Casey Cizikas had a monster year for the New York Islanders in 2018-19. He deserves a more offensive role next season.
The Islanders fourth line of Cizikas, Martin, and Clutterbuck were wildly important to the success of the team. While they might have been a “fourth” line on the matchday lineup, there were far from a regular fourth line on the ice.
They were tasked with setting the tone for the game to game and always started games and periods for the Islanders. And they excelled, specifically Casey Cizikas.
He’d finish the year with 20 goals and 33 points. Setting career highs in both. Casey Cizikas showed that there’s more to his game than just being solid in his own zone. And the New York Islanders need to take advantage of that in 2019-20.
Breaking Up the Fourth Line
The case I’m making here is to break up Cizikas, Martin, and Clutterbuck in order to get more offense out of Casey Cizikas. I firmly believe there’s more to get out of Cizikas. Here’s the case.
Of the Islanders center’s Cizikas ranked third in terms of per 60 ice time at even strength. But look at where Cizikas started his shifts. He started 66.8 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone.
*Time-on-ice per 60 for even strength time
**Stats from the 2018-19 New York Islanders Hockey-Reference page
That needs to move up. According to NaturalStatTrick, Cizikas was the Islanders top center in terms of high-danger scoring chances for with 56.42 percent. He also beat out every other center when looking at the relative rate of the same stat with a 4.45.
Cizikas was incredible at creating high-danger scoring chances, the one stat that Barry Trotz seems to love above all else. Watch how Cizikas finds Matt Martin in the slot from behind the net with a bouncing puck and through the legs of Alex Pietrangelo no less.
Cizikas also ranked second* for centers in terms of xGF% with a 51.11. Remember, Cizikas stars 62.8 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone. In 2019-20 that needs to change.
(*Beauvillier was listed as a center according to NaturalStatTrick and had a 51.25 xGF%, I don’t count Beau as a center.)
Cizikas needs to move up the Islanders center depth chart. I know Cizikas played more minutes than what was the third line center in Valtteri Filppula at 5on5. But Cizikas should move into a role where the zone starts are more balanced, and where Cizikas can be paired with better offensive players.
I’m not suggesting that it needs to be a straight 50-50 next season for Cizikas. But if it could resemble what Valtteri Filppula had last season (42.3-57.7) and if Cizikas can anchor a line with wingers like Anthony Beauvillier he could produce more than we’ve seen from him this season.
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I know breaking up the New York Islanders fourth line isn’t something that is at the top of any fans agenda. After the way they played last season I understand why. But Casey Cizikas has so much more to offer. The Islanders should unlock that untapped potential.