The NY Islanders' line changes is telling of Casey Cizikas' future role

The 32-year-old center deserves an opportunity to showcase his offensive aptitude.

New York Islanders v Colorado Avalanche
New York Islanders v Colorado Avalanche / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders are an organization without a clear direction as the trade deadline nears, on March 8th. Following February 8th's victory against the Lightning, the Isles were just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings, seeming to have corrected some flaws from the Lane Lambert era, such as better defensive zone protection in front of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov. However, the team has lost five of their last seven matchups, with three being decided in overtime. This stretch has knocked the Isles out of the immediate playoff picture.

In reaction, Patrick Roy has shuffled the lineup searching for offensive answers. During the third period of Monday's matchup against the Dallas Stars, Roy had Brock Nelson playing alongside Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat. J.G. Pageau and Anders Lee moved to the second line with Kyle Palmieri, while Casey Cizikas centered Pierre Engvall and Simon Holmstrom. In Saturday's game against the Lightning, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Oliver Wahlstrom became 'extras' in a game they started.

The mindset behind these decisions is to generate the most offense while also holding players accountable for their poor performances. In defense of Roy, fans have been clamoring to move Engvall off the second line and for Nelson to play alongside Barzal and Horvat more often, back to when Lambert was still the coach. However, without stating as much, Roy is also experimenting with a key player to try and find a solution for the future.

Patrick Roy is right to move Casey Cizikas off of the Identity Line.

Except for 2017 and 2018, the 'Identity Line' has been an Islanders most stable since 2013. However, Clutterbuck and Martin will become free agents at the end of this season while Cizikas still has three years remaining on his contract. Since the 32-year-old center has mostly played with the same players his whole career, it's tough to contemplate Cizikas' role for the 2025 season.

In the interim, Roy will experiment with Cizikas in a pairing with Engvall and Holmstrom, trying to generate more offense from the Isles' third line. With Engvall signed to an untradable contract, he figures to find himself on the third line next season. Even though Holmstrom has struggled as of late, he is still just 23 years old and had a solid start to the season.

Cizikas is capable of providing more offense than he has shown in the past. Last season, Lambert experimented with Cizikas on the Isles' first line. While this will not be a consideration moving forward, Barzal did credit Cizikas with helping him to become a better forechecker and defensive-minded forward.

Furthermore, a pairing with physical players designed to cause havoc like Clutterbuck and Martin will not generate offense from Cizikas. This is not to say Cizikas should lose sight of his forecheck, but he could become the next Pageau: a defensive-minded center who wins a majority of faceoffs and drives the puck toward the net. Butch Goring has credited Cizikas for his efforts in 'never giving up on a play' and skates well for a fourth-line center. Given his untapped potential on offense, Cizikas figures to create more opportunities and earn more assists by playing on the Isles' third line.