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The Islanders avoid the sweep, but are knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. What can the team do to get over the hump?

I want to start this blog off by saying, nobody expected the Islanders to do much, but at least they made it to the playoffs. I hate that saying, because let's be honest. New York canned their head coach Lane Lambert in the middle of January, while they were sitting 6th in Metropolitan Division. Then comes Patrick Roy, who is a certified stud and Hall of Fame Goalie, but a man that hasn't coached since 2016.

The team couldn't buy a win, and by the end of the season, concluded with 16 overtime losses, which was the most in the entire league. On March 28th, the Islanders had a mere sub-five percent chance of making the playoffs, but wielded themselves to an 8-0-1 record in April. They arguably were the hottest team in the sport, and they were ready to make a splash.

Unfortunately, their foe on the other side of the ice was Carolina, who has for a lack of better terms, owned them in recent history. The Islanders left it all out there, kept games close, but they ultimately succumbed after tonight's 6-3 loss.

Roy helped turned the team around, and clearly there is talent on the roster, but how do they get over the hump? In the last six seasons, they've made the playoffs five times, and collected two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, but we haven't seen anything to propel this team to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, besides sheer luck and gritty play.

On paper, the pieces are there. You have a very nice trio of centers in Barzal, Horvart, and Nelson. Noah Dobson in an excellent defensemen, Engavall and Lee hold it down on the wings, and the depth of Pageau and Palmieri are serviceable. Not to mention, the tandem at goal with Sorokin and Varlamov. So clearly, a rebuild isn't necessary, but a retooling is needed.

Looking at the unrestricted free agents, a pair of blue-liners in Mike Rielly and Robert Bortuzzo could earn another year with New York, but also could depart. But you also have two veterans who have been cores of this team for over a decade. Matt Martin, who just finished his 13th season with the Islanders, and Cal Clutterbuck, who just completed his 11th, are two guys that I sadly think their time on the Island is finished. The roster needs to be younger. In the middle of that, there is Sebastian Aho, who just finished out his fifth campaign with the the team. He recorded a mere nine points this past season, and easily could let him walk if they see fit.

On the restricted side, you have Oliver Wahlstrom, Simon Holmström, Ruslan Iskhakov, Kyle MacLean. Not sure where the team stands, but the 22 year old Simon Holmström, is and can be valuable to this team He is young, a great depth piece, and showed some potential after scoring 15 goals during his second NHL season.

The question is, do the Islanders shore up this current depth, or gain some financial flexibility and seek new talent? I think it's a combination of both. Speaking of financial capabilities their situation isn't a total mess, but it's something to keep an eye on this offseason.

When it comes to the draft, they have five picks (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th rounders), and have very minimal prospects currently that are "worth while". They need to land this first round pick, and aim for some NHL ready talent. Maybe guys like Michael Hage (Chicago - USHL), Dean Letourneau (St. Andrews College) or Sacha Boisvert (Muskegon-USHL)?

Again, on paper and statistically, the Islanders are a very good team. They have their top two forward lines, top two defense pairings and top two goaltenders locked in through next season. This team will need some depth, and honestly, they need to make a splash on offense. They should target the guy who just knocked them out of the playoffs.  Jake Guentzel, is a high-scoring wing who has helped boost top line productions in prior roles. Teuvo Teravainen and Tyler Toffoli are both proven goal scorers, and would immediately improve the offense, but they could also eye guys like Tyler Bertuzzi and Jake DeBrusk.

Ultimately, changes are going to happen, and they need to happen. Lou Lamoriello can't sit there and silently make moves, or this fanbase is going to erupt and the team is going to crumble slowly.


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