Our inaugural Islanders mailbag comes at the perfect time with social media ablaze filled with sentiments that the sky is falling around this team.
Isn’t this what social media was created for, after all?
Before the Islanders take the ice against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, we took some questions from our readers about the state of a last-place team that has won just two of its last 15 games:
@Bums_Of_NY: Do you think it’s wise to tank and regroup next season? Ideally, they could nab a top prospect and get themselves another shot at the cup by shedding the fat of the roster.
I don’t think the word “tank” exists in the vocabulary of either Barry Trotz or Lou Lamoriello. You’re going to see this team emit hope of playoff contention well into January before the tune (possibly) changes. Everyone around hockey knew the Islanders’ Stanley Cup window was small just based on the collective age of the roster, so that wouldn’t sit well with many people within the organization — especially those in the locker room.
@Orsch226: Can we ride Sorokin hard the rest of the way? He can steal games, better than Varlamov.
It certainly would make sense to give Ilya Sorokin the lion’s share of the starts for the immediate future. Trotz himself admitted that he would play three games out of four compared to the normal “two and two” that would exist when a healthy, performing platoon is meeting expectations. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the formula for the rest of the season; at least without trying. Trotz will do almost anything he can to get Varlamov back on track because if Sorokin experiences a lull, things might somehow get even worse for the Islanders.
@unflinching: I’m not ready to write the season off… close, but not yet. I’d have to think Lou is monitoring our recently drafted players and might jump on the opportunity to start the state-side move on these players? Räty, Iskhakov, etc.
During the offseason, this could certainly be the case. I don’t see that happening during the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign, though. Räty impressed during training camp and is going to get a longer look next summer, but he won’t turn 20 until November 2022. It would be quite a change of mantra by both Trotz and Lamoriello to immediately deliver big minutes to such a young player if it isn’t out of absolute necessity.
@islesdave: I wonder if the two deep runs in conjunction with the two short offseasons have anything to do with what’s gone on. It was obvious Pageau wasn’t 100%; as is Martin. Did they not have enough time to heal up? When does Lou admit the Chara signing was a mistake?
First thing is first: You’ll never hear anyone from the Islanders admit signing Chara was a mistake. That will only happen if he’s benched for a few games — and that slim possibility could grow ever-so-slightly once Ryan Pulock returns from injury (but it seems like a very slim chance).
As for the theory that two deep playoff runs have hurt the team, it’s a valid concern. However, the best teams in hockey do this annually and it shouldn’t be an excuse as to why the Islanders are struggling as much as they are. Every team goes through this with lingering injuries. They just have to get through it. Simple as that.
@ElGatoMasNegro1: Wouldn’t Josh Baileys Hockey IQ be better served by analyzing games from the press box, what does Trotz see in him?
The Josh Bailey opposers are out in full force and they have every right to be this season. Bailey has been a liability more often than not — especially on the offensive end where the team is sputtering the most.
It would be unprecedented to see some sort of discipline assessed to a veteran player, especially one of Bailey’s status and stature in the locker room. In the seven games since his return from COVID, he has three assists and a +3 rating, but just seven shots.
Questions? Find amNewYork sports editor Joe Pantorno on Twitter: @JoePantorno