3. The Islanders Lineup Needs Changes at the Top
A big part of the reason why I wasn’t fully satisfied by the Islanders’ trade deadline acquisitions was being I didn’t feel they brought in enough top-end talent. Kyle Palmieri is a dangerous shooter and can certainly add pop to a top-six that just hasn’t had enough of it at times.
But if we account for the loss of Anders Lee, can we really call Palmieri an addition? In the literal sense, yes, the Islanders added Palmieri to the mix. But with the context of losing Lee, I’d say KP is more a replacement for what’s already been lost to this lineup than an addition.
Travis Zajac and Braydon Coburn, the two other additions made to this Islanders roster, are pretty much depth adds. Both players are beyond their primes and into the twilight years of their careers.
But, what’s done is done. The Islanders didn’t add further, and to be honest, I’m not sure who else was truly available to add in the first place. That, while true, doesn’t help in solving what the Islanders must do to find solutions for their offensive woes.
Those woes start at the top. Mathew Barzal has nine points in April, and five of them came on the first day of the month, when the Islanders pounded these Washington Capitals 8-4. That’s not to call Barzal out specifically, but to point to the fact that I just don’t think he’s receiving enough help on the Islanders first line.
Barzal can be a one-man show some nights, but that can’t be the case every game, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen Jordan Eberle, or whoever Barry Trotz plugs in on the left wing of that line make a big, impactful difference in the outcome of a game.
Some changes need to be made. Zajac or Leo Komarov on the first line is not working. The glaring lack of talent playing alongside Barzal and Eberle has been painfully apparent in many games recently, and it’s hindering the line’s ability to score.
Leo isn’t a top line winger. He’s not even a top-six winger. He’s a decent fourth liner who can carve out a place in lineups by being a pest, killing penalties, and making the safe plays defensively.
I’d like Leo to stay in the lineup, even if it means Cal Clutterbuck is healthy scratched in favor of him on the fourth line. Clutter has not been great this season, and his impact on the game has predictably waned into his age 33 season.
Oliver Wahlstrom needs to be reintroduced into the lineup. Barry Trotz has healthy scratched the rookie in the past couple games because of a visible decline in the level of his play, but Wahlstrom brings upside that other Islanders players don’t.
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With the East Division race only tightening, the Islanders need to roll their best lineup every night. That means playing players who bring high value to the lineup, and scratching those who don’t.