The NY Islanders constant line shuffling has failed miserably to produce scoring

New York Islanders v Florida Panthers
New York Islanders v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

Can we be honest? If Lane Lambert had been using the lines that New York Islanders head Patrick Roy has used to start recent games, he’d be getting killed for it by just about the entire fanbase. However, with Roy, there’s leniency because we’re led to believe that he’s evaluating and getting a feel for the team in real-time, which has led to him changing the line combinations five times since their six-game winning streak.

He boldly put their three most talented forwards, Bo Horvat, Brock Nelson, and Mathew Barzal, together on the top line, and it paid immediate dividends. Even the other lines were finding chemistry. We were talking up the “Swedish Connection,” how Kyle MacLean fell right in place on the fourth line, and Kyle Palmieri kept on scoring on a line with JG Pageau and Anders Lee.

Then, they were shut out in Los Angeles to end their six-game win streak, and the lines started to change, and so did everything else. According to beat reporter Stefen Rosner, since that game, the team has been outscored 36-19 with a record of 2-6-1. "It's always tough, but at the same time, we want to continue to generate more offense," Roy said in The Hockey News this weekend. "So, having a more balanced lineup, I think maybe that will help us."

It’s understandable why Roy is searching for more balanced scoring, but in doing so, he’s now gone as far as breaking up Horvat and Barzal after the two found their all-important chemistry this season, which started with Barzal’s move to the wing. On Saturday night, Roy had Horvat playing wing for the first time since juniors on Saturday night, while Barzal was centering Hudson Fasching and Anders Lee. Roy may like Barzal’s game more in the middle, but this is not the time to be tinkering and winging it with the season on the line.

There isn't even conviction to stay with the lines that he's using in practice or morning skate. We've seen him continually shuffle lines to start the game, not be completely satisfied with what he likes and make changes during the intermission or on the fly.

The Islanders are averaging just 1.9 goals-per-game over their last 10 (2-6-1). They've been shutout three times during this stretch that has just about sunk their season. The changes aren't working and for most of them there isn't any track record that they will click. He reunited Nelson with Palmieri and Pierre Engvall on Saturday night in Tampa. Perhaps now it's time to reunite Barzal and Horvat, too.

According to MoneyPuck, the Lee-Horvat-Barzal line is 13th in the entire league in goals per per-60 minutes (3.51). There’s no guarantee that going back to the old lines will work, but at least we know they have worked before. Roy needs to stop working for the perfect mix. There isn't one with this group of forwards and instead go some level of certainty for the final nine games of the season.