The NY Islanders lack any sort of dynamic forward outside of Mat Barzal. The ability to carry the puck up the ice with speed and precision is unmatched as other Islanders go. Still, his habit of giving the puck away has hurt the Isles at some inopportune times during his career.
Leading his team in giveaways this season with 20, Barzal nearly doubles his next closest teammate, Alexander Romanov, who has 11. Not only does he lead the Isles in this category, but he leads the NHL, three ahead of Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson.
There's no dispute that Barzal is a risk-taker with the puck on his stick. Without those risks, he doesn't make the jaw-dropping plays he often makes., But for a player with Barzal's production, is the risk worth the reward?
Last season, Barzal led the Isles in giveaways with 68 despite playing only 58 games. Though he wasn't among the league leaders last season because of his missed time, he finished with the most turnovers during the 2019-20 season (103), sixth in 2018-19 (117), and tenth in 2021-22 (82).
If you look at the names at the top of the giveaways category every season, the top ten is littered with the most recognizable players in the sport. Last season, names like Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Artemi Panarin, Erik Karlsson, and Mitch Marner were all in the top 10 in giveaways. The difference between these players and Barzal is for them, the risk is worth the reward. All five of these players finished with between 92 and 128 points. Barzal finished with 51. Though he missed 24 games, he was still below a point-per-game pace. He just doesn't put up the numbers to counter the turnovers he commits.
Last night, Barzal was all over the ice. He was flying up and down the wing, carrying the puck into the offensive end with ease. But in nearly 25 minutes of ice time, Barzal was held pointless while committing three turnovers.
The Isles are in no way an offensive juggernaut, therefore every goal allowed makes it that much more difficult to climb out of a hole.
While nobody wants to prevent Barzal from being the high-flying player he is, the turnovers need to be reduced significantly. While they all don't lead to scoring chances going the other way, the Isles need to keep possession of the puck as much as they can if they're to put up goals this season.