Graziano: Total Team Effort Guiding Islanders To Success

Barry Trotz's Group Gets Contributions From Everywhere

Andy Graziano
December 13, 2019 - 3:14 pm
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After the historic 15-0-1 run that the New York Islanders embarked on between the middle of October to the middle of November, they have since settled into a see-saw trend over their past ten games. While 5-4-1 is nothing to be overly concerned about, it’s something that Barry Trotz is, nonetheless, keeping a close eye on.

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Last night, the Isles weathered some third-period pressure from the Florida Panthers before getting a late empty net goal from Anders Lee (‘Gordie Howe’ hat trick) to cap a 3-1 win, pushing them to 21-7-2 on the year. They dominated their last two opponents, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Panthers, by a score of 8-2. Short term, all seems stable. 

Longer term? Sure, they could use a goal scorer, who couldn’t? At the end of the day, there are plenty of teams out there that would love to have the Islanders’ “problems.” I can’t see any way they get Taylor Hall. Sights might have to be set lower and even then, plenty of people have a hard time believing Lou Lamoriello is going to sell off his future for a rental.

For now, it’s “one for all and all for one” as the Islanders continue to win with teamwork and by plainly out-hustling their opponent on most nights. That’s not to mention the stellar goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, and from Thomas Greiss, who made a spectacular stop on Brett Connolly with under two minutes to go, up a goal, last night. Ross Johnston is skating on the first line with Mathew Barzal. Once again, they don’t have a point-per-game scorer. They only have two guys on a 30-goal pace. 

If that isn’t teamwork, I don’t know what is.

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Nick Leddy has a nagging ankle issue that has been bothering him for the better part of the year, showing, once again, why the Islanders’ brain trust is smarter than us. Keeping Noah Dobson around is going to prove a master stroke as the season grinds on and, even if they stay healthy, guys are going to need rest. Isn’t it going to be a nice luxury to give Johnny Boychuk two or three days off a week as we head into March and April? 

Dobson has been taking it all in stride too. I’ve shouted it from the rooftops, defense is, arguably, the hardest position in the NHL to learn and master. Trotz agrees, in speaking to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, who published the following earlier in the week.

“I was talking to him and told him, the plan was we were going to try to get you stronger, bring you along slower, get a couple games in a row, then maybe there’s a third or a fourth,” Trotz said last month. “But we were just talking about this, how the NHL can just take your confidence if you’re a young guy. Why you can see sometimes a young player get the ball rolling his first year, then the next year it doesn’t even look like the same player. The NHL will take your confidence.”

This is the largest difference in the new Islanders regime versus the older one: how they handle the transition of younger players to the NHL. We saw them give Oliver Wahlstrom his cup of tea this year before sending him back to Bridgeport to further develop his two-way game. 

Lamoriello and Trotz are not trying to build goal scorers. They are grooming the next generation of two-way forwards. Players who understand that good defense will turn into offense. Will it work? 

It’s seemingly doing just fine at the moment, that’s clear.

You can follow Andy on Twitter @AndyGraz_WFAN

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