Howdy, folks. I’m sorry for not putting up a post yesterday. I was helping my sister and brother-in-law move and could not find the time to get a post up. But here we are, with the season over.
The New York Islanders scored the first goal of Game 6 and took that 1-0 lead into the second intermission. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold the lead against the onslaught of the Carolina Hurricanes in the third period and lost in overtime on one of the weaker goals the Islanders have given up all season. The season closed unceremoniously.
All things considered, it was a good season to be a fan. I don’t think any one of us reasonably expected the Islanders to contend for a Stanley Cup; it was always “just make the playoffs and see what happens” or something to that effect. “Just get in, you never know.”
To their credit, the Islanders did, indeed, make the playoffs. They did so despite a dreadful January that had many, myself included, calling to sell at the deadline and re-tool. They did so despite missing the services of Adam Pelech and Mathew Barzal, each for a quarter of the season.
But what makes this season’s conclusion more depressing is the realization that this group, as currently constituted, may have hit its ceiling already. That’s not to say they need a full rebuild. They simply can’t do that with the contracts on their books, but they also have some good pieces to re-tool around. Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech are all locked in long-term, and both Noah Dobson and Alex Romanov will be RFAs when their current contracts expire. Extend Ilya Sorokin long-term, and there’s the new core.
One imagines that Anders Lee won’t be going anywhere with three years left on his contract. Brock Nelson has two years remaining on his and shouldn’t be going anywhere. Ditto Kyle Palmieri. J-G Pageau has three years left, and his name has popped up among some of the insiders, but that’s probably more speculation than anything else. Casey Cizikas has four years left on his deal, while the other two-thirds of the Identity Line will enter next year on the final year of their contracts.
All these contracts don’t leave a lot of space—on both the roster and the salary cap—to improve, but the GM, whether it’s Lou Lamoriello or someone else, will have to find a way. The Islanders need more offensive skill. They need another shooter and another play driver. Maybe they’re the same player. The Winnipeg Jets appear to be gearing up for a yard sale this summer; maybe Kyle Connor or Nikolaj Ehlers trades in their Canadian maple leaf for a geographic depiction of Long Island.
Anyway, we have all summer to have these discussions and debates. Friends, it was quite the roller coaster of a season, and it’s a shame that the ride had to finish so soon and so abruptly. But I’m glad we shared it together as an LHH family, and here’s to another great season next year. Welcome to the offseason. The Islanders clean out their lockers tomorrow.
#Isles locker clean out day officially scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.— Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) April 30, 2023
- At least they didn’t go down without a fight. They clawed their way into the playoffs and then forced a Game 6, this close to forcing Game 7. However, changes are afoot for a group whose Stanley Cup contention window might no longer be open. [Newsday] Despite those looming changes, it was a pretty good season, overall. [THN]
- Bo Horvat took his share of the blame for the first-round exit. [Newsday] The fact is that the Islanders did not get nearly enough production from its top players. [NY Post]
- And the power play was dreadful, one of a few reasons they’re out, along with the lack of production from the top players and Sorokin being merely good instead of elite. [The Athletic]
- It’s worth going through the actual roster, though, to see where there could have been an improvement. And, of course, who put that roster together. [The Athletic]
- We were robbed again of an Islanders-Rangers playoff series. I have yet to see one in my 28 years. [Newsday]
- There are many questions that the Islanders must answer this summer to be in contention next year, or at least choose a direction. [NY Post]
- The Islanders have six unrestricted free agents whose contracts come off the books. Some of them, like Hudson Fasching and Pierre Engvall, should probably be re-signed. [NY Post]
- What about Zach Parise? The 38-year-old veteran sat at his locker in his gear for a while after Game 6, long after the media and everyone else left. If this is it, thank you for your services. If not, we’d love to have you back, Zach, although we’d understand if you felt we weren’t your best chance to win a Cup. [Newsday]
- The biggest offseason question the Islanders face: whether Lou Lamoriello returns. It’s widely believed that he is in the final year of his contract and hasn’t been offered an extension. What the Islanders do this offseason largely depends on who is running the show. [Newsday]
- We know UBS Arena is a winner, at least. It had a great atmosphere when the Islanders were winning playoff games. [Newsday]
The Weekend’s Playoff Action
After Friday and Saturday’s Games 6, here’s what we’re looking at:
- The Dallas Stars demoralized the Minnesota Wild and sent Minnesota to its eighth straight series loss, while Dallas moves on. [NHL]
- The Toronto Maple Leafs finally slayed the beast, with John Tavares scoring the Game 6 OT winner and series-clinching goal, which sounds familiar. The Tampa Bay Lightning are out. [NHL]
- The Edmonton Oilers finished off the Los Angeles Kings on the road, scoring the game-winner with just over a minute left in regulation late last night; they’ll play the Vegas Golden Knights next round. [NHL]
- The Florida Panthers pushed the Boston Bruins to Game 7, which will be this evening in Boston at 6:30 ET. The winner plays the Leafs next round. [NHL]
- So did the Colorado Avalanche to the Seattle Kraken, and Game 7 will be later tonight at 9:30 ET. The winner there will play Dallas next round. [NHL]
- And finally, the New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 at the Garden to force Game 7 Monday night in Newark. The winner of that game will play Carolina. [NHL]
Here are some previews of today’s two Games 7. [ESPN]
- Yikes: Jordan Eberle got a two-minute minor for boarding Andrew Cogliano and didn’t get a hearing with DOPS, but Cogliano suffered a fractured neck. [TSN]
- Rick Bowness did not hold back on Thursday night after his Jets were eliminated, saying his team had “no pushback” in Game 5, nor the series, nor the season. [NHL] Some of his players disagreed with him, or at least how he handled it. [NHL]
- Peter Laviolette is a coaching free agent and wants to coach again, but he’s “disappointed” that he never got out of the first round with the Washington Capitals. [NHL]