The New York Islanders have had their share of injuries and set back this season. At times, it seemed like this season would be the black cloud with no positives (or too many COVID positives).
One of the most significant blows of the year has been the loss of Ryan Pulock. The Islanders’ top pair has not been given a lot of love since their formation, but when Pelech and Pulock are together, they are one of the best pairs in hockey.
Luckily, more respect has started coming their way. So, what is Trotz going to do when Pulock comes back?
New York Islanders: What will Trotz do with the Islanders defensive core?
Many Islander fans expected to see Pelech and Pulock together to start the new NHL season, business as usual. However, that was very much not the case. The team had to adjust to the departure of Nick Leddy to Detroit, Chara learning the system, and the bottom four pairings. On paper, it seemed as though Chara would mentor Dobson, Mayfield paired with Greene and Pelech with Pulock. I advocated for Chara with Mayfield, but as of a week ago, I started my career in digital marketing, which, the last I checked, is not an NHL coach.
While attempting to find the right pairings, the team was on a thirteen-game road trip, and COVID became a significant problem. Oh, and Ryan Pulock got injured, which complicated Trotz’s job to find consistent pairs. One can only hope things can stay consistent the rest of the season. The question remains, what is Trotz to do with the defensive pairings when Pulock gets back?
The likely thing to happen is we see Aho back in the press box along with Salo. I have personally liked what I have seen from Salo and believe he will be an important part of the Islanders’ future. This move of Aho and Salo to the press box would make the defensive group on ice: Pelech, Pulock, Greene, Dobson, Mayfield, and Chara. How Trotz mixes the lines will be a mystery, much like his Russian goalie answer.
If I were Barry, I would have Pelech, Pulock, Mayfield, and Dobson as the consistent members of the defense. Then, I would rotate Chara and Green, as well as Aho and Salo. With the condensed version of the schedule ramping up, one should ask: is playing Chara and Greene every night the right choice? Point to Trotz’s affinity for playing veterans over youth if you must, but one can assume Trotz has considered workload for Chara and Greene.
Regardless of what happens with the bottom two pairings, good things come when Pelech and Pulock play together. Having the team’s top defensive pair will bring more stability to a group that will need it if they want to make a run for a playoff spot.