The Islanders are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now and tomorrow expect to get Josh Bailey back from injury as they go for their 5th straight win against the Panthers. Around Thanksgiving, they are expecting to get Michael Grabner back as well who has yet to suit up this year after undergoing groin surgery early last month. With these two returning, the Islanders will need to make changes to both their lineup and roster as they work both of them back in. The question is though, who stays and who goes? Today we will look at some potential candidates who could have their playing time cut or simply be sent down and ending with my thoughts on what they will do.
Since arriving on Long Island in the 2010/2011 season Martin has become a fan favorite for his rugged style and willingness to defend his teammates. However, over that time the Islanders have become a better team and Martins flaws have become more and more evident. While he still adds the physical component to the lineup, much of what he does is replicated by Cal Clutterbuck. He often seems a step behind in the Islanders fast paced system and doesn’t seem like he fits in the lineup on a permanent basis anymore.
Conacher was this years feel good story coming out of training camp. Having started the season on the left-wing spot on the Tavares Okposo line, the coaching staff was attempting to rekindle the spark Conacher had as a rookie playing with Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis while with the Lightning. Unfortunately, that was unsuccessful and ultimately resulted in Conacher being a healthy scratch for a couple of games last week before being put back in the lineup the other night with Eric Boulton dealing with an injury.
While Martin and Conacher have their flaws, they are able to take a regular shift in the lineup and not handicap the teams ability to roll 4 lines because of their presence. The same can’t be said for Eric Boulton though. When Boulton is in the lineup, certain players are going to have to get extra ice time because of the limited minutes Boulton receives. While I am a proponent of a physical brand of hockey more than the average person it can’t be denied that players like Boulton don’t have a place in the NHL anymore. While he might be a great guy in the room and such, this is about icing the best roster and in this current NHL that doesn’t include Boulton.
While I think this would be the wrong move, Anders Lee along with Ryan Strome are the only Islander forwards that don’t need waivers. Lee has been a presence since he was called up late last month when the team sent down Colin McDonald. While his stats aren’t really reflective of that, it can’t be denied if you watch the games. He has absolutely earned the right to continue to be in the lineup and it would be a pretty big mistake if the Islanders disagree and decide to take the easy way out and send him down.
While it will be tough for the Islanders to make this decision, it is pretty easy for me. With the Islanders needing to clear two spots, the obvious first move is waiving Eric Boulton. Like I said above, his type of player doesn’t really exist in the NHL anymore so I suspect that he would sail through waivers pretty easy and could end up being a good teacher for guys down in Bridgeport. The second option is a little more challenging but for me I would probably waive Cory Conacher and give Matt Martin Boultons role of dressing against more physical teams. While it would’ve been nice to see Conacher be successful, it is pretty obvious after his showing this season that it won’t be here so I think it is the correct move.