An unusual season continues in the NHL and more specifically, for the New York Islanders. The NHL will not have their players attend the 2022 Olympics. Originally slated to have a two-week break in February, the NHL will now make up all of the postponed games from Covid.
For hockey fans this is a mix of emotions. On one hand, no hockey will be played before the holiday break. On the other hand, the depleted teams will not be forced into playing shorthanded.
To continue the confusion of emotions, the fans will not get to see the best talent compete internationally. However, the fans will not have favorite players risk injury and be without their favorite teams respectively.
New York Islanders Mental State
Islanders fans can certainly join in on the mix of emotions. The team was beginning to get some consistency with a close to full squad. The results were not always perfect, but the "Islanders" hockey was showing more. Now, another gap in games for the players.
Although the team was returning to form and getting healthy, the roster was missing key contributors in Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock. This break should allow Barzal to come back to the lineup and delay the loss of games for the injured, Pulock.
It is never a good thing to be missing hockey, but this odd trend is certainly to the benefit of the Islanders. Just like the first Covid break in 2020, the Islanders could use the pause to break some bad habits and get healthy.
It is evident that this team did not have the best start. It is also evident that the circumstances of this season were not ideal. No one in the organization would use or make excuses, but they are undeniable.
Tough Circumstances to Start the Islanders Season
The Islanders began the season on a historic road trip to finalize the preparation for their home: UBS arena. Covid struck the locker room just as the celebration of the new arena began. Many players waited for several games just to finally skate in a game on home ice.
Injuries occur to every team, but the timing could not have been worse to lose a top-pair defenseman in Pulock and a top-six forward in Brock Nelson.
Just as players were returning to the lineup, Barzal hits the Covid list. Before the start of Sunday's game, Matt Martin and Robin Salo joined Barzal in Covid protocol.
Ultimately, the players will need to get on the same page and produce on the ice. If not, the excuses will just be excuses. Fortunately, this group has shown that we can expect a higher level of play going forward.
The break will allow struggling players to get a mental rest. Players that are sick and/or injured will have time to recover without the loss of games.
To expect the Islanders to be hitting their stride in February is extremely possible. Now they can avoid having to have another halt to the season with postponed games being made up during the previous Olympic Break. Having to stop this team as they were getting back to normal late in the season would certainly have been detrimental to their playoff hopes.
The season moves on and Trotz will have the opportunity to put the expected lineup together moving forward. Consistent lineups will be welcoming to fans and provide the steady progress of play desired by the coaching staff.
The break this team needed from a long road trip, sickness, and injury should be provided. It is up to the players to produce now.