In a Metropolitan Division with plenty of uncertainty, the one team in which many prognosticators seemed to be confident was the New York Islanders. Fresh off back to back final-four losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Isles seemed like a safe bet for another season of tidy defense and opportunistic scoring en route to another playoff appearance.
Unfortunately, there was one big obstacle in the team’s way: a daunting 13-game road trip to start the season, due to the time needed to finish their new arena. That span of over a month didn’t treat the team too kindly, starting just 5-6-2, but all things considered, it felt like they’d weathered the storm. Unfortunately, going home didn’t help, as they lost their first seven games at UBS Arena, and by the time they won their first, the team was 7-11-5 and in the basement of the conference.
They did recover afterwards, going just a bit over .500 the rest of the way with a 30-24-5 record, but the start they had buried them deep in a hole they couldn’t get out of, especially with the large gap that the Eastern conference’s eight playoff teams had on the non-playoff teams. Due to makeup games because of COVID-19 postponements, they had to play 50 games in 99 days to close out the season. They finished the year as the best of the rest in ninth, but they were still 16 points behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals.
General manager Lou Lamoriello decided that the team wasn’t the problem, with its lone offseason addition of note being the trade for Alexander Romanov, and instead fired head coach Barry Trotz, replacing him with Lane Lambert, one of Trotz’s assistants. Whether that will make up the 16-point difference and get the team back in the playoffs, it’s hard to see, but this team is known for surprising its critics.
KEY ADDITIONS & DEPARTURES
- Alexander Romanov, D
- Dennis Cholowski, D
- Hudson Fasching, D
- Austin Czarnik, C (Det)
- Zdeno Chara, D (UFA)
- Andy Greene, D (UFA)
The Islanders have rarely been a high-octane team in recent years, averaging just 2.74 goals per game during their three-year playoff streak from 2018-2021. Surprisingly, they slightly improved in that regard last season, scoring 2.79 while tied for 22nd in the league. They also ranked 25th in 5-on-5 shot attempts for per 60 minutes with 50.84 and tied for 17th in 5-on-5 expected goals for per 60 minutes with 2.41, so the actual goal scoring is about on par with the underlying numbers, although still not ideal. Their lone bright spot offensively was their power play, which clicked at a 22.1 percent rate, good for 12th.
As far as player production, they didn’t have a lot going for them last season, and it’s going to be the exact same group returning this year.