The New York Islanders have some question marks heading into 2019-2020. We’ll try to answer the three biggest questions.
NHL.com is going around the league and doing their 31 in 31 segment. Today, the New York Islanders are the team being featured which has been the most exciting thing that has happened since July 1.
A lot goes into these 31 in 31’s including a top prospect ranking, season preview, and so much more. It’s worth checking out to get your fix of Isles content.
What I wanted to do was take a look at the three biggest question marks facing the team, Brian Compton did a great job of going through these by the way, and try to predict if the Islanders will be able to answer these questions.
How do they build on last season’s success?
Many in the NHL world viewed 2018-2019 as a major outlier for the Islanders. They have to prove that it’s not a fluke. If the team is able to maintain their defensive play, they are going to be a solid team.
What will put them into the playoff picture is an improved offense. The Isles are essentially running back the same team minus Val Filppula and Robin Lehner (swapped for Semyon Varlamov).
If Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, and Jordan Eberle play to their potential there’s a chance they are just as good or even better than they were last year. If those three have another down year than the team will likely be in trouble.
Are they deep enough at center?
As of right now, you know you have Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas. Barzal is a good top-line center, Nelson is a good second-line center, and Cizikas is the best fourth-line center in the sport. It’s the third line that’s a question mark.
With Trotz all but confirming that Casey Cizikas will remain the fourth line center, Anthony Beauvillier makes the most sense to slot in on that third line. Through his entire junior career, he played center, but in the NHL it’s mostly been on the wing.
It’s looking more an more like a Dal Colle – Beauvillier – Komaorv third line, which is an okay unit. Beau would be the “weak link” but I can get behind him moving back to center, especially if it means keeping Tanner Fritz as the 13th forward and not a regular 3C.
Can Semyon Varlamov adequately replace Robin Lehner?
Do I think Varlamov is going to put up a .930 save percentage? No. Do I think Lehner would’ve done it again if he was re-signed? Also no.
I think Lehner is the better goalie at this point in his career, but I don’t think Varlamov’s .909 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average is indicative of the caliber of goalie he is. If I had to bet, I’d think he is going to give you between a .915 and .920 with a 2.60 – 2.70 goals against average.
The Isles goalie coaches have a proven record of getting the most out of goalies. I highly doubt Varlamov is a disaster, he should be fine which is all the Islanders need him to be.
This was a move to help get Ilya Sorokin here after this upcoming season. In the short term, Varlamov is a fine stopgap and he helps you land the best goalie not currently playing in the NHL (Sorokin).
While this team clearly has its issues, so did last year’s team. To think they are going to completely fall off the cliff and miss the playoffs is nieve though. They’ll be in the mix again this year, despite what the charts say.