In a wide-ranging and entertaining interview on "32 Thoughts" with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal talked about loving life in New York, his fantasy football prowess, Big Z being the last one at the gym, Ilya Sorokin's ninja-like flexibility and a lot more.
Barzal: Defensive structure is a staple of the NY Islanders culture
He also talked hockey and how things will be different and yet similar with Lane Lambert behind the bench replacing Barry Trotz. "I think him [Lambert] and Barry have some similar philosophies, and that's a good thing, that's a really good thing," said Barzal on the podcast.
"You need to have good defensive structure, and Barry did a great job of bringing that into our team because we were lacking that a little bit, and it made us successful. I think that's a staple in our culture."- Mathew Barzal
Undoubtedly, Barzal's all-around game improved under Trotz, but it's also true that his point production was suppressed playing his former coach's defensive-oriented style. Now it's about finding the right balance between the two - both for the player and the team.
"If our team's gonna be successful, myself and everyone else in the forward group has to be good defensively, stated Barzal. "It's not just like 'now it's run and gun hockey,' it's a balance of both."
Lambert is expected to loosen things up a bit and give his forwards more creative license to take more chances offensively. But that won't come at the expense of doing many of the things that secured the Islanders three consecutive playoff berths and back-to-back trips to the final four.
"The conversations I've had with Lane, he expects me to back check hard, and those are things I have to do, said Barzal. "When I'm doing those things, he's obviously told me I want to get you on the ice, you know, power play, but if you're not doing those things, I can't give you leeway to do other things."
Heading into the final year of his three-year bridge contract, Barzal's production, if healthy, will almost certainly surpass the 59 points (15G, 34A) he registered in 73 games last season. Whether or not he can return to the totals of his Calder Trophy-winning rookie season will depend a lot on the team striking that right balance between the style that has become their identity and the offensive boost necessary to return to the postseason.