BUFFALO, NY –– While New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson had been leading the slump department, forward Mathew Barzal has looked anything like himself since returning from a minor injury.
While Barzal has struggled to produce, the Islanders have been outscored 1-3 when no. 13’s skates have hit the ice.
Islanders head coach Lane Lambert has used six different lineups around him, four different lineup combinations since he returned from that lower-body injury that kept him out of a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Jan. 6.
#Isles Mat Barzal has played on 4 different lines over the last six games with a total of 6 different linemates.
12 different line combos in 2022-23 (10 min TOI) @MoneyPuckdotcom
— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) January 20, 2023
Barzal’s linemates haven’t helped, and one can tell that his frustration level is rising with the lack of individual and team results. Speaking with him postgame after the 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, he was oozing with frustration, with the Islanders power-play struggles (currently 3-for-52 on latest slide), which he’s on the top unit, weighing on him as well.
It’s not just Barzal who’s frustrated as Lambert, along with Matt Martin and Brock Nelson, speaking on it following Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
“Have we gotten the results we’ve wanted lately? No. Are we as far back in the standings as we possibly could be? No either,” Matt Martin said. “So we’re still very much in the mix. But we definitely got to get going here and start stringing some wins together.”
Barzal needs more talent, so where is general manager Lou Lamoriello?
After standing pat at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, Lamoriello has made one acquisition, and that was bringing in 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov at the 2022 NHL Draft for the 13th overall pick. Romanov has struggled a bit defensively as he learns the system, but has tremendous upside.
With the losses of Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene, the Islanders did need a defenseman. But the need for offense has been there for quite some time and should have been the top priority. And albeit Lamoriello was active per sources in bringing in J.T. Miller and then Nazem Kadri when that didn’t pan out.
Since taking over in 2018, Lamoriello has brought in talent.
He brought in Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the 2022 NHL Deadline, a want for many teams. He went and got Kyle Palmieri (and Travis Zajac) right before the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, one of the top forwards available.
Pageau has been a key piece to the Islanders success, while Palmieri after a strong playoff performance in 2021, has dealt with injuries the last two seasons. He has missed the last 16 games, and 26 of the last 27.
Oliver Wahlstrom hasn’t developed into the scorer the Islanders need as he is out indefinitely after sustaining a lower-body injury back on Dec. 27.
The Islanders have scored 2.96 goals per game, the 24th-fewest per game in the NHL.
Barzal may not be scoring goals at the rate the Islanders would have hoped, with none through the team’s first 18 games, but has 11 through 46 games with 30 assists for 41 points.
Clearly, the talent around him is not enough, and the inconsistent linemates have disallowed the creation of much chemistry.
With the Islanders teetering around a wild-card spot, Lamoriello is playing with borrowed time and needs to bring in a player if this group is going to do anything in the playoffs–if they get there.
Mathew Barzal, who signed an eight-year extension before the start of the season for $9.15 million annually, has committed to his future on the island. It’s time for Lamoriello to give Barzal a piece to play with, or the next eight years will be exactly like the present, with him not living up to his true potential.