5 changes NY Islanders coach Patrick Roy has already instituted.

The Islanders are playing a more aggressive and detailed brand of hockey.

Dallas Stars v New York Islanders
Dallas Stars v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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For the 10th time in their 51-year history, the NY Islanders have changed head coaches midseason. Of those 9 previous changes, none of those Islanders teams made it to the playoffs. In fact, 8 out of the 9 coaching changes did not result in a winning record, with Doug Weight replacing Jack Capuano in 2016-17 being the lone exception. As with coaching changes in any sport, this is due to nonperformance from the team. Following the change in leadership, fans and organizations alike expect a difference to be shown on the ice.

Suffice it to say, Patrick Roy has already made his presence felt with the fiery passion he animates on the bench. Lane Lambert was relieved of his duties because the team has taken steps back in many key areas. Most notably, the penalty kill has gone from a top-10 success rate in the NHL to 31st overall. The mediocre effort against the Minnesota Wild was one in which fans and broadcasters such Butch Goring felt the players were 'not ready to play'. For an inaugural game to mark a new era, the Islanders played against the Dallas Stars as if all of their jobs were on the line. Already, we can pinpoint areas in which the team has paid more attention to detail with Roy behind the bench.

1. Penalty-Kill zone coverage.

The Islanders’ weakest unit on the ice this season looked as if Barry Trotz were still the coach on Sunday night. All season under Lambert, the Isles have played man-to-man coverage on the PK, which is illustrated by the defenseman and forwards standing in front of Ilya Sorokin waiting to block a shot or collect a rebound. By playing man-to-man coverage close to the net, this leaves the PK without options to turn the puck over and clear the defensive zone. Furthermore, this leaves the PK vulnerable to easy offensive zone entrees by the opponent, which means the defense is not prioritizing protection at the blue line. Amongst many reasons but certainly including this area, Sorokin currently leads the NHL in shots against.

During Sunday night's game against the Stars, the Islanders PK spread the perimeter and kept the defenseman closer to the slot area than to Sorokin. By spreading the perimeter, the PK was pushing the Stars back to their blue line, making shots against Sorokin more difficult to come by. We saw this with Bo Horvat and Cal Clutterbuck as they were able to create a turnover and clear the defensive zone. The Stars also had a difficult time entering the zone against Simon Holmstrom and J.G. Pageau as they forechecked well on the blue line, leading to 3 shorthanded goal opportunities.

2. Lineup transitions following the penalty kill.

The Islanders’ regular penalty killers without Casey Cizikas in the lineup are Horvat-Clutterbuck, Pageau-Holmstrom, and at times Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri. Of that group in the top-2 penalty units, only Horvat is a top-6 forward. Under Lambert, he would wait for the Islanders' penalized player to exit the box before changing lines back to 5-on-5 matchups. This wholesale change at the end of a PK would give the opponent a greater chance of an odd-man rush as the Islanders are in transition. In reviewing box scores from previous games, there are multiple instances of a penalty expiring and within a minute later, the opponent scores a goal. 

During Sunday night's matchup at UBS Arena, Anders Lee took a tripping penalty behind the Stars' net 14:05 into the first period. In the final seconds before Lee exited the box, Roy had Mathew Barzal, Horvat, Noah Dobson, and Alexander Romanov ready on the ice so their regular pairings with Lee were ready for an offensive push. Roy did this again in the third period following Nelson's penalty, he had Hudson Fasching and Palmieri waiting on the ice. This in-game management erases the need for a transition from PK to 5-on-5 hockey, which put the Stars in a difficult situation to change from their powerplay unit.

3. Playing skill players in the final moments of regulation.

None of us want to remember the Alexandre Carrier goal with 7 seconds left against the Nashville Predators to lose 3-1. We try and forget about the Curtis Lazar goal with 23 seconds left in losing 5-4 against the New Jersey Devils. We've brushed aside the Tomas Hertl game-winning goal with 1:30 left at UBS Arena in losing 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks. Fans even try to forget the third period meltdowns against the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. As fans, we have relived these nightmares far too often for one season.

In none of those circumstances did Lambert have top-six forwards on the ice when these game-winning goals were scored. The Islanders have played third period's 'not to lose', meaning they are only playing defense with bottom-six forwards, which results in being outshot 2-to-1 at the end of games. Roy did not take this approach as he played the first and second lines for the final 5 minutes of regulation, with Pageau being an exception for face-off decisions. The Islanders were playing to 'win the game', which means being more aggressive on offense rather than skating in front of Sorokin for the final minutes.

4. Playing best offensive defensemen with top-six forwards.

To give a team the best chance to score, the most production must come from the top-two forward lines. Logic would tell us as fans that their production is also linked to the defensemen that create the best opportunities to drive the puck from the blue line to the net. However, Lambert would often play Dobson and Romanov with the Isles’ third and fourth lines, while playing the bottom pairings with Barzal, Horvat, and Lee. 

Roy has taken the most logical approach by playing Dobson and Romanov with the Isles’ top-two lines in each game he has coached. Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho saw most ice-time with the third line, while Scott Mayfield and the Bolduc-Reilly tandem played with the ‘Identity Line’. This makes the most sense as Pelech is the Isles’ best defenseman when it comes to blocking shots with Mayfield being their most physical without Ryan Pulock in the lineup. Furthermore, we have already seen a better forecheck on defense with Roy behind the bench, reminding us much of the Trotz-style defense that landed the Isles in back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals.

5. Transparency with the fanbase.

The Islanders under Lou Lamoriello have been very tight-lipped with the media, which is the only form of communication between the organization and its fanbase. In some cases, the Islanders should keep information internal such as conversations between players and coaches. As New Yorkers, we have seen the hysteria when private conversations are made public such as Max Scherzer with Steve Cohen or Zach Wilson with Robert Saleh. 

However, information such as a player’s availability or line changes are unnecessary to keep private. Fans want to know the availability of Pierre Engvall and Semyon Varlamov. Lambert would rarely, if at all, give insight into his decision-making. Roy has already changed this, releasing the lineup for Tuesday’s game the morning of and explaining Samuel Bolduc’s role moving forward, which will be a rotation between him and Mike Reilly. Fans appreciate transparency and should not be shunned from all organizational decision-making. In fairness, it seems Roy is just as excited to update the fans as we are to hear from him.