Right when people started to believe that the Islanders were legit, they regressed to a mediocre team. While the team’s goaltending was still amazing, they failed to score and their defense was surprisingly sloppy. A dependance on veterans clearly failed, and could have been what caused Barry Trotz’s surprise firing. But GM Lou Lamoriello doubled down on his team, mostly staying with the team he had. There could be some addition by subtraction, but last year’s players will have to be the ones to make up for the season.
Offseason additions: D Alex Romanov, D Dennis Cholowski, F Nikita Soshnikov.
Offseason subtractions: D Zdeno Chara, D Andy Greene, F Austin Czarnik, F Michael Dal Colle, D Thomas Hickey.
Mat Barzal will be a restricted free agent again at the conclusion of the season, and he needs to earn his worth. He won’t have the excuse of being hampered by Trotz’s system anymore. Last season really was disappointing for Barzal, as he scored a career-low 15 goals with 59 points in 73 games, losing the top center spot for a good part of the season. Islander fans love to hate Josh Bailey for a multitude of reasons, which all became elevated as he struggled last year with his foot speed declining. Bailey still finished with 44 points, his most since 2018-19. The final numbers for Kyle Palmieri in his first season on the Island were 15 goals and 33 points, which were both underwhelming. He had just one goal with six assists in 29 games before the all-star break, but responded with 14 goals in 40 games following it. Add in the fact that he was oddly deployed and had an incredible amount of goals disallowed in the second half, and there is confidence for Palmieri to bounce back in 2022-23.
The best forward on the Islanders was easily Brock Nelson last year, as he scored 37 goals in 72 games. While a 21.6 percent shooting rate played a big role in that, Nelson was the only one on the team scoring at times. Only Auston Matthews had more goals scored above expected. That is a testament to his sniping ability, as well as his luck in last season. Anders Lee scored 28 goals after coming back from a torn ACL, an encouraging sign for the Isles’ captain. The team missed his presence in front of the net on the power play, where he scored nine goals. The biggest letdown on the team was easily Anthony Beauvillier, who scored just 12 goals with 34 points in 75 games. This came right after he had 15 goals in 47 games in the shortened season of 2020-21. He was the only real tradable asset for the Isles this offseason, so Beauvillier’s survival on the roster is good news for him.
A hand injury sustained in the 2021 playoffs clearly hindered Jean-Gabriel Pageau last season, especially in the beginning. Scoring 11 goals with 24 points in his final 32 games saved Pageau’s total stats, but he wasn’t the two-way player the Islanders needed. He still received a Selke vote and set a career-high in hits with 171. Another player who is out of excuses with Trotz gone is Oliver Wahlstrom, who got off to a hot start but was often invisible after that. Wahlstrom scored 13 goals with 11 assists in 73 games. He was often healthy scratched, and didn’t get a ton of ice time when he did play. New York signed Zach Parise for third-line production, and they had to have been pleased with the results, as he was extended for the 2022-23 season. Parise finished with 15 goals and 20 assists. He was the most consistent player night in and night out, and even at age 37 was the only player to play in all 82 games for the team.
The infamous Islanders’ fourth line had cracks through it last year, disrupted by injuries and poor play. They never were relied on for offense, but produced a lot less than what was wanted. Casey Cizikas took too many penalties last year, especially for how essential he is to the team’s penalty kill. He had 16 points in 73 games and won a career-best 55.6 percent of draws. Cal Clutterbuck’s 2.03 xGA/60 was the best on the team, directly ahead of Cizikas and Matt Martin. Clutterbuck had 229 hits in 59 games, while scoring nine goals, his most since 2015-16. Even with two more years left under contract, Matt Martin might be getting phased out of the lineup. He played in 71 games last year with 235 hits. But the striking thing is that he was healthy scratched at times, a treatment that the Isles didn’t give his linemates. The team also gave enforcer Ross Johnston another four-year deal, which wouldn’t make sense if he got no playing time. Johnston racked up 90 hits and 44 penalty minutes in 32 games last year. Former first-rounder Kieffer Bellows got his best look at the NHL last season, dressing for 45 games. He had 19 points with 103 hits, securing a $1.2 million contract for this upcoming season. The problem for him is a roster spot, as he seems like the odd man out.
The 2021-22 season was a sad one for the Isles, but Adam Pelech kept going. He didn’t have as much support as in years past, and still was on the ice for just 1.91 goals against per 60 at even strength. Pelech also set a new career-high in points with 28, while blocking 128 shots. Injury separated him from Ryan Pulock, as well as a decision to keep them apart as the rest of the defense labored. Pulock was never his best self last year, and couldn’t take on as high as an ice time share as the team needed him to.
Luckily for Pulock, the emergence of Noah Dobson eased him in. The six-foot-four Dobson still had some defensive struggles while playing with Zdeno Chara, but Dobson’s offense was amazing. He had 51 points in 80 games and took over the power play quarterback role that the Islanders have been needing for years. Of Dobson’s 38 assists, exactly half of them were on the man advantage. He should have some more support next to him this year, as the team sent their first-round pick to Montreal for Alex Romanov. The 22-year-old Romanov had 144 blocked shots and 227 hits in his second NHL season, while earning a second-pairing role for a lowly Canadiens team. Romanov’s offense isn’t exactly what the Islanders were looking for, but he is skilled enough defensively to make him a huge upgrade over Chara.
Within the next 365 days, Scott Mayfield is going to sign a contract that surprises a lot of people. He has been a physical, right-handed shot defenseman who has played mostly on the second-pair for a contender over the past three seasons. Before knowing his name, teams would be lining up for that type of player. There will be an open competition for the last two spots on the team for a defenseman. One will start, while the other is the seventh-defender. Robin Salo struggled in his first 21 NHL games last year, but demonstrated impressive skating and has the offensive potential that the team is looking for. Sebastian Aho got a much better look last year, but had 41.1 xGF% in 36 games. A 2016 first-round pick by Detroit, Dennis Cholowski signed a two-way deal with the Isles this offseason. After being picked in the expansion draft, Cholowski had three assists in 11 games for the Kraken and Capitals last year.
If it wasn’t for Ilya Sorokin, last season could have gotten ugly for the Islanders. Sorokin was third in goals saved above expected at 21.55. Only Igor Shesterkin and Frederik Andersen were better. The standard numbers are actually even more impressive, especially when you consider how much of a mess the team in front of him was. Sorokin posted a .925 save percentage with a 2.40 GAA and seven shutouts. He finished sixth in Vezina voting, which was a crime. The Isles decided not to trade Semyon Varlamov this offseason, even with the veteran entering the final year of his contract and with multiple teams needing goalies. Varlamov struggled as he returned from an injury, with a 2.91 GAA and a .911 save percentage. He still managed a positive goals saved above expected.
Josh Bailey – Mat Barzal – Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Anthony Beauvillier
Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Scratched: Ross Johnston, Kieffer Bellows
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Alex Romanov – Noah Dobson
Robin Salo – Scott Mayfield
Scratched: Sebastian Aho