Every week throughout the 2022-23 season, amNewYork sports editor and Islanders beat reporter Joe Pantorno will take questions from fans who want to know about hot topics regarding their favorite team.
It could range from roster moves to rumors, to jerseys, too.
The first week of the regular season has provided some promise as head coach Lane Lambert’s new system has yielded an offensive outburst that featured 12 goals in two games — granted they came against two of the worst teams in the league and at home.
A solid start is a solid start, regardless. Here’s what some of you had to ask this week.
Want to be featured in the next Islanders mailbag? Tweet your questions to @JoePantorno.
@jzeitlen asks: “How long does Zach Parise stay with Mathew Barzal?”
There probably isn’t a player that Lane Lambert and the Islanders trust more than Zach Parise. His versatility ensures he can play anywhere in the lineup — and we saw that on Tuesday night when he took shifts on the first line, third line, power play, and penalty kill. Both Barzal and Kyle Palmieri have expressed their comfort playing with him before the season and expressed a desire to get clicking on all cylinders this season, so you likely won’t hear many complaints from his linemates. And why should they? He’s the only one who has a goal out of the trio through the first three games of the season.
Lambert, however, isn’t shy when it comes to shaking up his lines and we saw that late in the second period on Tuesday when Parise was bumped down to the third line and Oliver Wahlstrom was sent to the second unit alongside Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. The results speak for themselves as Wahlstrom potted two to put the Islanders in the driver’s seat.
This could be a fluid situation all season.
@Orsch226 asks: Will Lou Lamoriello ever get some talent for Barzal to play with? Who will be available at the deadline (last year of contract) who they can target?
While the Islanders have been non-existent on the free-agent market, Lou Lamoriello has had a track record of being aggressive at the trade deadline to find upgrades when necessary. After all, he came away with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri at consecutive trade deadlines.
The new aggressive system that stresses the defense getting more involved in the attack has been deployed to support an offense that still has plenty to prove on the stat sheet, but if there’s little consistent production coming from the forward lines, it certainly will be a conversation — at least from all of us.
There are a few big names that immediately leap off the page as primetime acquisitions who are in the last year of their contract. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and Vladimir Tarasenko are the two obvious game-changers that are in the last year of their deals and have been linked to trade talks. Both have no-trade or no-movement clauses, though, meaning they’d have to want to come to the Islanders.
Timo Meier of the Sharks, who the Islanders just saw on Tuesday night, is another intriguing option on a bad team. He scored 35 goals with 41 assists last season.
@Fouhystan asks: Is this Lou Lamoriello’s last year?
No. Unless you know something that I don’t. When it comes to the inner workings of the Islanders, we don’t know anything.
It would be shocking to see co-owner Jon Ledecky step in and force a move, too. He’s often voiced his admiration for Lamoriello and fully trusts him to carry out all hockey operations. So, again, no.
@JimMuessig asks: How many games will Ilya Sorokin get this season?
It’s no secret that Sorokin will get a lion’s share of the starts in goal for the Islanders, but it will be a priority of Lambert to keep Varlamov fresh enough to ensure he keeps the best goaltending tandem in the NHL intact (not really sure if there’s a debate for a better goalie duo in the league).
Varlamov started off on a much better foot with his first win of the season on Tuesday night compared to last season, which was riddled with injury problems that led to his worst year on the Island. But if I were to forecast a split, I would say it’s similar to what we saw last year — a 2-to-1 split in favor of Sorokin. That means he would start around the 53-to-55 range while Varlamov would be somewhere between 27 to 29.
Those numbers obviously change depending on where the hot hand is.
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