New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz isn’t too concerned about the lack of an added scoring punch this offseason.
While teams around the division and league alike scooped up the top available scoring talent — which could have worked wonders for an Islanders team who had trouble finding the net, especially on the power play — the message for the team who made the Eastern Conference Final just three months ago remains the same: Defense.
“I’m not really concerned about the goals,” Trotz said on Monday afternoon when asked about the potential inclusion of top prospect, Oliver Wahlstrom, in the starting lineup. “I’m more concerned about the wins. As you find in the playoffs, it’s harder to score goals… if you look at the teams that went to the final four last year, they were probably in the top five of defensive teams.
“Not really concerned about that, I’m more concerned about keeping the goals out. It’s about winning, not about ‘did we score four or five goals.”
The Islanders opened up the on-ice portion of their training camp on Monday morning as veterans and roster-hopefuls alike laced up their skates to begin an abbreviated, hurried acclimation period before the regular season begins on Jan. 14 at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
That will be the first time they play a competitive game since bowing out of the conference final in September seeing as there are no exhibition games ahead of the abbreviated 56-game season.
And they’re starting at the basics.
“We’re going to go three days working on fundamentals, I wouldn’t read too much into the lines right now,” Trotz admitted. “You have to have a really good foundation right now. There isn’t going to be a lot of practice time… you’re probably going to have four or five games in a week [during the season]. Rest is going to be a bit of a weapon this year.”
“Today was more about our lungs and our legs than it was about making plays,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “Right now, we’re all genuinely looking forward to getting things going again. When you have a run like [last season’s], it’s always disappointing to have it end. The step we took was also inspiring in a way, too, and extremely motivational. It’s a combination of us working toward that final step and at the same time, building off the end of last year.”
The difficult task of getting up and running for the regular season so quickly has been made easier by the quick turnaround experienced when the NHL returned to play in July after a four-month hiatus, dropping the Islanders and others into the postseason.
“Before the bubble… as a group, we did a phenomenal job of preparing ourselves. We came into that camp in pretty good shape,” Lee said. “Barry puts his touch on it… but that kind of mentality definitely carried over to this one. Right away, we knew it was a 10-day camp and we were playing games in 13 days. There’s no time to break your body in so you had to come into this camp ready to go.”
Trotz was more than happy with what he saw from his player on the ice on Day 1.
“This group is very professional,” he said. “They’ve gotten themselves ready. They’ve pushed themselves… Their conditioning is spot-on.
“Tremendous credit to all our guys… I feel like we’re going to be in a good place.”