For the next 20 days, our esteemed staff will tackle, what could be the biggest questions facing the New York Islanders this season. Huge disclaimer: I’m posting this on September 5th. Islanders training camp doesn’t open until later this month. There is still plenty of time for this to be completely worthless, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.
Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz were both hired well after last season ended, and while both probably put in a lot of time analyzing what exactly they were getting into, neither has actually seen their new team on the ice yet.
That will change in the next few weeks. After rookie camp, training camp, preseason games, practices and, I assume, actual old fashioned face-to-face conversations, team brass will decide who they actually want on the roster and who they think isn’t on their same wavelength.
Both Trotz and Lamoriello have said they’re in evaluation mode, and the coach pretty much put it out there that players who aren’t on the same page as the coaching staff - along with any other “clutter” - will need to be dealt with.
Via Arthur Staple in The Athletic:
I think you go in with a plan, knowing we want to put the best possible team we can put out there. There’s windows of opportunity to go out and add players and Lou’s certainly done that. Now it’s our job to find out how all these pieces fit together. Obviously, we have a vision – we want this guy to fill this hole, is this a long-term or short-term player? You go in hoping they all fit. If they don’t, then you adjust. Quite honestly, until we get on the ice we’re not going to know who works best with who. We’re watching some film, doing all our due diligence, talking to players, finding out what worked and what didn’t work.
And also getting out some of the clutter. There’s going to be change. It’s going to be structurally, on and off the ice, expectations are going to change. Nothing against any former regimes, but we have our own vision of what we want to do, how we’re going to do it. Lou has painted a good picture of where he wants this organization to go and I want to be a part of it. On the ice, I have a vision of how we can play to be better.
So that means to expect a whole bunch of roster changes before the season starts, right?
Errrr... not so much.
Lamoriello has already added players we assume he thinks are going to help immediately. Whether Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov or Matt Martin contribute as anything other than pin cushions for aggravated fans remains to be seen. Between Filppula’s inexplicable no move clause, Komarov’s even more inexplicable four year deal (with a modified no trade clause) and Martin’s very explicable (and nigh unbreakable) ties to the organization, everyone needs to take a deep breath and get used to seeing them around for a while.
Almost every other player needs to come into Day 1 with a smile on his face ready to eat lightning and shit blue and orange.
Also via Staple:
“If you’re sitting in the seats of some of our players, there are opportunities for players that they might not have had if [you know who] had stayed,” Lamoriello said. “The enthusiasm is definitely there. That’s what you like to see. This is their team.”
Trotz and Lamoriello will want to evaluate absolutely everyone in the organization before they decide what they’re worth and who they can live without. And that’s going to take time.
When Will Then Be Now? Soon.
It’s possible that a Bridgeport regular impresses in camp and makes his case to stick around. It’s also possible (but unlikely) that a player earmarked for a return to his junior team earns a big league try out. There are some talented players in this team’s prospect pool.
That list includes Josh Ho-Sang, the only player in NHL history to have more podcasts, Reddit threads and t-shirts dedicated to him than he has career points. He gets a clean slate from the new regime and is exactly the type of young, talented pre-installed player that Trotz and Lamoriello want to see some jump from.
But before he or any other Islanders prospect can get to the NHL, there needs to be a spot for them. And before that can happen, a veteran on a weighty contract will either need to sit or be moved.
That’s also going to take time, even for an operator like Lamoriello - the guy who literally wrote the book on making unwanted players disappear into thin air like magician’s assistants. We just need to hope that he makes the right (i.e. probably difficult) decisions when that time comes.
So what alterations can we expect in short order? Probably the usual: A seventh defenseman. As pointed out here and elsewhere, the Islanders currently have 38 forwards that can play in their bottom six. Chances are at least one of them will start in the press box and a couple will be waived and shipped to the AHL. And you know someone’s gonna get hurt.
Other than that, this is more or less, most likely, by and large, for all intents and purposes, the roster that will suit up for that first week of October. I think. Maybe.
Changes will come. I just wouldn’t expect them before the start of the season.
PS: You can forget marquee additions like Artemi Panarin or Erik Karlsson. We’ve all been at this long enough to know guys like that aren’t coming here as long as the Islanders are a loser without a permanent home. Ignore whatever you’ve read. Everyone’s sources are full of shit.