The New York Islanders’ offense has been awful to start this season and there’s no way around it. In the first six games, the team has been shut out twice and has scored only 1.5 goals per game. With the defense playing great and goaltender Semyon Varlamov having an excellent start to the season, the offensive woes can become the Achilles heel for a team that was expected to finish with one of the best records in the East Division. Here are some of the skaters that hopefully can find a rhythm in the upcoming games and boost the scoring.
Josh Bailey was one of the Islanders’ best offensive players last season, scoring 14 goals while adding 29 assists to the offense (only Mathew Barzal had more assists with 41). This season has been disappointing, to say the least, for one of the best scorers on the team as Bailey is scoreless through the first six games and only has one assist so far.
As a staple on the second line, the expectation is to create scoring opportunities with the help of the skillful Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier when he returns to the lineup. If the struggles continue, we might see head coach Barry Trotz move Bailey to the third line and start a younger forward in his place, whether it be the 20-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom or 22-year-old Kieffer Bellows.
Casey Cizikas was slated to be the third-line center and provide the Islanders with scoring depth, but since the start of the season, Trotz has been forced to move him to the fourth line. After the two best seasons of his career, where Cizikas scored 20 goals in the 2018-19 season and 10 goals in the 2019-20 season, the expectation was to still see late line production from the 29-year-old center. Unfortunately, the Islanders have yet to see a point from the former Selke Trophy winner and if the drought continues, the offense will continue to remain among the worst in the NHL.
It might seem odd to blame Jordan Eberle for the Islanders’ offensive struggles considering he is only one of four players to have two goals or more this season and is second on the team in points with four. However, it’s easy to forget that both of those goals came in the 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils and we haven’t seen much offensive production, if at all, other than that game.
Eberle is known as being one of the top scorers for the Islanders and is able to crash the net with a killer instinct for goals. In his 11-year career, he has scored 16 goals or more in every season and has proven to be a great fit on the top line for the Islanders. The 30-year-old scorer needs to help create and execute scoring opportunities on the top line with Barzal and Anders Lee as he has done for the past three seasons, or we might see a shakeup in the lines.
What Changes Can be Expected if the Islanders’ Scorers Still Struggle?
It might not be long before we see changes in the starting lines and overall forward combinations. We already have seen Cizikas move to the fourth line and it wouldn’t surprise us to see Jean-Gabriel Pageau potentially move to the second line to play center along with Nelson or Bailey. The Islanders don’t have to worry considering they are 3-3 on the season thus far but if the losses start to accumulate, then there should rightfully be a serious concern.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November but has been a journalist for multiple blogs since the end of the 2019-2020 NHL season. While not following any specific team, Mike covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers, a team that has turned themselves into legitimate cup contenders with Barry Trotz as the head coach.