With Barzal and Horvat, the NY Islanders have the ingredients for a good power play

Vancouver Canucks v New York Islanders
Vancouver Canucks v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

We're deep in the off-season, and it appears more likely than not that we won't see any significant changes to the New York Islanders roster. Yes, we're still waiting to learn if Zach Parise wants to come back for a 19th NHL season, presumably with the Islanders, but unless another 'hockey trade' presents itself, the Islanders lineup will be similar to the one that ended the season.

That means the options for the power-play, one that finished 30th in PP % (15.8%) and tied for the fewest goals with the man-advantage (35), will also be the same. Perhaps even more surprising is that, as of now, it seems that assistant coach John MacLean will be back alongside head coach Lane Lambert behind the Islanders bench, running the power-play units.

If you are looking for optimism heading into the 2023-24 season, the power play can be a reason to do so. How so, you ask? After all, nothing has changed. Well, first of all, it can't be much worse. The Islanders were never expected to have a top PP unit, but it should be around league average. That would've resulted in 10-15 more goals during the season, which takes a 94-point team closer to being a 100-point team with a greater likelihood of making the post-season.

More importantly, the top PP unit will consist of Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat for a full season. J Fresh Hockey developed a scoring system to determine the most impactful forwards at 5-on-4 across the league. Horvat, granted aided by his time with the Canucks, had the 11th-best shooting score, while Barzal was second in passing score and fifth in total game score.

We all watched and saw how improved it was during their six regular-season games together. There were reasons to be optimistic with the way Barzal could enter the zone and Horvat's ability to score from the bumper position, using his shot or ability to deflect shots from in front of the net. Noah Dobson will have to improve as the quarterback of the unit, and you wonder whether Oliver Wahlstrom's one-timer has a place on a unit with Horvat and Barzal with the man advantage.

If you want to use the playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes to counter that argument, I understand, but the Canes had the second-best PK during the regular season, and Barzal re-entered the lineup after missing two months. Plus, there was also a crisis of confidence with the man advantage. In searching for answers, the PP units were tweaked and adjusted several times. You can't score goals if you are overthinking against an aggressive PK, and that's what we saw versus Carolina.

Expectations for the power-play are low going in the season, and rightfully so. The Islanders may not possess the skill and speed to be confused with the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs, but they are a safe bet to be better than they were last season, and that would make a big difference in the standings at the end of the season.