It seems that Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders don’t care about pre-season expectations. The Islanders are once again surprising the NHL with a great start to the season. New York was slated to struggle after another off-season of departures.
Barry Trotz Powering Islanders
Last off-season it was John Tavares heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs to join his hometown club. Many thought the Isles would struggle without their talisman. However, New York defied expectations and made the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Islanders then swept the rival Pittsburgh Penguins before befalling the same fate to the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round. A key figure in last season’s surprise run was goalie Robin Lehner, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist and Jennings Trophy winner, departed for the Chicago Blackhawks. Many (including us) thought the Islanders would take a step back. However, that’s not been the case.
Trotz and the Islanders have gotten points in their last 13 games and wins in their 12. This also includes a 10-game winning streak. New York has the third-most points in the league despite playing only 17 games. Once again it seems like the Islanders’ bench boss is weaving his magic.
Trotz is one of the most decorated coaches in the game with 823 career victories and is a two-time Jack Adams Award winner. He won that elusive Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Washington Capitals and came over to Long Island to weave that same magic.
The 2018-19 Islanders made waves, but many thought they were a fluke. Experts cited statistics like PDO and expected goals and didn’t think the Isles success was sustainable.
New York has also been bitten by the injury bug this season as it has lost as many as five forwards this season. Players like Andrew Ladd have also struggled and Joshua Ho-Sang is waiting to get traded.
The Defence Doesn’t Rest
However, the main staple of any Trotz team has been the defence and goaltending. The Islanders are second in goals allowed with 2.24 a game with only the Dallas Stars having a better GAA (2.20). New York is also sixth in the penalty kill with an 85.7-percent success rate.
The Islander’s defence is young with players like Devon Toews, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield. Trotz has the team playing his trademark style which preaches discipline and limits the opponent’s chances. Veterans like Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have formed a solid partnership. They’ve been a good anchor to the youngsters that could be together for a long while.
Goaltending Powered by Korn
Goalies Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov have both been solid so far this season. Griess carries a 7-1 record, 1.88 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Griess has the best even-strength save percentage with .949.
Varlamov, who came over in the off-season, is 6-2-1 with a 2.56 GAA. His save percentage may be at .917, but he’s gotten wins when needed. The Isles carry a true two-goalie system.
Trotz has always seemingly gotten good to great goaltending and that’s from his longtime goalie coach/consultant Mitch Korn. The two have been pretty much attached at the hip since Trotz’s days with the Nashville Predators.
Korn has guided the careers of Pekka Rinne and Braden Holtby among others. He helped Lehner revive a flagging career and has helped Varlamov put up some of the best numbers in the last five seasons. The Islanders’ success has been tied to their defence and goaltending.
What it Means for the Future
There will likely be some struggles for the team because the Islanders will have a hard time picking up points at such a torrid pace. However, they’ve been banking points for the inevitable skid. Most teams usually find out if they’ll be a contender by American Thanksgiving or early December. New York will be a player in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference barring disaster.
For Trotz, he has a shot to become the first back-to-back Adams Trophy winner since Jacques Demers did so with the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat in 1987 and 1988. There are plenty of worthy candidates like Dave Tippett with the Edmonton Oilers, but he has the luxury of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Trotz has done it with Barzal, defence, goaltending and role players.
However, there’s no denying the job he’s done making the Islanders a top team in the league.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 06: Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders tends to the bench during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on October 06, 2019 in New York City. With this game, Barry Trotz passed former New York Islander coach Al Arbour to move into third place in NHL all time history for games coached with 1,608. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)