It’s going from bad to worse for the New York Islanders.
Barry Trotz’s men dropped their sixth-straight game on Saturday afternoon to the Carolina Hurricanes in a 3-2 overtime loss that was headlined by a controversial high stick by Andrei Svechnikov that lead to Vincent Trochek’s game-winning goal.
The Islanders’ offensive woes continued to dominate their struggles as they were held to under three goals for the fourth time in the last five games.
Remarkably enough, the Islanders are still in a playoff spot despite their lengthy run of mediocre play.
Since their franchise-record 17-game point streak was snapped on Nov. 25, the Islanders are 19-20-7.
So who is to blame for all this?
That’s a convoluted question with an abundance of moving parts.
Naturally, the first person that usually gets the blame is the head coach. When teams struggle as badly as the Islanders have been, shouts grow for a change behind the bench.
That, of course, isn’t nearly the case on Long Island as Trotz is the man responsible for leading the Islanders from bottom-dwellers to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.
He also had the Islanders firing on all cylinders to start the season behind a 16-3-1 record through their first 20 games.
But as the poor results have piled up, Trotz has been unable to find the right combination that could throttle the team back on track.
Part of it has to do with some key injuries.
Top defenseman Adam Pelech’s season ended when he suffered a freak lower-body injury in January. It was the biggest blow for a team that has also been without their fourth-line center Casey Cizikas — who is the engine of the team’s identity line — Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk. All of whom were cut by skates.
Their absences have tested the Islanders’ lack of organizational depth, which has been exposed in recent months. But it’s just a smaller part of the overarching fact that the team lacks the frontline talent to be a legitimate contender.
The lack of consistent and stellar goaltending compared to last year is only exposing the fact that the Islanders need capable goal scorers to take the next step.
Too often this season has the likes of key contributors ranging from Mathew Barzal to Jordan Eberle, to Anders Lee, to Josh Bailey, to Anthony Beauvillier disappeared over long stretches.
This is where the eyes turn to the general manager.
Lou Lamoriello finally came through at the trade deadline by bringing in JG Pageau from the Ottawa Senators. The move provided the Islanders with a true third-line center that bolsters the team down the middle.
But he’s been unable to supply Trotz and the Islanders with that true first-line sniper that would revolutionize the team’s attack.
One can’t fault him for losing out on Artemi Panarin. After all, he offered more money only for the winger to pick the Rangers. However, he missed out on the likes of Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Mike Hoffman over the last year or so.
Taylor Hall is expected to be the next big-name target on the free-agent market this offseason, but with the Islanders not sneaking up on anyone anymore — at least for the time being — would that be enough?
That’s a question too far away for the time being. For now, there are 15 games left for the Islanders to save their season.