The New York Islanders were dealt a blow in a season full of disappointments recently. Cal Clutterbuck and Scott Mayfield are essentially out for the remainder of the season.
Two players that were on the trade block will have an early start to the off-season, preparing for a rebound season in 2022-23. Clutterbuck will be extending his stay on Long Island for another two seasons.
With a hole on the identity line, Kieffer Bellows filled in at wing in the absence of Clutterbuck on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
New York Islanders: Teaching Moment for Bellows
Bellows has had a chance to play in 33 games with the Islanders this season, which is the most in his young career. Still, he has not earned the full confidence of the coaching staff.
On a team that lacks scoring, Bellows has provided flashes of being that missing piece. But to play under Barry Trotz, you must excel in all zones.
What better players to learn responsible play than Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin?
Lou Lamoriello stated that the "kids" would play at an appropriate time to finish off the season. The coaching staff's hands were forced with the injuries and Bellows had an opening in the lineup.
Ross Johnston has always played well in a defined role with the Islanders, but the remainder of this season is to learn about the unknown. Before this team can be re-assembled, the staff must gain confidence from players like Bellows. Otherwise it may be time to move on.
It is no secret that Trotz wants more from Bellows away from the puck. As gifted as Bellows is with the puck, he will have to play responsible hockey to earn a spot on next season's roster.
Playing alongside Cizikas and Martin for the remainder of the season would allow Bellows to learn what is expected on a daily basis, with actual game situations.
The pressure of scoring goals will not be on the young forward, but providing a solid shift and keeping the opponent at bay will be the main focus.
Adding a scoring threat and some youth to the identity line will also help for the short term. The Islanders have been playing great hockey and it is important to bring back the winning culture, so prominent during the Trotz and Lamoriello era.