The NY Islanders have decisions to make with their bottom six forwards. Matt Martin was activated from Injured Reserve last week, though he is yet to play in a game since November 15th against the Vancouver Canucks. If Lane Lambert is truthful about the left-winger’s availability, Martin is still not 100 percent healthy.
Hudson Fasching has been skating on the Islanders' fourth line in Martin's absence. Over his last five games, Fasching has a -5 rating, including being on the ice for 2 of the San Jose Sharks' third-period goals. It does not seem as though Fasching's skillset plays well with the hard-hitting Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Julien Gauthier has also been elevated to the third line, where he has played well, recording two goals and three assists since the change. Oliver Wahlstrom's role has been a mystery, having been benched for the past two games. That leaves the question, where does Martin fit in once he returns?
Martin is playing a bench role for the Islanders
How Lou Lamoriello and Lambert are handling Martin is puzzling. The front office could have decided to place Martin on LTIR now, having not played for a month. This would have opened a roster spot for an additional forward or defenseman, something the team could use right now, with Ryan Pulock being placed on IR yesterday. These actions leave us to believe Martin is now playing the role of Ross Johnston as a heavy-hitting left-winger coming off the bench when needed.
It would make more sense for Martin to sit if Wahlstrom was in the lineup every night. Fasching's struggles on the fourth line do not warrant an everyday role. Lambert could move Gauthier down to the fourth line and place Wahlstrom on the third, a spot where he played well most recently against the Ottawa Senators. With the Islanders having a decision to make on Wahlstrom following this season, one can argue that he should play instead of Martin. Wahlstrom is still just 23 years old and needs an opportunity to flash his ability.
The fact Fasching is still playing instead of Martin tells us Lambert has lost confidence in the powerful “Identity Line." The expectation is that Lambert, at some point, will turn back to Martin, given the repeated questions about his availability. In the interim, Gauthier has played well and is still just 26 years old, meaning he could find himself a role with the Islanders next season. With Martin becoming a free agent at 34 years old and Fasching struggling, it would make more sense for Lambert to stick with Gauthier and give Wahlstrom a legitimate opportunity.