Knowing Thy Enemy: NY Islanders S.W.O.T. Analysis
As we continue to analyze where the Senators fit in relation to their playoff rivals, we can’t forget the Metropolitan Division and their host of wildcard suitors. Last year it was the Washington Capitals who grabbed the 2nd wildcard spot before going out in six games to the Florida Panthers.
Even if the Senators do finish fourth in the Atlantic as I predicted in my previous article, it doesn’t guarantee a wildcard position, so let’s see what the Metropolitan S.W.O.T. analysis looks like.
First, I need to identify my three horses who will take the divisional spots. Last year, it was Carolina followed by the New York Rangers and then the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Do I expect that to change?
I don’t see Carolina taking a dip. Their cap picture doesn’t look great at first glance. However, they will take $11,050.00 in Long Term Injury Reserve relief from Jake Gardiner and Max Pacioretty. While the insurance company picks up 80% of the tab, they will have some flexibility to make moves either during the season or at the deadline to bolster their lineup. They have a solid crease in Freddie Andersen and Antti Raanta. They have a legitimate top five defensemen led by Jacob Slavin and Brent Burns. Their forward group led by Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov is respectable and Rod Brind’Amour is a topflight coach. They are in it to win it mode.
The Rangers got stronger down the middle by adding Vincent Trocheck and subtracting Ryan Strome. They have a legitimate top four defense core in Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and K’Andre Miller. However, they got weaker in goal when Alexandar Georgiev was dealt to the Colorado Avalance to replace Darcy Kuemper. Jaroslav Halak is hard to pin your hopes on as a legit back up if anything happens to Vezina Trophy winner, Igor Shesterkin. The latter’s 93.5 save % was a huge part of the Rangers success in the regular season and the post season run might not have made it out of the first round if Sidney Crosby had not gotten hurt. I believe the Rangers overachieved last season and will need Shesterkin to be as good as he was last season for the Rangers to do what they did last season.
The Penguins have bolstered their lineup with the acquisition of Jeff Petry on the blueline and maintained their one/two punch by retaining Evgeni Malkin. They also made substantial investments in older players such as Bryan Rust and Rickard Rackell. That said, they have a very affordable crease in Tristan Jarry and Case DeSmith. I believe this team still has another regular season run in them and as long as Sidney Crosby is under contract, they are going for it. Over an 82-game schedule, I believe they overtake the Rangers this year.
However, I haven’t seen anything from the rest of the division to make me think that the top three teams will change.
The top of the Metropolitan Division should finish as follows:
New York Rangers
So, let’s evaluate the rest of the division and see if there are two teams who can best the Senators for the wildcard.
First up, is the Lou Lamoriello-led New York Islanders. There is no question as to who runs the show anywhere that Lamoriello goes and that’s him. He had a quiet offseason personnel wise with only one move meant to help the parent club. It was said there was an agreement in place with Nazem Kadri on a UFA deal pending clearing cap space. That never happened and it would seem the Islanders will start the season with largely the same roster they finished with last season.
Fired Head Coach Barry Trotz on May 9th after 4 seasons at the helm
Promoted Assistant Coach Lane Lambert to Head Coach May 11th
Acquired defenseman Alexander Romanov from Montreal and signed three-year contract
Remaining cap space: $2,360,037.00
Here is the Roster for the Islanders heading into training camp.
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Anders Lee Matthew Barzal Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier Brock Nelson Oliver Wahlstrom
Kieffer Bellows Jean-Gabriel Pageau Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise Casey Cizikas Cal Clutterbuck/Matt Martin
Left Defense Right Defense
Adam Pelech Noah Dobson
Alexander Romanov Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho/Robin Salo Scott Mayfield
Much like Bruce Cassidy, Barry Trotz found out that head coaching is a what have you done for me lately business. After his fourth season as head coach of the Islanders, three with playoff appearances and two conference finals, Trotz was fired for the first time in his 23-year NHL Head Coaching career.
Trotz's replacement, Lane Lambert, has been with him for the past four seasons and knows the team and its personnel. The transition should be a little smoother than normal.
Here is the S.W.O.T. analysis for the Islanders.
Perhaps it's overlooked because they're in the New York Rangers’ shadow in a big media market, but the Islanders have a decent seven player profile and a distributed scoring attack.
Barzal and Nelson make a solid #1-2 center combination. Anders Lee is a huge power forward who can score.
Sens fans know what JG Pageau brings to the table as a utility player, who can play up and down the lineup and kill penalties.
Cal Clutterbuck is a Chris Neil clone and a nightmare to play against.
They have Noah Dobson developing into an alpha dog defenseman. And at 22, Romanov could be that shutdown guy. Pelech, Pulock and Mayfield are all solid on defense.
Ilya Sorokin continues the tradition of outstanding Russian goaltenders who can carry the mail and as if that wasn’t enough, they have another Russian in Varlamov who is a solid NHL veteran.
So why did this team underperform last year? I hate to say it, but maybe they did need a new voice behind the bench.
There is no glaring weakness in their lineup with the noted exception of their average age which is highest in the league at 30. That said, this is likely skewed somewhat by the fact they have Zach Parise and that number may also be calculating Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene as part of the fold. The core of the team is still very young with only Lee (31) and Clutterbuck (33) over 30 in their seven-player profile.
With a little over $2 million in cap space, Lamoriello will have some flexibility to help his team at the deadline if needs be.
Prospects on the upswing like Oliver Wahlstrom (22) and Robin Salo (22) have a chance to take their games to the next level and have an impact. Both are expected to do so.
A new coach always brings a little uncertainty with him. The fact that Lambert has been with the team for the four years lessens that concern. However, it could lead to an adjustment period coming out of the gate.
Of course, he could also win the Jack Adams.
Lamoriello is one of the sharpest minds in the game and if he thinks Lambert is a better option than Barry Trotz then who am I to question him?
When I look at the Islanders roster, I see a bona fide threat to the Senators’ playoff aspirations. They could even bump the Rangers out of the top three in the division. They didn’t make a lot of moves in the off season to bolster their lineup, which shows me Lamoriello believes in this team. Had he landed Kadri, they could have threatened for the division.
The Romanov trade was a head scratcher for Habs fans and makes their defense core worth noting. Chara and Greene are out, with a combined age of 82. In comes Romanov and Salo with a combined age of 44. In a game that screams for mobility and skating, that’s an upgrade.
Look out Sens fans. The Islanders could be for real.
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey