Just after three games of Islanders hockey this season, it is already apparent that the Islanders look like a new team. They not only have a new identity, they have a new system and new faces in leadership roles.
Last year, the Islanders finished with one of the worst penalty kill records in the NHL, which led to their downfall. So far this season, the Islanders are 8-8 on penalty kills. This is due to some new acquisitions such as Leo Komorov, Valtteri Filpulla, and Matt Martin who eat up a lot of penalty-kill time. Along with the new acquisitions, a new penalty-kill mindset came with it from Barry Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff.
Trotz naming Anders Lee the captain of the Islanders is very fitting and really emphasizes who the Islanders are as a team and helps establish their reputation around the NHL. There is a new identity to this rejuvenated group. Lee worked hard to where he is today. He went through the minor league system and worked his way up to the NHL where he established himself as a power forward with a big body that knows how to cause havoc in front of the net. He’s not the prettiest looking player but he works hard shift-in and shift-out. With the chip on the shoulder mentality, this group knows they aren’t the most talented, but they all want to buy into Trotz’ system and work hard every shift.
Lee was quoted saying the most important quality of a teammate is loyalty. That right there says a lot about Lee and how he wants to lead this team.
The next big aspect that I thought the Islanders were lacking last year was their intensity and physicality on the forecheck. This year with the line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck, the forecheck is alive once again. Their intensity is already showing its worth with Matt Martin scoring his first goal back as an Islander after a relentless forecheck which caused a turnover. An important forecheck is key to a good hockey team and if the Islanders want to be successful they have to do the little things right.
Usually after a bad defensive year, a team goes out and gets better/new defenseman. But not the Islanders! The Islanders have the same core, minus arguably their best defeseman from the last two seasons, Calvin de Haan, and Barry Trotz has to figure out how to make it worth with what he’s got. Trotz has a strict system that he wants to implement which takes the whole team to buy in on for it to work. Although it is going to take time for this system to work, there are times where you can tell it is making an impact.
In the first three games, the Islanders have allowed five goals, with four of them coming in one game. They shut-out the very offensively-gifted San Jose Sharks and only allowed one goal to the up-and-coming Carolina Hurricanes.
Overall, it is going to take time for the Trotz effect to truly take over, but so far his addition has been very prevalent in the Islanders play so far this season. For the first time in a while, there is a clean/fresh feeling to this franchise which offers a feeling of optimism for Islanders fans everywhere.