The prospects hit the ice yesterday, so we have some real content to present today. But another source of content has been the NHL’s North American Player Media Tour, which is going on out in Nevada.
Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee are representing our New York Islanders, and Barzal sat down with the NHL site’s Brian Compton to discuss both last season and the upcoming one, as well as his new coach. It’s in the bits below, but I personally had been curious about how the Islanders themselves felt about what happened last season, and Barzal’s response was telling.
“[The road stretch] wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible,” Barzal said. “It was COVID that was brutal for us. In the NHL, you can’t have eight of your starters out and expect to be a contending team, you know what I mean? So, it was hard for 11 games. I was in every one of them. It was brutal. We were getting shut out every other game. It was tough.”
So while the thirteen-game road trip did not feel like their brightest moment, they felt they had done enough to get by. And realistically, they’re probably right: 5-6-2 isn’t very good, but it’s not horrible, as Barzal says.
No, it was really the COVID outbreak that nixed their season. Eleven games with half an NHL lineup is not a recipe for success, and now you have to consider that on top of those eleven straight losses was their below-.500 road-trip record. Some light math: 13 + 11 = 24. 24 games, or more than a quarter of the season, basically just lit on fire. To compound the issue, their only chance to make it up was by condensing the schedule—what was it, 33 games in 56 days or something like that?—which would be tough for any roster, but was undoubtedly tougher for the Isles’ veteran roster.
Anyway, I just thought it was especially enlightening to hear about what went wrong last year from a player in Barzal who managed to avoid COVID, with the reward of having to slog through all eleven of those games.
Onto the bits.
- Here is the rookie camp roster. The two spiciest prospects, Aatu Räty and William Dufour, are there. [Islanders]
- So, too, are Robin Salo, Dennis Cholowski, and Grant Hutton, three guys competing for 6D and 7D. [Newsday]
- The opening of rookie camp marks the official opening of the Islanders’ season. [Islanders]
- Räty is ready to contribute to the Islanders organization in one form or another in his first full season in North America. [amNY]
- Here’s that Barzal story from above, marketed as he and his team thanking and moving on from Barry Trotz and looking forward with Lane Lambert. Barzal said it helps that Lambert has relationships with everyone, having been there the last four years. [NHL]
- Barzal also reiterated his desire to spend his entire career on Long Island. He loves his New York lifestyle and his teammates. [Sportsnet]
- This (Yester)Day in Isles History: Jordan Eberle (miss you) finishes a two-on-one with Anders Lee to give the Islanders a double-overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 and a chance at a Game 6; it also gave us the famous Semyon Varlamov slide (2020).
- New Calgary Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar says his new team is better than his old team, the Florida Panthers. I mean, he might be right—Calgary’s defense is superb, and Florida has some depth questions—but what did you expect him to say? [NHL]
- On the other end of that trade, Matthew Tkachuk’s trade to Florida means he and his brother are in the same division for the next eight seasons (barring realignment). Talk about sibling rivalry. [NHL]
- I unintentionally foreshadowed this article the other day with my tiers mini-rant: NHL Player Tiers, based mostly on numbers with a little bit of vibes. Mathew Barzal is Tier 3C, Adam Pelech is 4B, and Ryan Pulock is 4C. But all three are among the top 100 players in the NHL. [The Athletic]
- A little true-or-false about NHL jersey ads. Personally, I don’t like them, but as Dom wrote the other day, they’re inevitable. And when your favorite sport is consistently fourth among the Big Four sports leagues, I guess you take whatever revenue streams you can get. [ESPN]