Can Barzal and Horvat become the best NY Islanders duo since Bossy and Trottier?
On Sunday night, New York Islanders statistician Eric Hornick asked Isles fans to discuss whether Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal can potentially become the team's best duo since Hall-of-Famers Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier.
That might be perceived as a premature comment, but the potential is indeed there for the pair to put up large cumulative numbers on Long Island, considering both players have their respective eight-year extensions starting next season. First, we'll have to see if they have instant chemistry as linemates considering both have spent the entirety of their NHL careers as centers. So while things start out with them paired together (with Josh Bailey), there's no guarantee it'll stay that way.
So where to start? In the years after Bossy's retirement in 1988, you'd be hard-pressed to find better playmakers outside of Pat LaFontaine. LaFontaine was a prolific goal-scorer, and when you look back at his statistics from the late 1980s and early 1990s, his production is remarkable, considering his linemates. When he was traded to Buffalo, his play-making ability led to Alexander Mogilny scoring 76 goals and Dave Andreychuk adding 53. There was no such duo - or trio on Long Island.
Following LaFontaine's trade to Buffalo, there have been three dynamic scorers and/or playmakers for the Islanders over the last 30+ seasons. Those are Pierre Turgeon, Zigmund Palffy and John Tavares. Turgeon's most consistent line-mate was Steve Thomas. That top line which also included Derek King was as good as the Islanders have had since the dynasty years.
Turgeon, with 515 career goals, continues to be among the best and most decorated players not in the Hockey Hall-of-Fame. Meanwhile, Thomas scored 421 goals in a 20-year NHL career. In 1992-93, the duo hit their stride as Turgeon finished with 58 goals and 132 points. Thomas scored 37 that season and a career-best 42 in 1993-94.
Next we take a look at Palffy and Robert Reichel.
Palffy and Reichel had their hockey roots in Czechoslovakia, and each possessed a finesse offensive game that combined skilled stick handling with precise passing. When head coach Rick Bowness put the pair together in 1997. 'We are from the same school,'' Palffy said in a New York Times story that year. ''We are both from Czechoslovakia. I cannot do everything, I need the passes from Robert.''
In 1997-98, playing alongside Reichel as his center, Palffy registered his second consecutive 40+ goal season, finishing with 45 goals and 42 assists. Meanwhile, Reichel added 25 goals and 40 assists on the season. The late 90's were dark times for the Islanders, but the combination of Palffy and Reichel was a joy to watch.
Lastly, we get to Tavares and Matt Moulson. The Islanders winger certainly didn't possess the skillset or skating ability of any of the aforementioned players, but he did consistently find the net, aided by Tavares' relentless hard-work and ability to create scoring chances. In 2011-12, playing with PA Parenteau, Moulson had 36 goals and 33 assists while Tavares, at 21 years of age, topped 80 points, finishing with 31 goals and 50 assists, the fourth best point total of his career.
So who's our pick? The nod goes to Turgeon and Thomas, the numbers for parts of four seasons on Long Island are just too good, and at least for one season, it resulted in playoff success as the 1992-93 team made it to the Wales Conference Finals.
We don't anticipate Barzal and Horvat to put up the same type of numbers as Bossy and Trottier or even Turgeon and Thomas, but one thing they could have similar to the former Islanders Hall-of-Famers is longevity, and if they play much of the next eight years together, there numbers overall could very well slot in behind the best Islanders duo in team history.