If you had asked me a year ago if the Islanders should pursue Patrik Laine, I would have said no. I would have argued the best course of action for the Islanders would be to develop talent within their system and continue to build through the draft.
However, a lot has changed in the NHL and with the Islanders since last summer.
After the Islanders lost John Tavares in free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs, more agony seemed to be in sight for Islander fans. But, this was not the case. The team succeeded in spite of losing one of the top talents in the NHL. They put up 103 points, the most in team history since the 1983-84 season. They had a somewhat successful postseason, but in any sport having a moderately successful postseason does not cut it.
The question of whether the Islanders overachieved is irrelevant.
It does not matter.
The Islanders roster proved last season it has enough talent to be a playoff contender. The Metropolitan Division grew stronger this offseason with the Devils and Rangers massively improving, while the Flyers, Hurricanes and Capitals made move to seriously address their depth. However, the Islanders still have the pieces to at least be able to squeeze into the playoffs next season.
And that’s all they need. A fighting chance.
This past postseason killed the notion that a team with the best talent is needed to win the Stanley Cup. Having talent on your roster certainly helps, but the right players are required, not the most talented players.
This past postseason in the NHL, every number one seed lost in the opening round. Obviously that is pretty rare and probably not going to happen again next season.
Nevertheless, it indicates anybody can win in the postseason — the President Trophy winners or the eighth seed. Excluding this postseason, over the past four seasons, the teams with arguably the most exceptional talent on the roster ended up hoisting the Stanley Cup.
In 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks won. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and more premium players were on the roster.
In 2016 and 2017, the Penguins won with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and other stars.
In 2018, the Washington Capitals won with Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, Evgeni Kuznetsov, John Carlson, and other talented players. At least half the players named above are Hall of Famers and some of the best to ever play the game of hockey.
The Blues, on the other hand, demonstrated with their championship that the best players in the NHL are not needed to win. The St. Louis Blues did not have the best players in the NHL on their roster. Their roster was good, but there were more talented rosters in the NHL.
Even though anybody can win come playoff time, the Islanders need more offense to take that next step in the postseason. Unfortunately, they lack offensive talent in their roster. And that weakness was shown during the Carolina Hurricanes series where the blue and orange failed to win two winnable games in Brooklyn because they could not find the back of the net.
Concluding the 2018-19 season, the Islanders were 20th in the NHL for goals scored. Of the remaining 11 teams that finished with lower goals scored than the Islanders, only the Dallas Stars made the playoffs. Considering the fact that the Islanders finished fifth in the NHL standings this year with 103 points, that’s not great waters to be in. Imagine where they would be if they had better offense with the defense they currently have?
Now the Islanders have the opportunity to add a precious piece to their roster that would perhaps get them over the hump and maybe even turn them into a contender.
That opportunity is to offer sheet Patrik Laine. Laine does not make the Islanders the best team in the NHL. But his addition could give them the much-needed offensive boost they were missing last season.
Laine’s impact with the Islanders would be tremendous. Last year, Laine scored 30 goals in a down year, and in his three years in the NHL so far, he has not scored less than 30 goals in a season. Also, half of Laine’s goals last year came on power-plays. While others may see this as a downside, for the Islanders, how can it be a concern after last season? The Islanders power-play percentage was 14.54% and the NHL average was 19.78%. On top of that, the Islanders scored 33 goals on the power-play last season when the average was 47.
The Islanders desperately need Patrik Laine. Laine is the definition of a natural goalscorer. He’s the closest thing the league has seen to Alex Ovechkin since the Russian entered the league in 2004.
Laine’s numbers certainly can attest to that. He is only 21 years old and has 110 goals in 237 games. If Laine’s given a chance to play with Islanders rising star Mat Barzal, the two would most likely be unstoppable.
After missing out on Panarin, the Islanders have roughly $8.5 million in cap space. The Islanders’ management needs to find a way to make this work. A generational goal scorer like Laine does not come around often. With the Islanders’ need for improving their offense, it would be foolish not to try at least going after Laine.