A debate you'll hear and read often among New York Islanders fans is what held back Ryan Strome in 2015-16 and whether, specifically, he'll never reach his full potential unless he plays center.
General manager Garth Snow added a little fodder to that debate when he appeared on the "Power Play" afternoon show of NHL's SiriusXM satellite radio channel. Scoring one for the "Tastes Great!" side (vs. "Less Filling"...never mind, I'm old), Snow told the hosts he does indeed believe Strome is most effective at center.
(Here's the full audio of the interview [mp3]. Brian Compton of NHL.com tweeted a few highlights. There were other topics...the usual "happy to add Andrew Ladd to our group," not rushing prospects, plus expectation that Casey Cizikas and Jason Chimera would create "four lines that can score," etc.)
Snow says Strome is most effective as C; but way team was built put him on wing. Loss of 51 should lead to different Ryan Strome. #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) July 7, 2016
Here's Snow's full quote in response to a question about Strome's poor season:
"Probably to our own fault in handling Ryan, he was drafted as a center, I personally believe he's most effective as a center. But the way our team is built ... we really didn't have the opportunity to play him for extended periods of time at center. With the loss of Frans Nielsen in free agency I think you're going to see Ryan Strome do the things he did two seasons ago."
Some people think, despite the roster necessity -- Frans Nielsen, for one, was a more effective center -- that moving Strome to wing was "ruining" his development.
Others note that Strome was doing largely fine on the wing, when next to John Tavares, but they were somewhat snakebitten in that combo early last season before Strome started getting moved around and even briefly demoted.
Coach Jack Capuano has been behind trying both Strome and Nelson on wing as the Islanders fit Mikhail Grabovski (himself often used on wing in 2014-15) into an advantageously crowded center mix.
Few debate that Strome appears most natural at center, as a guy who likes the puck on his stick and likes to be involved in the play wherever it moves (not to mention a guy who played that position in juniors, in the AHL, and in long stretches of his brief NHL career thus far). That's different from saying he could -- or maybe should -- have been better than he was on the wing, however.
Regardless, this debate and this experiment is not yet over. It sounds like Strome will get a chance to play center again since the Islanders lost Frans Nielsen to free agency.
So, it sounds like plan is to put Strome back in the middle. Where Barzal fits in will be determined by his camp. #Isles— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) July 7, 2016
Of course if Strome's outperformed in camp for the available center slots by Nelson and hot prospect Mathew Barzal...well we've seen that kind of thing happen before.