Mike Reilly has earned his ice time on the NY Islanders' defensive unit

The 30-year-old defenseman is proving to be Lou Lamoriello's best decision this season.

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders have struggled to find consistency on the defensive end of the blue line. Aside from Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, the lineup has been in flux since opening night against the Buffalo Sabres. Much of this is because of time missed due to injury, including the Isles' best defensive pairing from the past few seasons in Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. As a result, the pairings have featured a mix of defensemen who were not in the opening night lineup, including Samuel Bolduc and Robert Bortuzzo.

The only constant, aside from the Dobson-Romanov line on defense, has been the glaring struggles of the bottom pairings. It was logical to be patient with Scott Mayfield when he returned from injury on New Year's Eve, but he has a -6 rating with just one assist and 18 penalty minutes since then. The Isles were also lenient with Sebastian Aho, knowing he was playing on his offside next to Mike Reilly, but he has a -13 rating with one goal and five assists through 41 games. Bolduc has been relegated to the bench since Patrick Roy has taken over, having not appeared in a game since January 27th against the Florida Panthers. With these statistics in mind, is there a silver lining within the Isles' bottom pairing?

Mike Reilly has brought stability to the defensive lineup.

Lou Lamoriello deserves much blame for the Islanders being on the 'outside looking in' of the playoff picture. As fans, we can debate the merits of his free-agent signings and the draft capital he has traded away the past few seasons. The one transactional area Lamoriello has never been aggressive in is monitoring the waiver wire. Until this past November, Lamoriello had only claimed one player off waivers since taking over as team president in 2018, which was Austin Czarnik in the 2021-22 season.

Oddly enough, the defenseman claimed off waivers on November 25th has provided the greatest deal of production from the bottom pairings. Reilly has produced 4 goals and 9 assists through 34 games for the Islanders, with 33 blocked shots and 35 hits. His 67 shots on goal rank third among team defensemen, showcasing his offensive luster. Reilly's shot has been impressive enough that he has earned more ice time on the Isles' second powerplay unit, regularly taking the offensive zone entrees and driving the puck toward the net.

The only question for Roy regarding Reilly is finding who should play alongside him. In his inaugural press conference, Roy described the bottom pairing as open-ended between Aho, Bolduc, and Reilly. In reviewing the numbers, the pairing of Reilly and Mayfield has resulted in the team scoring eight goals and allowing 9. The pairing of Reilly and Aho is nearly unplayable, as the team scored six goals and allowed a staunching 12. Bolduc has never played in the NHL on his off-side and nor will the Islanders consider that an option. Until Mayfield rediscovers his defensive aptitude, Roy has at least solved one piece to the puzzle in Reilly earning his ice time on the Isles' defensive end.