In recent years, players and coaches from the New York Islanders have won a couple of the NHL’s major individual awards at the end of the season. Mathew Barzal’s Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in 2017-18 was the first of the major awards (Calder, Hart, Adams, Norris, Vezina, and Selke) the Islanders had won since Michael Peca’s 2002 Selke Trophy. Barry Trotz won the Jack Adams as coach of the year the following season, but now the Islander fans are looking for that next trophy campaign to get behind. Here are a few options for major awards Islander players could be in the mix for this season.
Ilya Sorokin: Vezina Trophy
After Igor Shesterkin’s Vezina triumph last season, many have turned their eyes south to his fellow Russian Ilya Sorokin. This season, we have seen that Sorokin will get the majority of the starts for the team, giving him a better chance than the last Isles nominee, Robin Lehner, in 2019. According to FanDuel, Sorokin has the third shortest odds to win the award at plus-750, behind only Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Sorokin was top-four league-wide in goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts last season on a team that rarely gave him the offensive support needed to win games. This year under a new system, the Islanders are hoping to pair that top-end goaltending with more offensive firepower to end up in the playoffs, giving Sorokin a much better chance of winning the award.
This is the best opportunity for the Islanders to add another trophy to the case, not only this year, but for every season that Sorokin wears the orange and blue. If he is nominated, he would be the first nominee since Lehner and is looking to become the first winner since Billy Smith’s lone Vezina win in 1982.
Lane Lambert: Jack Adams Trophy
Lane Lambert was a part of two Jack Adams-winning staffs riding sidecar with Trotz in Washington and on the Island. Now, in his first season as the big boss, he is in a prime position to get one of his own. FanDuel has him eighth on the odds list, behind a mix of new and returning coaches. A three-way tie at the top with Gerard Gallant, Bruce Cassidy, and Jared Bednar leads the list at plus-1200, with Derek Lalonde, Paul Maurice, and others between the top and Lambert.
A new coach is always a solid choice to be the coach of the year, as has been the case in the past with Trotz in New York and Darryl Sutter in Calgary winning in his first full season last year. Lambert is looking to change the systems to get the most out of the roster that went to back-to-back Eastern Conference Final. If the team puts together a good regular season, competes for the division title, and makes the playoffs easily, Lambert will undoubtedly get votes.
With all awards, you have to look at the other candidates when weighing the chance for another one to win. If the Vegas Golden Knights make it back to the playoffs, Cassidy will receive consideration. His replacement in Boston, Jim Montgomery, will as well if they are able to weather the injuries early on. But Lambert has just as good a chance as anyone considering the team he has around him and the base level that last year gives voters to measure his impact against.
Noah Dobson: James Norris Memorial Trophy
Noah Dobson is the longest shot, by far, on this list. That is mostly because handicappers see this trophy as a runaway this year. Cale Makar is the odds-on favorite at plus-155, and second place is Victor Hedman almost 600 points behind at plus-750. Dobson is much further down the list, at plus-5000. At 22 years old, he’ll turn 23 in January, Dobson has emerged as the top point scorer on New York’s blue line. After a near-60-point campaign, he has two goals in two games so far in 2023.
Makar will in all likelihood win the award this year and for many years to come. Great defensemen like Charlie McAvoy and Miro Heiskanen wait their turn and are certainly ahead of Dobson in line for the recognition. But another great year of offensive production for the youngster could certainly go a long way for the future voting for the trophy.
The Norris has long been deemed a “lifetime achievement award.” Players who have been good for a long time will win the award in seasons where they maybe do not deserve it as much as another, younger player. Examples such as Drew Doughty’s win in 2015-16 despite Erik Karlsson putting up a point per game in Ottawa. Dobson has gotten off to a good start in this realm and should continue that this season.
With no prominent rookies on the opening-day roster, there are no Islanders listed on the Calder Trophy odds list. If either Aatu Raty or William DuFour comes up from Bridgeport and makes a massive impact early in the season, they could put themselves into the conversation. No one thought that Michael Bunting would be in contention at the beginning of last year but he ended up as one of the finalists. While this is a possibility, Matthew Beniers and Owen Power seem to be two stalwarts at the top of the list that will be tough to unseat.
While the chances at an individual trophy seem pretty slim, these awards are seen as the cherry on top of a great season. Like 2019, when the Islanders won the Adams and had a Vezina candidate, those honors were seen as a bonus to the great season they had. The Islanders hope to be a big player at the NHL Awards again this season.