The Islanders opened their 2021 training camp the same way we’ve all been living for quite a while now - with everyone taking their turns on Zoom calls.
Most of the questions were game-related, such as last season ending in the Eastern Conference finals, the trade of Devon Toews, and the loss of Johnny Boychuk. But a few centered around the one guy who wasn’t present and accounted for.
Mathew Barzal has still not signed a contract extension and did not join his teammates for off-ice testing and media responsibilities. Arthur Staple categorized Barzal as a “holdout” and a few people in his replies took exception to that label. Regardless, a team’s most talented player not being there for the first official day of the new season is certainly the kind of thing that gets people’s attention.
For their part, Barzal’s coach and teammates don’t seem all that concerned about a long absence. From Brian Compton’s NHL.com article:
“[Barzal], he’s one of the boys,” said Lee, the Islanders captain. “He doesn’t want to be missing any more time than anyone else. It’s all going to get worked out, we haven’t thought twice about it. It’s not something we really worry about. But that’s just the other side of things that takes some time, and we have that right now.”
You can watch all of Lee’s media session below. Judging by the smile on his face when he talks about Barzal, the captain is either a great actor or he genuinely finds this whole thing funny.
Barry Trotz stuck with the “we’ll focus on who’s here” company line, but he also doesn’t sound concerned about not having his No. 1 center for very long.
“No, it doesn’t complicate [matters that Barzal hasn’t signed],” coach Barry Trotz said. “We know going into this no matter, you have to make sure that you’re adaptable, either through testing protocols or injury or anything like that. It’s nothing unusual for us if we’re missing a person here or there. That’s part of NHL hockey and the world today.
(the coach also says that new goalie Ilya Sorokin speaks English more clearly than he does, meaning his pre-game quip skills are already in midseason form)
Late last week, we had heard from Lou Lamoriello about negotiations with Barzal but true to Lou Form, he really didn’t say anything. Barzal is on Long Island and in quarantine, so once a contract is agreed to, it’s basically back to work for him.
For the rest of us, it’s pins and needles time. The season officially starts on January 14th, when the Islanders play the Rangers at MSG. It’s safe to assume Barzal will be back on board by then, and the fact that the majority of the team is the same as it was last season means he won’t need a lot of time to jell with new teammates. It’s also safe to assume that I’m saying that as a way to keep myself from getting too worked up about this whole thing.
The Islanders have not released an official training camp roster as of Sunday evening. Maybe they’re simply waiting to get Barzal in before announcing the full list of players. The players begin on-ice workouts Monday morning so we’ll see what happens by then.
You can watch all of today’s media calls from the Islanders website. A few highlights are below.
Here's more of #Isles coach Barry Trotz talking about how he will never get over the loss to Tampa in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. How many of you fans feel the same way? @News12LI pic.twitter.com/EhPUMKxGOn— Kevin Maher (@KMaherNews12) January 3, 2021
Adam Pelech reminds us that he broke his wrist early in Game 5 of the ECF and played 31:59 total in the 2OT win. "Feeling good now, healthy, ready to go," he said. #Isles— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 3, 2021
Brock Nelson says #Isles had a meeting at the rink today about how close they came to the Stanley Cup Finals.— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) January 3, 2021
Nick Leddy had a laundry list of things that Johnny Boychuk has contributed during his time with the #Isles, from his own development to that of his fellow defensemen. Added he's going to miss Boychuk's sense of humor in the locker room.— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) January 3, 2021
A few more Bits while we’re here:
- Staple looked at questions for each player heading into camp. Forwards are here, Defenseman and goalies are here. The Ilya Sorokin question gets right to the point.
- World Juniors: Finland, and Islanders prospect Matias Rajaniemi, are through to the semifinals thanks to a win over Sweden and Islanders prospect Simon Holmstrom. Rajaniemi hasn’t played all that much or collected any points, but Holmstrom had five assists in five WJC games.
- The Post previews the season and Sorokin’s arrival.
- Old pal Travis Hamonic has signed a PTO with the Canucks. [Sportsnet]
- The Maven looks at some Islanders trades of a more recent vintage that had a massive impact. If you’re into the 2001-02 renaissance, this is for you.
- All the best, Paul