A day after a 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz spoke to the media. There he commented about how his team can win games. To Trotz, the Islanders are okay winning games 1-0. While Lou didn’t speak at this media availability, there’s no doubt that the Isles President and General Manager shares the sentiment from his head coach.
When you look at this roster it’s easy to see how the Islanders plan on winning 1-0 games; defend everything and capitalize on the few opportunities they generate. That’s been the case for almost three years now. And it’s worked.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Isles have an 86-52-17 record. The ninth-best in the NHL. But for how long can it continue to work?
New York Islanders need a new plan
We know the Islanders system prioritizes quality over quantity. The Trotz approach strives for the Islanders to win high-danger attempts over their opponents. And that works. Again, they have 86 wins in the regular season since 2018, only eight teams have more regular-season wins than the Islanders.
Push that to the playoffs, and the Islanders hold the fifth-most wins (17) since 2018.
The system has worked, but for how long can it continue? Look, this isn’t a new narrative, Ryan Lambert laid out the same argument in January of 2019. The Islanders don’t have the talent level to consistently squeak out 1-0 wins.
In the Islanders last game they iced the following forward lineup:
Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Ross Johnston
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
There is no margin for error in this lineup. If that top line isn’t generating on any given night the Islanders find themselves in a difficult situation. Because that bottom-six (outside of Pageau) isn’t giving the team much.
Through 60 minutes at 5on5 against the Devils, the Isles bottom-six quintet had one iHDCF. Just one (from Casey Cizikas). The Islanders rely on the bottom six to consistently punch above their weight and they’ve done it for a while now. And that’s just not possible with the bottom-six the Islanders iced on Sunday.
At this point, it’s safe to say we know what Michael Dal Colle is at the NHL level. He will give you a no-nonsense game but that’s it. There’s nothing gained in his play, but also nothing lost. The Islanders can’t expect more from him.
The same can be said for Matt Martin and Ross Johnston. The Isles can say what they will but having both in the lineup is redundant. It’s not a knock on either one of those players. They both play their role well, but there’s no need for two players to play that same role.
There needs to be a change. Not a paradigm shift. Barry Trotz doesn’t need to play all the rookies. But they need to start playing a few, and in a position where they can succeed.
A lineup that has Kieffer Bellows on line two with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey to the right makes a lot of sense if Beauvillier is expected to miss time. It rewards Bellows for his strong play up till now, and it puts him in a position where he can use that goal-scoring talent that saw him get drafted 19th overall in 2016.
On line three a combination of Dal Colle, Pageau, and Wahlstrom should be able to give the Islanders a little more offensive pop. Then the third line is currently giving them.
With a depleted Washington Capitals side that could be without five of its starting players, this is a good chance to integrate these talented kids into the lineup that should allow the Islanders to pull out 1-0 wins in a more sustainable fashion.