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Islanders five takeaways from 2021 exit interviews

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 12: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) Media microphones stand ready for statements outside the headquarters of the German Social Democrats (SPD), where inside German Chancellor and head of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel, SPD head Martin Schulz, Bavarian Governor and head of the Bavarian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer and members of their parties have spent the entire night of what is supposed to be the last day of preliminary coalition talks at approximately 8:45am on January 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. The leaders of the CDU, the SPD and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) have been gauging whether coalition negotiations towards the creation of a government will be possible. Previous talks between the CDU, CSU, the German Free Democrats (FDP) and the German Greens Party collapsed in failure last November. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 12: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) Media microphones stand ready for statements outside the headquarters of the German Social Democrats (SPD), where inside German Chancellor and head of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel, SPD head Martin Schulz, Bavarian Governor and head of the Bavarian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer and members of their parties have spent the entire night of what is supposed to be the last day of preliminary coalition talks at approximately 8:45am on January 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. The leaders of the CDU, the SPD and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) have been gauging whether coalition negotiations towards the creation of a government will be possible. Previous talks between the CDU, CSU, the German Free Democrats (FDP) and the German Greens Party collapsed in failure last November. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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While the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning move on to the Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Islanders conducted their exit interviews following their 1-0 loss in Game 7.

We usually hear how everyone is absolutely broken during these. That wasn’t the case today. Not that it matters necessarily. We know that everyone is banged up to some degree. Does it matter if we find out that Jean-Gabriel Pageau has a groin injury or a broken foot? No. He was hurt, that was clear.

So what did we learn from the players and Barry’s exit interviews? Here are the top fine things I took away from the exit interviews.

New York Islanders takeaways from exit interviews

Anders Lee on track

We knew that captain Anders Lee was feeling better since his ACL injury in March. But would he still be ready for the start of the 2021-22 season? Yes. Today the captain confirmed that his recovery is still on track for him to take part in training camp.

That’s a huge sigh of relief. When Lee was healthy, the Islanders top line of Lee-Barzal-Eberle was pretty darn good:

  • 59.47 CF%
  • 61.16 SCF%
  • 71.00 HDCF%
  • 65.66 xGF%

Those numbers (from the insanely valuable NaturalStatTrick) are at 5on5 and are score and venue adjusted. The Islanders got to one win from the Stanley Cup Finals with Leo Komarov in Lee’s spot, imagine what they could do with Lee.

Jim Hiller Will Return

Barry Trotz expects his entire staff to return in 2021-22, that includes associate coach Lane Lambert and assistant coach Jim Hiller. I think Lambert will be in the running for the Arizona Coyotes vacancy, and he might just get it.

That means power-play coach Jim Hiller will return. Unless he receives a promotion somewhere else. Which, of course, is possible, but unlikely considering how poorly the Islanders power play was this year. With an 18.8% efficiency, the Isles ranked 20th in the NHL on the man advantage.

Now, to be fair, the Isles were 13th in the NHL on March 10th with a 23.5% efficiency. That was the day before Anders Lee picked up his season-ending injury against the Devils.

A healthy Lee could see the Isles PP return to 20+% efficiency in 2021-22.

Palmieri Wants to Return

The Island hasn’t been a destination for a while, but since the arrival of Lamoriello and Trotz that’s changed. That’s what winning hockey does. Players want to come to the Island and stay. Which is exactly what pending free agent Kyle Palmieri said during his exit interview.

Can the Islanders keep him? I’m not sure about that. He’ll likely command somewhere around $4 million (at least) on a short-term deal. That might be too rich for the already cap-strapped Islanders who still need to re-sign Ilya Sorokin, Adam Pelech, and Anthony Beauvillier.  But the Isles could certainly use another 20-25 goal scorer.

Andy Greene also stated that he wanted to return for the Islanders in 21-22. Lou and Barry like keeping these guys around but I can’t see him getting playing time next season so perhaps he might have to find work elsewhere.

Players Bracing for Change (but hope they don’t have to)

It’s a big offseason for just about every team in the NHL. Not only is there an expansion draft happening but a flat cap means that some players might have to move in order to sign some of the Isles core to new deals. And players are getting ready for it.

Just like fans, the players know that this is out of their control but that changes could very well happen. They don’t want it to change. They know how close they came with this group and they think they’ll be able to get over the hump in 21-22 with this same group.

And they aren’t wrong. They could very well hit the Stanley Cup Finals with the same group (and Anders Lee). But changes are coming.

Ilya Sorokin Gets It

It was Ilya Sorokin’s first year as an NHL pro. And he clearly had a good time. Not only the ice where he went 13-6-3 with a 2.17GAA and 0.918SV% (and three shutouts) but off of it as well. The fans made quite the impact on him:

I’ve said it before, but this fan base is the best in the sport. You don’t see any other NHL fan base pen songs about a player’s production. It just doesn’t happen, outside of Long Island that is. Sorokin got to experience that firsthand this year, and it clearly made a big impression on him.

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