New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has turned a team destined for the bottom of the league into one challenging for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The New York Islanders were supposed to be at the bottom of the NHL this season. We all remember that Deadspin article that went out of its way to show how little it thought of the New York Islanders chances in 2018-19.
To be fair to Deadspin, the Islanders had lost a superstar center in John Tavares through free agency and brought in Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Matt Martin. If the Islanders were 17 points out of the playoffs with Tavares scoring 84 points how would they be any better with the slew of bottom six players they brought in?
So much focus was paid to the playing staff that the coaching staff was never considered. Along with those bottom six players, the New York Islanders landed a coach with 19 years of NHL coaching experience and with a Stanley Cup pedigree.
In the 2018 offseason, the New York Islanders were able to bring in 2018 Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz. And he’s largely responsible for the Islanders success so far this season.
With a 12-8-2 record, the New York Islanders are third in the Metropolitan Division with 26 points. Only three points back of division leaders Washington Capitals. And the Isles have a game in hand on the caps.
Going into the 2018-19 season there were a number of questions facing the New York Islanders and their chances for success.
- Brock Nelson was going to be a number two center when the last four years proved he had a hard time centering the third line.
- They lost a point-per-game player in free agency and didn’t replace him. Where would the scoring come from?
- The Isles were going to put out two “fourth lines”. How in the world did they hope to generate any offense?
- They had the worst defensive record in the NHL in 2017-18 and they didn’t add anyone who could make it better. In fact, they lost Calvin de Haan and added Luca Sbisa.
- Their goaltending situation was resting on the shoulders of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. Two goals who had terrible seasons in 2017-18. Combined with that worsened defensive core how were the isles going to keep the puck out of the net?
Answering Tough Questions
Barry Trotz has answered every single one of those tough questions so far in 2018-19.
- Brock Nelson has 18 points in 22 games and is now the team’s number one center. Nelson has eleven points in eleven games this November, a month were Nelson typically disappears.
- Josh Bailey has continued to keep pace with his career year from 2017-18. Mathew Barzal seems to be just fine after a slowish start. Anthony Beauvillier can’t stop scoring at the moment and Anders Lee has added playmaking to his repertoire. The Isles are getting offense from everywhere.
- That includes the two “fourth lines”. Valtteri Filppula has been a revelation at the 3C spot with 15 points in 22 games. Casey Cizikas has been just as good with nine points in 16 games. It’s not just about points though.
- The Islanders defensive play has them sitting with a modest +7 goal differential. Tied for the best in the division. Their 64 goals against rank seventh best in the entire NHL. Again, the blueline is virtually unchanged in terms of personnel from last season.
- The duo of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner have the Islanders sitting with the ninth best save percentage in the league with a .913SV%.
With the system that Barry Trotz has these players playing they’ve been able to succeed when most didn’t think that was possible.
That’s typically been what wins a coach the Jack Adams trophy. It’s not often that coach wins when his team is expected to win and does. Like Barry Trotz’s Washington Capitals in 2016 who won 56 games for 120 points.
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What Barry Trotz has been able to do with the New York Islanders in his short time here is remarkable. He’s been able to prove how playing the “right way” matters in the NHL. If he isn’t your front-runner for coach of the year you need to think harder.