It’s been anything but a fruitful start to 2020 for the New York Islanders.
A flip of the calendar did little to mask the struggles that began to surface throughout December, as they dropped their first two games of January in lackluster fashion.
The trend of the Islanders playing down to their opponents continued on Jan. 2 — their only nationally televised game of the regular season — with a 2-1 loss to the last-place New Jersey Devils. They followed that up with a 3-0 stinker against former captain John Tavares and the Maple Leafs up in Toronto on Saturday night.
It was hardly the follow-up effort needed by Barry Trotz’s men, who learned just a day earlier that top-pairing defenseman Adam Pelech would miss the remainder of the regular season after suffering an Achilles injury.
His absence will force the Islanders to rely on the likes of 19-year-old Noah Dobson and 23-year-old Sebastian Aho to keep the blue line resolute for the remainder of the season. They’re stepping into a difficult situation seeing how New York’s league-leading defense has shown some signs of cracking over the last two weeks.
An even larger concern continues to be the offense and its lack of consistent production during Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello’s tenure these past two years.
One goal in their last two games and an average of two goals per night over their last six is only stressing the need for a scoring boost. It continues to become clear that the Islanders can’t keep up with some of the more offensively affluent sides in the league, which spells doom for any possible postseason run.
This is nothing new for the Islanders. Trotz admitted last year following their second-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes that they need “a little more pop up front.”
Lamoriello acquiring a goal scorer would help put the Islanders over the top as legitimate Eastern Conference contenders. He’ll have an opportunity to do so before the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline, but he’s yet to make a notable trade since joining the Islanders’ front office.
Whether it’s because he’s unwilling to part with young talent or not remains to be seen, but his lack of activity on the market continues to take its toll on an Islanders fan base starving for sustained success.
Among possible trade targets over the next six weeks is a pair of Florida Panthers forwards in Mike Hoffman (13 G, 16 A) and Evgenii Dadonov (17 G, 16 A) — both of whom are unrestricted free agents at season’s end.
Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (19 G, 11 A) has long been linked with the Islanders this season. His teammate, Anthony Duclair, picked a perfect time to become a restricted free agent next season as he was named to his first All-Star Game this season with 21 goals in 41 games.
With the Senators near the bottom of the Eastern Conference yet again, they could be open for business this winter to accrue future assets to build upon.
When it comes to internal options, the Islanders could always take a look at 21-year-old left-winger Kieffer Bellows, who has 12 goals and two assists in his last 15 games with the organization’s minor-league affiliate in Bridgeport.
New York is next in action on Monday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche at the Nassau Coliseum (7 p.m. ET, MSG+).