The puck has dropped and the 2016-17 New York Islanders season has begun.
After many have questioned the Islanders’ front office for their opening roster decisions, the youth movement has started whether the fans like it or not.
With new additions and young guys making their professional debut, it is going to take a while for this team to click.
In the season opener against rival New York Rangers, the Isles did not come alive until the third period. Trailing 2-0 on the road at Madison Square Garden, Nick Leddy and Cal Clutterbuck scored to tie game at two. Soon after, the Isles fell flat again giving up three straight Rangers goals. Isles Brock Nelson was able to muster up a goal, but the Isles ultimately fell 5-3.
To be fair, any team has its rust at the start of the season.
Some may call the 1-3 start disappointing, but with all of the new additions, chemistry just might take some time. It took almost seven years for the old Isles core to mesh, through all of the low times and seasons and become a legitimate playoff contender.
It was a shock when the Isles placed forward P.A. Parenteau on waivers on Oct. 10 right before the Opening Night rosters were announced and the New Jersey Devils claimed him the following day. It is too early to say whether or not this surprise move will come back to bite the Isles. The team was hoping that Parenteau would complement captain John Tavares on the right wing. Signing a guy to a one-year contract is not much of a risk. But after youngster forwards Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier performed well in training camp, the roster spots were rightfully claimed.
The coaching staff decided to give both 19-year-olds a shot with the big club straight out of the OHL. Beauvillier has played in three of the four games so far this season, tallied an assist in the season opener, and scored his first career NHL goal in the team’s most recent game against the San Jose Sharks. Barzal has only cracked the lineup once in four games this season.
This idea and new strategy the management has put in play can only work if they give the kids a chance and give them the ice time they need. They are inexperienced in an entirely different and faster league, and will need to make mistakes in order to grow. This is the only way they are going to blossom into skilled professionals at this level. Both kids have potential to be great and talented assets to this team. General manager Garth Snow has placed the success of this team in the hands of the younger players. The installation of this “youth movement” can spark fire into the rest of the team, proving that only moves to improve the team will occur. Maybe this will be the year that prospects will finally stick and make a consistent impact, compared to the last couple of years of mediocrity from that end.
Tavares, who only has two points in four games needs to step up and show why he is the leader of this team. He is the one guy on this team that should always be a lock to contribute, regardless of who else is playing alongside him. Rightfully so, he needs to adjust to playing with new line mate and 2016 addition Andrew Ladd. Even individual line chemistry takes time to develop.
For the newly-formed fourth line of Casey Cizikas, Clutterbuck and Nikolay Kulemin this could be said one in the same. Cizikas is currently playing injured, after blocking a shot, and this line’s physicality of the past will take a while to ramp up again from Clutterbuck and Cizikas who have played together last year to make an argument for best fourth line in the league.
The Isles faithful will just have to see how all this change plays out. There is always a plan, and it is definitely very early in the season.