Onto The Next: A Look Towards the Islanders 2024-25 Season

May 6, 2024
Posted in News
May 6, 2024 Ava Salti

The New York Islanders’ season ended on April 30th with a 6-3 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes. For the second straight year, the Hurricanes eliminated the Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this time in just five games. The Islanders would tell you – and so would Hurricanes Head Coach Ron Brind’amour – that each game was a coin flip.

To most of us, though, that does not matter – the results do. The Islanders did not get the results they needed to, and now we can only look forward to next season.

For a quick breakdown of the playoff series: the Islanders dominated most of Game 1 but could not crack ‘Canes goalie Freddy Andersen. They lost 3-1.

In Game 2, the Islanders went up 3-0 before packing it in and giving up five unanswered goals. The game-tying and game-winning goals occurred within nine seconds of each other – an absolutely devastating defeat.

In Game 3, Patrick Roy turned to Ilya Sorokin, hoping last year’s Vezina finalist could find his game when it matters most. Sorokin struggled mightily, giving up three goals he would want back before being pulled for Semyon Varlamov. The Islanders lost Game 3, 3-2, putting themselves down 3-0 in the series. The lone real bright spot came in Game 4 when the Islanders won the game in overtime on a Mat Barzal tip in.

In Game 5, the ‘Canes ambushed the Islanders early on and took a 3-1 lead into the second period. The Islanders showed real grit in that second period, battling back to tie the game up at three heading into the third period. Yet, five minutes into that third period, the Islanders gave up two goals within eight seconds of one another, the second of those two goals coming off a phantom bounce off a stanchion, right to Stefan Noesen to tap into an empty net. It was the second time in five games the Islanders gave up two goals within nine seconds or less.

In my opinion, this series perfectly summed up the insanity that was the Islanders 2023-24 season: blowing leads, battling back, inconsistencies, unfortunate luck, a struggling Sorokin, and having a knack for always being in games – just enough to keep fans sucked into the TV even though they’ve seen the same game 82 times. 

So, what’s next?

That’s a question that every fan has to be asking themselves, since this Islanders core seems to have had its time. Their Eastern Conference Finals runs in 2020 and 2021 deserved a better fate than just that: back-to-back ECF runs. Just one shorthanded goal prevented the 2021 Islanders from a Stanley Cup finals berth – but it’s three seasons later and this core hasn’t gotten nearly as close since.

Without Barry Trotz, it was hard to believe the Islanders system would truly complement their personnel. With Lane Lambert, that sentiment turned out to be true – the Islanders just had zero consistency and an awful system to boot. With that, Lou Lamoriello pulled out one of his finest tricks, firing Lambert and hiring Patrick Roy.

There’s a lot to look forward to because of Roy, as his demeanor – passionate, motivated, and all-about-winning rubbed off on the Islanders. He took over a team that was 19-15-11 and sixth in the Metropolitan Division and led them to a postseason berth and third in the metro. 

So when asked what’s next, I think the answer has to be about what Patrick Roy’s Islanders will look like. Our very own Stefen Rosner wrote that Lamoriello and Roy will be making decisions together. Lamoriello said, “We’ll talk about [potential changes]. We’ll talk about it together. We spend a lot of time together. We’ll come up with whatever is best, but we’re excited.”

“So when asked what’s next, I think the answer has to be about what Patrick Roy’s Islanders will look like. Our very own Stefen Rosner wrote that Lamoriello and Roy will be making decisions together.”

Roy will have plenty of say in who’s in and who’s out. He’s going to want guys that can play his system. A lot of fans will think that starts with speed, but there needs to be a noted difference between skating speed and thinking speed.

No matter how fast the Islanders team speed is, if they can’t think quickly to make quick decisions with the puck, skating speed won’t matter. A large sentiment is that “they need to get faster,” but in my opinion, they just need more guys that can make quicker decisions with the puck – most certainly in terms of breakouts and neutral zone transitions. What made Carolina’s defensive unit so good wasn’t their skating ability, it was their decision making. Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns aren’t the quickest guys but they know what to do with the puck before it’s even on their stick.

In past years, it was very easy (because of either Trotz or Lambert returning) to rule out major shifts in personnel or high-salary pieces moving out – like Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, Adam Pelech, and Ryan Pulock.

This year, though, all bets or off. Those guys weren’t signed when Roy was here and if money needs to be moved out in order for him to get his guys, people are going to be on the move. 

One guy who I don’t believe for a second will be moved (I don’t even think Lou will pick up the phone) is Ilya Sorokin. Even after a rough year, he’s still one of the five most talented goaltenders on the planet. He’ll use this summer to regain confidence in his fundamentals so his performances can match that talent. You don’t trade your franchise goaltender after one off year – I just can’t see it happening. And if anyone in the hockey world understands the importance of having a Vezina-caliber goalie on your team – it’s Islanders head coach Patrick Roy.

“With Patrick Roy becoming a part of the solution for the Islanders organization, one thing’s for certain – change is coming.

What are some of the names that we could see coming in? Well, the Islanders don’t have any room in their top six defenseman for anyone else – and assuming it’s a done deal that Mike Reilly will be back – it’s Reilly, Pelech, Pulock, Alex Romanov, Noah Dobson, and a healthy Scott Mayfield. Unless there’s a major trade (Jakob Chychrun comes to mind), most of the movement will be in the forward group.

Both Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin are UFA’s and it’s a fair assumption that even if they’re re-signed, they won’t be 82-game players. Hudson Fasching and Simon Holmstrom could get a shot at becoming everyday players, or youngsters like Ruslan Ishkakov, Matt Maggio, William Dufour or Alex Jeffries could get their shot. Kyle MacLean should be sharpied into a third-line or fourth-line role – he was excellent and it was as clear as day that Roy loves his game. 

It’s likely it’s the end of the road for Oliver Wahlstrom and the Islanders, who in an ideal world, would have become that first-line sniper that Mat Barzal still needs. Notice how I said “still needs,” because as great of a pairing as him and Bo Horvat are (they lived up to all the hype), it’s not a long term solution to have Casey Cizikas as their first line winger. 

Barzal and Horvat had a revolving door of linemates, and even Horvat expressed on exit day how he wished they could have found some stability – “It was a revolving door a little bit at times … I think adding somebody else would be great.” Some big names that come to mind: Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Trevor Zegras, Pavel Buchnevich, Mitch Marner and Jake Guentzel. 

So, what is actually a realistic option for some more talent in the forward department? We’ll never know what Lou is thinking, but in my opinion, the Winnipeg Jets look like the perfect trade partner for the Islanders. Both teams have had the same core for quite some time, both with little postseason success in recent years. 

A little bit of recent history – before the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes pulled the trigger on one of the purest “hockey trades” in recent memory. The Hurricanes traded Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to the Flames for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox. It’s six years later, so most of those players have since moved on, but not a single draft pick was involved.

That’s the kind of trade the Jets and Islanders could hook up on. I’m not GM for a reason, but I’d look at some iteration of Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock for Kyle Connor, Neal Pionk and Cole Perfetti. You can swap Nelson for Pageau and Connor for Ehlers, either way, some kind of core shakeup makes a lot of sense. 

Who knows what Lou will do, and the mystery is always the case with him. With Patrick Roy becoming a part of the solution for the Islanders organization, one thing’s for certain – change is coming. 

We’re all looking forward to an exciting offseason and we’ll always have you covered here at HNiNY.

Catch the latest episode of HNiNY

(Photo of Mayfield, Pelech, Lee, Engvall: Sammi Silber / THN)


Catch Hockey Night in New York with hosts Sean Cuthbert and Stefen Rosner live from Floored Media in Rockville Centre Sunday nights at 8PM ET throughout the season.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,