New York Islanders With Lots of Decisions as Calendar Flips to 2020

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New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov
New York Islanders Goalie Semyon Varlamov signed as a free agent with the Islanders in the off season and is a big part of why they have a 25-12-3 record. (Photo NHL.com)

Those following the New York Islanders shouldn’t ignore the franchise’s recent shout out to its glorious past as an indicator of its current fortunes.

The Isles will raise Butch Goring‘s and John Tonelli‘s numbers to the rafters as Tonelli will have his number 27 retired on Feb. 21 and Goring will have his number 91 retired on Feb. 29.

These events highlight again the glory years of the early 1980s where New York won four straight Stanley Cups. John Tonelli said that current captain Anders Lee was a great leader, reminding us of the way Bryan Trottier led the 1980s teams.

Islanders Front Office Has Championship Background

When Barry Trotz left the Cup-winning Washington Capitals and Lou Lamoriello was hired as President of Hockey Operations, many saw the parallels of how things unfolded in the 1970s as Bill Torrey and Al Arbour set about building the team.

With great hockey pedigree from both men, the Islanders are in their second year of Trotz’s and Lamoriello’s tenure with a 25-12-3 record.

Barzal Is the Next Leader

Up front they are led by Mathew Barzal, who has continued to show why he won the Calder Trophy a couple of years back. He centers the Islanders’ top line with captain Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. Hockey fans should know Eberle’s background given his time with the Edmonton Oilers.

New York lacks scoring depth beyond their first line. The Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils are sellers of talent but they have limited assets. Taylor Hall is now in Phoenix. The Devils also wouldn’t have traded him within their own division. Derick Brassard came in this offseason but has not proved to be enough help.

Options For The Islanders Up Front

The Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings are all potential sellers with the Nashville Predators as the best fit. They could be on the decline and potentially miss the playoffs this season.

The Predators’ Ryan Johansen is a dream as is Filip Forsberg. He is that type of player that, along with Barzal, can take the team to the next level. The cost for those two players may be too great for Lamoriello.

Do Any Prospects Provide Hope?

There are prospects like Noah Dobson, who has seen limited time as the seventh defenseman. He could be a chip in a trade or help shore up the blueline. They have Thomas Hickey playing this season in the AHL who could also come up to the big club or be traded.

Former first-round pick Oliver Wahlstrom played with Team U.S.A. in the World Juniors. He has the potential to be a legitimate sniper in the NHL, and the Islanders need that secondary scoring. Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle would also help the Islanders a lot as they head down the stretch.

Varlamov and Greiss Take Care Of Things In The Crease

Robin Lehner went to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Islanders picked up Semyon Varlamov to replace him. He is playing in tandem with Thomas Greiss. He has the pedigree of an experienced NHL goaltender who had success with the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals.

Greiss has a 2.58 goals against average (GAA) and a .919 save percentage (SV%). Varlamov is 14-5-3 with a 2.40 GAA and a .920 SV% – his best combined numbers since the 2013-15 stretch.

In the new year, the Islanders will have some key divisional games before they face the Rangers three times in a stretch of eight days. They are on the cusp of becoming a great team but have to decide if they will let their prospects mature and enter the lineup or go into win-now mode.


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