One point was all that kept the New York Islanders out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season; perhaps you could’ve forgiven Garth Snow for only slightly tweaking his team for 2017-18. However, the oft-maligned President and General Manager was not about to die wondering. On June 22, the Islanders acquired two-time All-Star Jordan Eberle from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for the disappointing Ryan Strome.
The trade was widely received as an outright win for New York. It represents a 21-point swing in their favour (Eberle 20 goals, 31 assists, 51 points, Strome 13-17-30). Eberle’s contract is also a year longer. Cups are not won on paper, though. The Islanders new right wing needs to combine to perfection with captain John Tavares for an unlikely Playoffs run, primarily to convince number 91 to stick around beyond this year.
Jordan Eberle trade a masterstroke, but enough to lift the New York Islanders into the Playoffs?
Life in New York City didn’t start out great for Eberle. Through the first few weeks of the season, it looked as if almost nothing for the team had changed at all.
Tavares was still mantling the scoring, his nine goals good for third in the NHL, behind Nikita Kucherov (12) and Alexander Ovechkin (10). So dominant was Tavares, his two hat tricks in the space of three games is a mark only achieved by two other New York Islanders: Mike Bossy and Zigmund Palffy.
Meanwhile, Eberle was demoted from the top line ahead of their game against the Nashville Predators. Perhaps it was a coaching masterstroke from Doug Weight, as he responded convincingly with his first two goals of the season in the 6-2 win.
This is not to say Eberle should never appear on the top line again. Despite not netting alongside Tavares and Anders Lee, his seven assists on the season is good for second on the team, behind Josh Bailey (eight).
Power Play Firing
In addition to finding Tavares some help, New York seem to be sorting out their power play issues, which have plagued them for two-plus seasons. Some fans claim the pp was all that was keeping them from a deep Stanley Cup run last year; they would be rapt with three man-advantage goals against Nashville, including one from recently-uncovered special teams gem Ryan Pulock.
From early season form, this is about all we can gain. The puck is in the Islanders attacking zone, and they have the players to put it in the net. They have classy operators on defence, such as Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan, and they have an effective goaltending duo in Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak.
Was Eberle the final piece in a puzzle that will look pretty good when put together? More importantly, will this season’s results be enough to convince Tavares to return to the Barclays Center next year?
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