Before I go any further, let me first assert, that I am a huge Matt Barzal fan. I, like many of us, feel a bit irate when he carries the puck on his stick back and forth from the right hash to the blue line and across, but it only takes one overtime period for me to fall in love again.
But fanatic biases put aside, has Matt Barzal really performed like a superstar? To be sure, in the one season that he spent on that same team as John Tavares he put up superstar numbers with 63 assists and a very respectable 22 goals. That said, without Tavares on the same team, he’s struggled to achieve at the same level, registering one 62 points and another 60 point season.
One could blame this, primarily, on Trotz’s defensive-minded system. But might I remind you that both Niklas Backstrom and the greatest goal scorer of our time, Alex Ovechkin, both excelled offensively under Trotz?
What’s the hangup?
And more importantly, if there is a hangup, can the front office pinpoint it and surround Barzal with the talent he needs to justify the $7 and $10 million dollar second and third years? The hope is there, but I think that everyone familiar with the team is silently looking for proof that he is the team changing center they suspected in 2017-2018.
Barzal’s chemistry with the top line, up to this point, has seemed mercurial at best. While Lee and Eberle sometimes complement his skills, you wonder if Lee would perform better with a more aggressive shooting puck handler. Eberle, on the other hand, matches the tempo of Barzal but bobbles more passes from the young center than I deem comfortable.
With the New York Islanders beginning play on the 2021 season, the Isles faithful hope that Barzal can find that chemistry and truly justify the money being spent on him for more reasons than one, the biggest one being the hopes to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.