Three suggestions that just might help the Islanders win

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four
Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

It's been eight games since the New York Islanders have tasted victory. That's a ridiculously long time ago. Remember that seven-game point streak at the start of the year? Of course, you don't. That's how long this losing streak has been going on (or at the very least how long it's felt).

I know it's hard to believe but there was a time this season when the Islanders were in fact good. That seven-game point streak saw the team go 5-0-2 against some pretty good teams. But since that point streak ended it's been nothing but losses.

And of course, that will happen when a huge chunk of the starting lineup is out with illness or injury. With six guys out with COVID and two injured the Isles are missing nearly a third (30%) of their starting lineup. Winning is hard when you're missing that many starters.

Not helping matters is the guys who are left are snake-bitten. The Islanders just can't buy offense lately scoring seven goals over their last right games. It's been tough for the Isles.

Barry Trotz has said that this particular period of hockey has been the toughest in his career, and he was behind the bench for an expansion club in the '90s. You know, when expansion draft rules didn't exactly help the new club create a winning team.

So what can the Islanders do to turn things around and start winning? Ideally, they get everyone back, but I don't have a magic wand to cure everyone from COVID or heal their broken bodies. So let's work with what we've got.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Load It Up

The Islanders seem to still want to operate their "we-run-four-lines" mantra. We all know that's how they like to run their club, but they don't exactly have four lines worth of NHL talent to work with now do they?

Outside of a few call-ups most haven't been up to snuff. And it's hobbled the Islanders dour lines system. So why not stack the lines?

Why not have one of these two top lines:

Let me explain both because I'm sure some of you might disagree with some of these selections. Let me start with the first one (Parise-Barzal-Wahlstrom). The idea here is to just create as much offense as possible and these three players should do just that.

There's no question as to why Barzal is there. He may not be creating but the offense runs through him. Parise is up there as Barry Trotz's workhorse. He's the guy that brings the energy, that works down low along the boards and in front of the net. And Parise's been great at that role all year. In the eight game losing streak his 1.51 ixG leads the team.

Wahlstrom's shoot from anywhere philosophy compliments the other two players on this line very well. They've tried coaxing a better performance out of Wahlstrom with punishment. How about they try giving him more to get the best out of him? They've done that with Beauvillier in the past, and it's worked.

Now what about Palmieri? Why have him up there? Because while he too has been snake bitten he's at least putting up opportunities. His 1.14 ixG is third on the team since the losing streak. Only Parise and Cizikas have more (1.51 and 1.22 respectively). He's created the most high-dangers chances on the team and has the highest iCF for forwards.

Palmieri is getting his chances. And as the Islanders try to find any sort of offense why not put the three guys together who are seemingly doing the most every night to generate some offense? What's the harm in trying?

Nov 26, 2021; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders right wing Oliver Wahlstrom (26) skates with
Nov 26, 2021; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders right wing Oliver Wahlstrom (26) skates with / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Load it Up (Power Play)

It's the same argument when it comes to the power play. We all agree that Mathew Barzal is the team's best offensive player. But why is he being surrounded by inferior talent at 5on5 (Richard Panik) and more importantly when the team has a numerical advantage?

Here's who Mathew Barzal has lined up with on the power play over the last two games:
.vs Rangers: Beauvillier, Aho, Panik, Pageau
.vs Penguins: Beauvillier, Pageau, Palmieri, Salo

Wahlstrom isn't anywhere to be seen here. And that (to me) is shocking. Wahlstrom's skill set is perfectly suited for the power play. His xGF/60 and SF/60 on the power play is higher than anyone listed above through this season (including Barzal), Why he's not partnered with Barzal more frequently is beyond me.

I know Barzal and Wahlstrom are both right-handed but that honestly shouldn't matter. The Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 PP - the highest efficiency rate since 2016-17 at 29.5% - was operated basically entirely with lefties (3 of 5 were left-handed). Talent matters and not putting your best assets together when you have a numerical advantage needs to change for the Islanders.

Oct 14, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA;  New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on
Oct 14, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz looks on / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Change the system (for now)

The New York Islanders have done a lot of winning in the Barry Trotz system. Before the 2021-22 season began the Isles - in the three years with Barry at the helm - have the tenth best record in the NHL for points. It's a good system. It works.

But when injuries mount the system can't operate as intended. And if we learned anything from 2019-20 when the Isles lost members of the fourth for most of the year, it's that Barry was going to double down on the system if he was in a similar situation:

“There’s times when I said, ‘OK, we’re going to have to play this way a little differently because we didn’t have that line,’ ” Trotz said. “Maybe we should have just tightened it up and even did more of what we did well, versus trying to change it. As you’re trying to change it a little bit, you’re not as tight in some areas.
Barry Trotz to Newsday

And that's seems to be what he's doing now. And I get it. Leaving the system means leaving a certain comfort, but with eight games lost and eight guys still out for the next while it's time to try something different.