What Should Lou Do?

February 27, 2024
Posted in News
February 27, 2024 Ava Salti

As of February 27th, the New York Islanders sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. Their 24-20-14 record is good for 62 points, now seven points behind the third place Philadelphia Flyers, with the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils in between them. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have 62 points with multiple games in hand. With an exciting win over a talented Dallas Stars team – they’re first in the Central Division and fifth in the entire NHL – the Islanders could quickly put a winning streak together and be in a playoff spot.

On the flip side of that, the Islanders could just as easily fail to pick up points and find themselves slipping further away from the third place spot in the Metro. They close out February on Thursday in Detroit, then begin March by hosting the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. The trade deadline on March 8th falls in the midst of their California road trip. Their strength of schedule with 24 games left sits right in the middle of the league at 16th, so it is a coin flip for how their results could unfold.  And per usual, no one has any idea what Lou will do. 

If one were to look solely at statistics, the Islanders would not be a team to put much faith into. They are 26th in the entire league in wins (24), and the only teams worse than them in that category are rebuilding teams (Arizona, Montreal, Anaheim, Columbus, Chicago and San Jose).

They have the worst penalty kill in the NHL at 71.0%, even though their power play has drastically improved from last season. They are 31st in Shots Allowed per Game, 24th in Goals Allowed per Game, which shows that even though superstar goalie Ilya Sorokin is having an off-year, he is still somehow keeping them afloat. No goalie has faced more shots this season than Sorokin. 

If Lou were to look at all of those bleak signs, there are a few options he would have that could help the Islanders going forward. He could do nothing at the deadline and hold onto the Islanders first round pick – it would be their first top round selection since 2019. Looking at the Islanders weak prospect pool, many have it ranked worst in the league, he could try and trade some talent for futures.

Many on Isles Twitter have discussed the idea of trading Brock Nelson, the team’s leading goal scorer who is on a team-friendly deal ($6 Million AAV with one year remaining). Nelson would leave a hole in the roster, but his current worth could not be higher. If the right deal comes across, it could be worth the consideration. Among the underperforming Islanders with a higher AAV (Anders Lee, JG Pageau, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Pierre Engvall), very few look to be tradeable. All in all, it is still extremely hard to believe that Lou will sell this deadline. 

Lou has typically shown to keep faith in his rosters, and with Patrick Roy at the helm, it would be a fair assumption to think Lou is going to talk to the media on March 8th at 3 p.m. and say that he “believes in this group.” If that’s the case, some stats would show it is the right decision on Lou’s part.

Mat Barzal has taken a massive step forward this year, going from good to elite alongside Bo Horvat. His dominant overtime shift against the Stars on Monday night showed off every part of his excellence: the speed, puck pursuit, takeaway, edgework, and vision to find Horvat for the winner.

Horvat has been the perfect 1C, providing Barzal with a shoot-first linemate that’s incredibly smart on both sides of the puck. Both have hit the 50-point mark already, with Barzal at 61 P in 57 GP and Horvat at 50 P in 57 GP.  Even with Barzal and Horvat’s potent offense, the Islanders offensive explosion starts with Noah Dobson, who finds himself in the Norris conversation with a quarter of the season remaining.

Dobson is third in points by a defenseman, sitting only behind Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar, and he’s fifth in TOI at just over 25 and a half minutes a night. The only players with more assists than Dobson this year (53) are Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon and Quinn Hughes. That is pretty good company. With 60 points in 58 games, Dobson has become a force to be reckoned with at the Islanders blue line.

“Lou has typically shown to keep faith in his rosters, and with Patrick Roy at the helm, it would be a fair assumption to think Lou is going to talk to the media on March 8th at 3 p.m. and say that he “believes in this group.”

A lot of the Islanders bottom six has underperformed this year, and their second line hasn’t been nearly as effective as it was after Engvall joined Nelson and Kyle Palmieri last year. Lou may very well be looking at his group as a team that had the wrong voice behind it, and as Patrick Roy continues to mesh with the Islanders core, some players may find their groove again. It is hard to believe that Lou would sell off this deadline, without giving Patrick Roy a full playoff push and looking beyond that, without giving him a proper off-season and training camp at full potential. 

Lou could very well buy this deadline, and a name that makes all too much sense is Jordan Eberle. Eberle was selected by the Seattle Kraken in their expansion draft and is in the final year of his contract. Without an extension in place, the Kraken could look to move him, and fans know that Lou likes his guys (Engvall, Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Matt Martin). Eberle could slot in alongside Horvat and Barzal, who he had excellent chemistry with in the past.

Lou also has history with Adam Henrique, who will be one of the more popular trade deadline targets for contenders. According to different reports, Henrique could end up netting a first round pick, so it is hard to believe Lou would be willing to engage in that. Another familiar face that could be brought in as a rental for cheap is Anthony Beauvillier, who has struggled mightily since his departure from the Islanders last season.

Beauvillier could provide a similar role to that of Zach Parise last year – a relentless puck hound that can score timely goals. As the Islanders defense continues to get healthy, it’s hard to imagine Lou making a big move on that end – especially with the worthwhile waiver addition of Mike Reilly. Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Dobson, Alexander Romanov, Reilly, Scott Mayfield, Sebastian Aho, Sam Bolduc and Robert Bortuzzo as a defensive unit has a lot of depth and talent. Some bigger names – Trevor Zegras, Elias Pettersson, Jakob Chychrun – are more of an offseason discussion. 

Will Lou sell high on Brock Nelson? Will Lou hold onto a first-round pick for the first time in four years? Will he add a familiar face (rentals Jordan Eberle or Anthony Beauvillier) back into the mix for a mid-round pick? It is hard to know or get any indication of Lou’s plans until after they unfold, so fans will just have to wait and see. 

Looking forward to an exciting finish to the season. We’ll always have you covered here at HNiNY, so make sure to subscribe on Twitch, Youtube, and your preferred podcast providers so you don’t miss a show. Make sure to follow @hockeynightny on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok for even more Islanders content. HNiNY has weekly episodes every Sunday at 8pm.

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(Photo of Nelson, Engvall: Sammi Silber / THN)


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