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Islanders Award Winners: Mathew Barzal, Calder Trophy, 2018

The finale to our series of audio documentaries. Throughout a season of chaos, Mathew Barzal fulfilled the promise of his sparkling junior hockey days and stunned fans and rivals with his high level of skill, absurd skating abilities and fearlessness.

Getting Mathew Barzal to Long Island took a long series of moves, hubris and dumb luck, and his start as an NHL player was delayed by a couple of seasons. But once he got his chance on an Islanders team on shaky ground on and off the ice, Barzal fulfilled the promise of his sparkling junior hockey days and showed that his inherent cockiness was both warranted and a major part of his game.

While Barzal was the only consistent player on the roster, the Islanders were seemingly falling apart at the seams. They played in an unsatisfying new arena under an unproven head coach with a fiery personality that wasn’t always helpful. They couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net or string wins together to dig themselves out of a late season hole. Oh, and their captain was going to be a free agent at the end of season...

But through all of that chaos, Mat Barzal stunned and startled fans and rival players with his high level of skill, absurd skating abilities, hockey smarts and a fearlessness to try risky plays. They didn’t always work (and could drive his coaches crazy) but you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. He gave Islanders Country not only a reason to jump out of their seats but the hope that they would soon have the forward depth to compete with the NHL’s best clubs. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way.

This is the final episode of Islanders Award Winners. Barzal’s Calder Trophy felt like a demarcation point between the Islanders of the past and the Islanders of the future. Following this erratic season, the team hired Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, built UBS Arena and became perhaps the most stable they ever have been (yes, even during the dynasty era). Barzal was drafted in a time when they were known for doing the unexpected. Now, he’s a core member of one of the closest locker rooms in the league. Last summer, he signed an eight-year contract extension keeping him with the team for the majority, if not the entirety, of his career. Even as a young guy, he’s seen just about everything. And we’re just happy we get to keep watching him.




Here are some stories from the time:


Research and other assistance was provided by Kevin Schultz. Visit VintageIceHockey.com, where you can buy t-shirts, hoodies and mugs featuring the logos over over 100 classic hockey teams from all across North America, as well as our own Al Arbour tribute shirt. Use the code ANXIETY20 to get 20 percent off an order of two items. Our portion of the sales go directly to the Center for Dementia Research.

This episode of Islanders Award Winners was written using archival material from Newsday, The New York Times, The Athletic, ESPN, NewYorkIslanders.com, NHL.com, Sportsnet and Lighthouse Hockey, Stanley Cup of Chowder and Pension Plan Puppets.


The following video clips were also used in the podcast:

  • I like to call this a “modern Isles classic”
  • Not how anyone saw Barzal’s first NHL game going:
  • Another modern Isles classic. How many times have you watched this?
  • His first hat trick was even better live (I know because I was there):
  • Another one of Barzal’s many standout performances in his rookie year was against a rookie team that also had a standout performance:
  • Barzal’s Calder speech was an emotional one for many reasons:


Thank you for listening to Islanders Award Winners. It’s been a ton of work, but I’m proud of how they turned out. As a fan, I wanted to have something like this, so I went out and made it myself. I hope they stand the test of time and can teach new Islanders and NHL fans some things they might not have known, or transport older fans back to players and moments they remember.