This has been an interesting season for the New York Islanders, in multiple areas. It’s been a whirlwind for sure, since the summer when you-know-who decided to go north to Toronto.
Back then, fans and media alike thought that this season was going to be an off year as the Islanders re-tooled and licked their wounds from that free agency snafu.
What everyone couldn’t expect was how Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz would take this team, and the “fourth line, grinder” singings of Valteri Filppula, Leo Komarov and Thomas Khunackl and whip them into a team that would be tough to play against, give up the fewest shots and goals against. Especially not after this team was dead last in the league in both categories last year.
Who else would’ve guessed that Casey Cizikas could potentially hit the 20 goal mark? Or Brock Nelson would play well outside of
Brocktober, I mean October. Same for the Vezina calibre play by Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner? Nobody really. But that’s exactly what is happening, and more.
The Islanders are first in the Metropolitan Division, and have sat here for the last few weeks.
As JP wrote here yesterday, Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd are close to returning from injury. That COULD be a large boon for the Islanders as they approach the trade deadline in just five days. But will these be the only “acquistions”? I don’t think so. and neither does anyone else apparently.
Let’s take a look at what the Islanders scouts have been doing this month (Disclaimer: Some of this could be advanced scouting as the Isles will see some of these teams in a week or two).
From what I’ve been able to piece together – the Islanders have had scouts at the following games over the last week (and likely more if we go back further) :
- 2/11/19 – Penguins/Flyers
- 2/12/19 – Knights/Coyotes
- 2/14/19 – Canucks/Kings (Face Vancouver on this road trip)
- 2/16/19 – Blackhawks/Blue Jackets
- 2/16/19 – Kings/Bruins
- 2/17/19 – Ducks/Capitals
- 2/18/19 – Ken Morrow at Blackhawks/Senators
So what does this mean exactly?
This Islanders team – isn’t the same one fans are used to. Not by a long shot.
Under previous management, Garth Snow would come out this time of year and claim he “kicked tires” and “explored every option to improve the team” but only make small, non-impact moves – even when it was clear he needed to do more.
This time around, with Lou Lamoriello at the helm AND when the team has a clear lead in the division while playing very well – fans can expect to see some addition down the stretch. There aren’t MANY holes to fill, but the opportunity to get help on the power play (a huge need right now), or add that veteran forward or defender will certainly be a help.
Some names I’ve seen mentioned – Gustav Nyquist, Adam Henrique, Jacob Silfverberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, Tyler Toffoli, Marcus Johansson (A former Trotz guy!), Wayne Simmonds, Derek Brassard, Charlie Coyle. The obvious ones too, Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. There’s always a chance a name is involved that nobody knows about, too.
You even have reports that the biggest fish in the free agent pool will be willing to sign or at least discuss an extension with the team that lands him, not to say the Isles will target Matt Duchene – but it’s fun to think what his addition could do for the teams depth and play moving forward.
I still think the Islanders will be the most active with the larger pool of free agents this July, but with reports of the team willing to move their first round pick this summer and a few prospects in the pool the stage is set for some kind of move.
I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter that I think Beauvillier could be dangled along with the first, and maybe Ho-Sang with one of the kids down in Bridgeport for a deal. I don’t want to mortgage the future for a rental though, so the blue-chips are off the table for me unless theres an extension in place.
The other story is team chemistry and what kind of player Matt Duchene is in the locker room – but those are problems for another day, and another story.