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Islanders trim roster to 23, set Opening Day lineup

The New York Islanders trimmed their roster to 23 this morning, sending Devon Toews and former KHL star Jan Kovar down to Bridgeport.  They sent Tom Kuhnhackl, Kiefer Bellows, and Josh Ho-Sang down earlier in camp but Kuhnhackl has cleared waivers and has been brought back up to the big squad.

It was a disappointing day for Islander fans because the camp roster reminded them of all the mistakes the past regime had made.  Instead of bringing up young kids to get a taste of the NHL, they start with veterans who have much less upside than their counterparts.  Instead of Devon Toews, you have Luca Sbisa.  Instead of Kiefer Bellows, you have Leo Komarov.

Let’s break down each of the three components of the Islanders, potential lines, and reasons for those lines;


Beau – Barzal – Bailey

Lee – Nelson – Eberle

Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck

Komarov – Filppula – Fritz

Kuhnhackl, Johnston (Ladd on IR)

So yeah, on paper this forward group isn’t exactly a murderer’s row.  The first two lines are fine, although Brock Nelson as a second line center is kind of a scary thought.  However, the forward depth really drops off in the bottom six.  The “best fourth line in hockey” is now a third line, and Leo Komarov and Val Filppula have shown absolutely nothing in the preseason.

The top line is an interesting mix considering Head Coach Barry Trotz decided to split up Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal.  Josh Bailey joins that top line, and while there may be issues with too much passing and not enough shooting, the top line will get it together.  As for the second line?  Well Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are going to get their points with or without John Tavares.  Brock Nelson needs to prove this year that he can be a top six forward, and more importantly play inspired defense all of the time, not just when he wants to.


Pelech – Pulock

Sbisa – Leddy

Hickey – Boychuk


YIKES.  I actually love the first pairing of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.  Pelech is a very underrated stay at home defenseman, while Pulock is a budding star.  Pulock will get plenty of serious minutes and has grown into a stud right in front of our eyes.

The biggest issue with this team is the second pairing, with Nick Leddy on the right side and Luca Sbisa in the lineup.  Leddy is a great young defenseman but he absolutely fell apart last season, posting a team low -43 plus/minus and looking lost in the defensive zone.  His partner is equal parts irresponsible and equal parts unathletic.  Sbisa is a fine defenseman, but putting him with a struggling D-man who also happens to be playing his off side now?  A recipe for disaster.

Probably the biggest mistake the Islanders made was not leaving Devon Toews in the top six.  Essentially Sbisa took his spot and now he has to start the year in the minors.  While it may be beneficial for a young player coming off a catastrophic injury to hone his skills in the AHL, it would also be wise to have him learn from a Stanley Cup winning coach.


Robin Lehner

Thomas Greiss

Rejoice Islander fans, there are only two goaltenders.  In all seriousness, Barry Trotz knows who will start on Thursday but hasn’t revealed it yet.  It will most likely be Robin Lehner considering he’s on a one year prove it deal and has the higher upside.

The goaltending is going to be improved only because it can’t get much worse.  It’s also going to be better because goalie coach guru Mitch Korn is at the helm and will turn Lehner and Greiss around.  However, the goalies are only as good as their D in front of them, and I foresee a lot of odd man rushes with Luca Sbisa on the back end.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot to look forward to as an Islander fan.  It’s a new season and realistically with a few key injuries or poor play, Devon Toews, Josh Ho-Sang and Kiefer Bellows will be up in no time.  While I do agree that it’s good to get the kids as much time as possible and not “Nino” the youngsters, the Islanders do not have a good track record of developing in the AHL.

It’s a bit ridiculous to think that Luca Sbisa will help the Islanders out more than Devon Toews in the long run.  Or it’s crazy to see how Leo Komarov will be better than Kiefer Bellows.  However, this is just the start of the season and it’s going to be a long, strange trip.  Hold on tight Islander fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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