Graziano: Sky Not Falling, But Islanders Could Use Some Help


As we approach Game No. 40 of the 2019-20 season, the New York Islanders clearly are struggling after their historic stretch, which put them in the upper echelon of the league at 16-3-1 back on Nov. 21. And the theme appears to be a familiar one — lack of an offensive finishing touch. 

Over their past 19 games, New York has stumbled its way to a 9-8-2 record, and in unusual fashion, allowed more goals than it has scored, 53-48. Five times the Islanders have allowed four or more goals, with eight finding the back of their net against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 17. More importantly, they have scored two or fewer goals in nine of those 19 contests.

The aforementioned incredible stretch did put the Islanders in position to ‘“withdraw” all those points they collected in the bank, and it’s a point that I touch on each season — the importance of getting off to a quick start to offset stretches like this one. It hasn’t been all downhill, mind you, as the 4-3 New Year's Eve win in Washington proves. When the Islanders are on their game, they are tough to beat, but when they are off their game, especially defensively, they struggle to find that finish to carry them through.

The sky is most definitely not falling if you look at the advanced statistics. However, there is little margin for error in a conference stacked with terrific teams. And mentioned in this space before is the fact that winning 2-1 hockey games all the time is a tough way to grind your way through a season. It’s almost like having to play playoff hockey for six months before actually playing playoff hockey.

The Islanders' Josh Bailey skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 1, 2019, at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In terms of what can be done to get the Islanders help depends on whom you talk to. We all know the trade market can be finicky. After all, this isn’t a video game. But that is team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello’s job. Head coach Barry Trotz has been asking for more offense since the end of last season, and to date, Lamoriello’s biggest trade acquisition has been Matt Martin. There doesn’t seem to be much immediate help in Bridgeport, unless you’re willing to give Oliver Wahlstrom, heading back after Team USA’s loss to Finland in the World Junior Championship, another shot and burn a year of his entry-level contract. I don’t think breaking Keiffer Bellows’ recent hot streak, and increasing confidence, is worth the risk.

Maybe Lamoriello is content to force the players he already has to start performing. It certainly doesn’t help that Josh Bailey has four points in his past 12 games, Derick Brassard four in 16, Anthony Beauvillier two goals in his past 15 and Anders Lee three in 10. In five of those 10 games, Lee has one shot.

We are absolutely not talking about a team lacking offensive talent here. But, if you remove the awful season the Detroit Red Wings are having from a goalscoring perspective, the Islanders’ past-19-game-average of 2.5 goals per game would be where the 30th team in current offense is producing. The Islanders were not in the upper half of the league in goalscoring last year and have not been there once this year, either. Something must give at some point.

Whether it does or not could determine their fate in April. I mean, they still have an 85% chance at making the playoffs thanks to their torrid start and would have to tank to not make the postseason. So I am in no way suggesting this team needs a ton of help, nor am I suggesting it is in any grave danger at present. What I am suggesting is a little offensive help and speed at forward, which would do them a ton of good. 

Not to mention, maybe light a fire under some players underperforming at the moment.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyGraz_WFAN