Cole Bardreau didn’t light the league on fire during his stint with the New York Islanders earlier this season, but he did bring things to the table that head coach Barry Trotz really likes in his bottom-six – energy and grit. The 26-year-old Fairport, NY native has played nine games for the Islanders this year, tallying a goal and assist during that stretch. More importantly, he plugged in nicely to Trotz’s system, helping to wear down other teams. I’ve written about Bardreau as an option for Trotz to fill in the third-line center role before, but now more than ever, the Islanders need to find an answer, and it might be right under their nose.
First and foremost, calling up Bardreau allows Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello to concentrate on bringing in a scoring forward for the top-six. The real struggle leading up to the All-Star break has been finding the back of the net, and while Bardreau helps to balance the lineup (which I’ll get to later), the real concern right now is scoring.
Adding Bardreau also doesn’t cost anything, meaning those assets can be saved for other deals before the trade deadline or at the 2020 NHL Draft. So instead of trying to fill two forward spots, losing assets in the process, calling up a player you know has played well for your team and leveraging draft picks and/or prospects to fill a larger need seems like a no brainer.
Balancing the Lineup
In the absence of a trade altogether, the addition of Bardreau allows Trotz to balance the lines a bit better with what he currently has. Derick Brassard, who was brought in to play in that third-line center role, has played really well on the second line with a mix of Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Bailey. This also creates a stronger third-line, with options like Michael Dal Cole, Ross Johnston, Leo Komarov, and Bailey flanking Bardreau. He also could create some room on the ice for the likes of Dal Cole and Bailey and get them the puck, adding a goal or two every few games to take the pressure off of the top-six.
One of Bardreau’s best attributes is that he’s hungry and is the first one on the puck in the offensive zone almost every time. This Casey Cizikas type of game gives the Islanders possession and pressures opposing teams into making mistakes. Bardreau’s speed and tenacity led to his first NHL goal, which came via a penalty shot after he picked off an errant pass from an Ottawa Senators defender just outside their blueline.
Bardreau also helps make up for Cal Clutterbuck’s absence. The timetable for Clutterbuck’s return is still unknown and he’s left an enormous hole in the lineup, including on the penalty kill. While Clutterbuck and Bardreau don’t play exactly the same game, the latter’s insertion in the bottom six could offset what’s lost with Clutterbuck out.
It’s tough to imagine Lamoriello making a move for two forwards at the deadline, especially with the limited assets at his disposal, at least ones that he would be willing to give up. With Adam Pelech out at least the rest of the regular season, Lamoriello could also be looking to add a veteran defenseman to take the pressure off of Noah Dobson and the rest of the defense group. With that in mind, bringing up Bardreau to bring in energy, grit, and a defensive mindset could check a few boxes for Lamoriello and Trotz.