanders might have one of the best youngsters in the NHL at the moment in Mathew Barzal, but they can’t bank on just him to pull them out of irrelevancy.
With 85 points in his first regular season, no one is sleeping on New York Islanders first round pick from 2015 Mathew Barzal. The 2018 Calder Trophy winner has speed, vision, IQ, the ability to make a play and even finish. He’s the total package.
According to The Athletic’s Corey Pronman (subscription required), Mathew Barzal ranks as the seventh best player in the league under the age of 25. With everything I just said about the total package, that makes sense. But the Islanders can’t just rest on Barzal’s skills.
They need to learn from the
situation and surround him with talent as soon as possible.
It’s Not Offense but Defense
The big issue when John Tavares was here was the amount of help surrounding him. Aside from Tavares, there weren’t any other players to pass around the offensive workload. Tavares was often the one left to do the heavy lifting when it came to offense.
That isn’t quite the issue for Mathew Barzal. If not for the near point-per-game play of Josh Bailey, Barzal would be on his own. For Barzal the issue is defense. Since his start in the league, he’s received little help on the back end.
You can blame last season’s issues on the poor defensive structure of Doug Weight. But this season we’re seeing some of the same mental lapses that plagued the Doug Weight year-plus.
Intercepted passes through the middle, poor defensive marking in the slot, bad gap control, and just general poor awareness of what’s around them. So perhaps it was a mixture of defensive personnel and deployment that sunk the Isles over the last few seasons.
As a young player in the NHL, the Islanders control Barzal’s rights for years. Meaning they have a ton of time to do right by him.
Something needs to be done to the New York Islanders defense in order to improve the situation. It’s not like they don’t have the assets to try something new on the back end. Both Sebastian Aho and Devon Toews look fantastic in the AHL right now.
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The New Islanders have talent in the organization. They should use it to surround their star now rather than later. There’s no sense in letting a player like Devon Toews spend the year in the AHL learning nothing. Let him take the next step in the NHL where his skills could be better used.