The New York Islanders were arguably the biggest surprise (in a good way) in the NHL last season. Now, Lou Lamoriello has to improve the Isles offense this off-season.
Almost every hockey expert-insider had the New York Islanders as a sure-fire lottery team for this past season. The Isles were one of the stronger teams in the league last year from pillar to post.
But now, General Manager, Lou Lamoriello must improve his hockey club. It starts with the offense.
Improving the Offense
The Islanders were in the bottom third of the league (22nd) when it came to scoring goals last season. Amazingly in 25 percent of their regular season games, the Isles were either shutout or scored one goal.
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When the Islanders scored at least three goals in a game during the regular season they were a juggernaut. The blue and orange had an overwhelming record of 37-2-2 when they hit the twine at least three times in a contest.
Both sides of this Islander coin showed up in this postseason. When they swept Pittsburgh they scored at least three goals in every game but when they were swept by Carolina they scored less than three in every game.
Lou’s off-season mission is clear. Find players who can improve the Isles offense, while at the same time fit into Barry Trotz’s system.
Their Own + Additions
It would be tough enough for Lamoriello to improve the team if he just had to concentrate on new additions. However, it’s not so simple for this longtime GM. Lamoriello has a number of his own unrestricted free agents to sign this Spring as well.
Mission accomplished on Brock Nelson but Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Filppula, as well as Robin Lehner still remain unsigned. If Lou were able to get them all resigned that would just make the Isles whole from last season.
So if Lamoriello gets Lee and Lehner inked to new deals, re-sign Filppula or another veteran center (Brian Boyle) trades for a Jason Zucker level forward and lets Eberle walk, that just gets the Islanders back to being even.
To improve the offense Lamoriello needs to bring back his key UFA’s and then add a significant player be it free agency or trade. If someone leaves from the Isles UFA forward list, Lou then needs to replace him and still find an impact forward.
The only exception would be if the Isles could sign a game changer such as Artemi Panarin or trade for one in Patrik Laine. If that were to happen and that’s a very big if then the Islanders wouldn’t have to bring everyone back.
So resigning Lee, Lehner, a veteran center and landing Panarin would be a huge success in regards to this off-season. In essence, they would bring back the same core but replace Eberle with Panarin.
The key for Lou is when the off-season dust settles is he has greatly improved his hockey club in terms of scoring, while at the same time stuck to what made the Islanders so successful this past season.