The one thing constant in the National Hockey League is change.
It'll come to the New York Islanders and the other 31 teams this off-season, as it always does, but the extent of the change and what is needed is an open question with varying opinions. Sometimes significant change is given when key players have expiring contracts, there are coaching changes, or a new GM starts putting into action his own blueprint for a franchise.
But for the Islanders, change has been more incremental in recent seasons and according to defenseman Ryan Pulock, that's what's needed over wholesale changes.
"Every single team has to go through this," Pulock told NHL.com on Thursday at the 56th annual Celebrity Sports Night at the Viscardi Center. "I don't think that we need a big change. Yeah, we have an older group, but I think those guys are important to the leadership and the success on this team. They've been here, and they know what it takes. I think it's a tweak here and there. I don't think it has to be anything crazy."
There will be fans that disagree with the veteran defenseman's assessment.
For many, bringing back much of the same roster as they did the last two seasons would likely bring similar results, which simply have not been good enough. The Islanders have made the playoffs four of the last five seasons but have regressed from their back-to-back deep playoff runs and key components of the team's core group are getting older.
Much of the roster is still in its prime years but is on the other side of 30 years old, including Anders Lee (32), Kyle Palmieri (32), Casey Cizikas (32), Brock Nelson (31) and JG Pageau (30). Longest-tenured Islander Josh Bailey is 33, and his future is very much uncertain with a buyout of the final year of his contract an option. Matt Martin (34) and Cal Clutterbuck (35) are entering the final years of their contract as well.
The Islanders were younger on the blueline last season, with only unrestricted free agent Scott Mayfield being in his 30s. After having Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara on defense in recent seasons, Pulock and Adam Pelech were the senior statesmen at 28 years old each.
If there were to be big changes for the Isles, it would likely be predicated by changes in the front office and behind the bench, but after weeks of silence, indications are that GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Lane Lambert will be back. If that's indeed the case, Pulock's assessment is likely in sync with that of management - that the team needs tweaks and isn't far off from where they need to be following a series against the Carolina Hurricanes that was there to be won.
This year's Stanley Cup Playoffs have once again showcased the parity across the National Hockey League. Even the league's most dominant and explosive teams are not guaranteed to advance far in the playoffs. The Islanders recent playoff success also demonstrated that when it comes to big changes, the biggest one you can make is playing your best hockey when it matters most.