The New York Islanders did not score enough during the 2021-22 season. The Isles ranked 22nd in goals-per-game last year, netting 26 fewer goals than the league average. Islanders management has been reluctant this offseason to bring in a big-name free agent who could turn the tide on the offensive side of the ice. After losing out on players like Johnny Gaudreau, J.T. Miller, and Nazem Kadri, general manager Lou Lamoriello seems confident in rolling out a similar team for the 2022-23 campaign. However, Lamoriello relieved former head coach Barry Trotz of his duties a week after the season ended. Trotz had been a staple as a head coach, winning two Jack Adams Awards throughout his coaching career. Current head coach Lane Lambert needs to implement a system that increases scoring yet also compliments the Islanders’ above-average defence.
The Outlook for 2022-23 Islanders Offence
Only three players scored above 50 points for the Islanders last season. None scored more than 37 goals, and the team struggled immensely on the powerplay. Most of the lineup suffered a substantial regression in skill, save for Brock Nelson, who tallied a career-best 59 points in 2021-22. The Islanders started the season on a 13-game road trip as their new arena was built. The team ended the road trip 5-6-2, then suffered a Covid outbreak and scratched seven players due to illness. The Islanders then lost 11 straight games across November and the beginning of December. The team as a whole saw a mass regression compared to other years. The Isles hadn’t had an elite scorer since losing John Tavares before the 2018-19 season but were good enough to make back-to-back Conference Finals. Lambert hopes to generate more offence and find an in-house scorer to help get the team back to the playoffs. Line by line, here are each islander forward’s expected points.
The First Line
Nelson led the Islanders in points and goals during the 2021-22 season. He did this by a substantial margin and was eventually promoted to the top line during the last month of the season. Nelson is good enough on the faceoff dot to also center the top line. The Islanders’ second line was subpar last year, with Nelson being the lone bright spot. There’s a strong possibility that if he is paired with Mat Barzal and Anders Lee on the wings, the team’s first line can actually generate some solid scoring. Nelson may even break his career-high for the second-straight season.
Expected points: 63 points (35 goals, 28 assists)
Barzal had a bit of a disappointing season. In 2021-22 he tied Nelson with 59 points but only had 15 goals in 72 games. Since winning the Calder Cup in 2018, Barzal hasn’t been able to score more than 62 points in a season. Barzal was even demoted to the second line during the latter half of last season. Not all of that is Barzal’s fault, as he was often double-teamed when entering the offensive zone. With Nelson on the same line, the pressure will be less on Barzal, creating open ice for the speedy 25-year-old.
Expected points: 65 (18 goals, 48 assists)
Lee had 12 goals in 27 games before he tore his ACL during the 2020-21 season. Usually positioned in front of the net, Lee is great at tip-ins near the crease and goalie screens. Though he has regressed over the past few seasons, his 28 goals last year ranked second on the Islanders. Lee didn’t start having his best games until midseason, but the Islanders were already too far out of the playoff race. Nelson and Barzal should produce a bump to Lee if they can get more pucks on the net.
Expected points: 45 (33 goals, 12 assists)
The Second Line
Beauvillier is a candidate for a post-hype breakout this season. While considered a grinder, he has been a great bottom-six player for most of his career. Through those two Conference Finals appearances in 2019-20 and 2020-21, he scored 21 points over 41 games. He jumped up to the second line in 2021-22 but had a lacklustre season. His 12 goals in 75 games fell well short of the expectations set heading into last season. Josh Bailey and Zach Parise tallied more points than Beauvillier while getting less ice time on average. He is under contract for the next two seasons, but a slow start may cost him his place on the second line. Maybe with a healthy Kyle Palmieri and a goal-hungry Oliver Wahlstrom, Beauvillier can have a resurgence.
Expected points: 36 (18 goals, 18 assists)
Even with a massive rebound near the end of the season, Palmieri’s point totals were pretty bland. After scoring seven goals over 19 games during the 2020-21 playoffs, Lamoriello signed Palmieri to a 4-year, $20 million contract. He tallied two assists in the first game of the 2021-22 season but didn’t record his first goal until the 13th game. He then went on a 14-game pointless streak. Palmieri missed time due to the team’s Covid outbreak and then went on paternal leave due to the birth of his daughter. He has struggled to produce with the Islanders during the regular season and should have a short leash on the top-six.
Expected points: 30 (15 goals, 15 assists)
Wahlstrom is a tricky winger to analyze. Primarily looked at as the next breakout scorer for the Islanders, the 2021-22 season showed he still needs time to improve. Though he played 72 games last year, Trotz benched Wahlstrom on two separate occasions. Wahlstrom struggled with puck procession and took the second-most penalties on the team. However, his 24 total points while averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time is promising. He could challenge Beauvillier and Palmieri as top scorers on the line with more usage. For a team that’s desperate to have scoring production, Wahlstrom should be on the ice more, regardless of his faults.
Expected points 29 (18 goals, 11 assists)
The Third Line
Pageau has been a staple of the Islanders’ third line since he joined the team during the 2020-21 trade deadline. He is solid on faceoffs, good on the penalty kill, and is a decent scorer. His 18 goals were the third-best on the team last season, even beating out Barzal. He may regress a little this year if his linemates are Josh Bailey and Zach Parise, but Pageau is consistent as consistent gets. Considering he was one of the few bright spots from last year’s team, he will continue making an impact as an under-the-radar middle-line forward.
Expected points 36 (17 goals, 19 assists)
Bailey is one of the most polarizing Islanders players. He is less of an offensive threat but is good at the game’s intangibles. Last year he played a lot of time on the first and second lines, much to the chagrin of fans. Bailey would be better used on a grind-line with Pageau and Parise. He could move around if players from the second line need demotion, but his best quality is not scoring points. Bailey had 30 assists last season while still playing almost 17 minutes a night. Pageau and Parise could benefit from the veteran playmaker if he can be the set-up man on this line.
Expected points: 35 (8 goals, 27 assists)
All-in-all, Parise had a good season in 2021-22. It wasn’t a callback to his glory days on the Minnesota Wild, but he was serviceable alongside Pageau on the third line. While he didn’t score his first goal until the middle of December, he finished the year with 15 goals and 35 points. Parise helps solidify the line with an all-around consistency and the ability to play well on the upper lines. His stat-line next season will likely not see much change.
Expected points: 35 (15 goals, 20 assists)
The Fourth Line
The Islanders’ fourth offensive pairing is known as their identity line. While these three players don’t score that often, they hit hard and play a stifling defensive press. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin scored 19 goals and 37 points combined last season. The point expectation means less for these three players than the rest of the lineup. Each player will likely have single-digit goals and assists, but their role isn’t to score goals. The identity is unlikely to break up, and all three players have contracts that extend through this season.
The Islanders are an anomaly when for the 2022-23 season. The team will need to score more goals than last year to return to the playoffs with virtually the same roster. The responsibility of opening up the offence falls on coach Lane Lambert, who needs to improve a team that is held back by its ability to score. If the top lines can generate more offence, then the Islanders definitely have enough pieces to make a playoff run. Another hard-luck season may cause Lou Lamoriello to pull the plug on the team’s aging core players.
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