A current state assessment of the sometimes good and sometimes bad NY Islanders

San Jose Sharks v New York Islanders
San Jose Sharks v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Special to Eyes on Isles, a column contribution from content creator and underrated comedic genius Andy Francess, who was our full-time recurring guest on the EOI podcast last season. Here is his current state assessment of the New York Islanders after a quarter of the season:

If you (somehow) remove the emotion of what’s transpired recently, as far as where they lie in the standings, they currently sit approximately where most fans thought they would be. Lingering around that wild card area. If they were 13-10-1, would you feel better or worse?

The Blown Leads
Most fans clamor for more offense, but nothing unravels teams like bad defense, no matter how many talented players you have. Just ask the Oilers, Devils, Sabres, Sens, and any other teams with generational talents who currently find themselves outside of playoff positioning. The Golden Knights won the cup with zero 30-goal scorers, a 4th-string goalie, and mid-special teams because of balance and commitment to team defense. The Canes waxed the Devils with 20% of their offense bc of that same commitment. The Bruins find themselves sitting atop their division despite losing 60% of their entire offense. I sometimes wonder if fans ask themselves how that is possible… I always hope they arrive at the answer on their own. They never do.

Defense > Offense. Always.

Barzal & Horvat
It’s not a knock on them; it’s just the simple truth - they don’t have great chemistry 5-on-5. Yes, you will see an occasional moment of brilliance because they are extremely talented players, but for whatever reason, certain players' skill sets don’t always mesh with others. Most of the time, it’s not their fault. Barkov doesn’t work with Tkachuk. Petersson doesn’t work with Miller. It’s an inexact science for sure, but it’s rare chemistry gets “built.” As you saw rather quickly with the second line, either skill sets complement each other, or they don’t. You saw it immediately from Line 2, and it’s been there ever since. Bringing in a magic third star from another team won’t change that.

Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat
New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Holmstrom & Dobson
They have been the bright spots so far (along with continued great play from the second line). Considering Holmstrom’s ice time with zero PP time to fluff his point total, I feel pretty good about my long-term William Karlsson prediction. Dobson is playing as well offensively as he did to start the season two years ago, but this time the blunders are considerably down. As a guy who values defense over offense, that has been great to see. I hope it persists for both of them.

I’m not worried either way. You’ll see greatness from Sorokin whether it’s this year next year, both, 3 years from now, etc. Look at the Vezina candidates every year; they’re all over the place. Bobrovsky is a 2 time Vezina winner who was riding the bench last season and has had a pretty miserable 3 out of 4 years. Vasy has been mediocre for a few seasons now, and Shesterkin was subpar last year. I am of the belief that a system will carry any goaltender, and a lack of a system will destroy any goaltender.

Ilya Sorokin
New York Islanders v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

I think goalies are interchangeable, as the last two cup champs have clearly demonstrated. GMs actually know this, which is why the Golden Knights cut Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Vezina, and Darnell Nurse makes more than the best goalies in the league.

I will say this. The Isles have played badly enough to get their coach fired while somehow still hovering around playoff positioning. If they happen to make a change and the coach recommits the players to a team game, there could be reason for optimism, especially if Sorokin gets hot.

On top of that, I’ve always stated you’re never winning anything with Aho as your sixth defenseman in a playoff series. Other teams will target that paring in their home games and you’re finished. The injuries forced Lou to get Reilly so if Pelech ever comes back and a theoretical new coach bumps Aho to seven the same way Hickey got bumped to seven in 2019, we could be in business.