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Islanders need more from these four

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Mathew Barzal
New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils / Rich Graessle/GettyImages

Mathew Barzal

The 2021-22 season was by far Mathew Barzal's worst since breaking onto the scene in 2017-18. The speedy, shifty center scored 15 goals and 44 assists which was tied for the team lead with Brock Nelson's 37 goals and 59 points. However, Barzal is a unique skill at the NHL level, one that has the special talent to solidify himself amongst the best with the Nathan MacKinnon's and Sidney Crosby's of the NHL.

There's a solid argument that Barzal just hasn't been deployed with the proper line-mates. He played with a combination of Anders Lee, Zach Parise, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Kyle Palmieri throughout the entirety of last season. Given the plethora of obstacles, the Islanders faced this season, maybe he gets a pass for having so many line-mates and little ability to build chemistry. However, Barzal has been on the record stating some of his favorite players are Crosby and Patrick Kane (and even NBA legend Michael Jordan), two NHLers that upon exit interviews back in May, Barzal claimed he styled his game after theirs.

The difference between Barzal and his favorite athletes is that they have the ability to put their respective teams on their backs and carry them at times when necessary. Barzal has yet to prove that he can do the same. Maybe it was the defense-first structure under former head coach Barry Trotz that held him back from the offensive prowess that we saw in his rookie season when he scored 85 points and won the Calder Trophy as the league's most proficient rookie. Under new head coach Lane Lambert, Barzal may have a looser leash to freelance on the ice and create more offense.

Right now it's radio silence on Lamoriello's end and none of us are really sure what comes next for the Hall-of-Fame GM. However, given the fact that this is the last season of his contract, the Islanders underperformed last season, and he struck out on Gaudreau, it's clear there is an appetite to upgrade the forward group. If/when Lamoriello does so, said upgrade will likely have a shot to slot on a line with Barzal to give the Islanders a legitimate threat at the top of their lineup, something that should have a positive effect on Barzal and improve his overall output. But if not, in order for the Islanders to take a step forward as a whole, it starts with their franchise center. He'll need to figure out a way to get closer to the 85-point player he once was.

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