With just six wins in their past 17 games and one of the lowest scoring offenses among playoff teams, the New York Islanders need some kind of a spark. A trade seems like a must before the deadline if they are going to fix their biggest Achilles heel (offense), but before that happens they are turning to an internal option in an effort to boost their offense.
The option is top prospect and 2016 first-round draft pick Kieffer Bellows.
After being recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Monday, Islanders coach Barry Trotz that Bellows will make his regular season NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.
It is expected that he will skate on the team’s third line alongside Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle. He has 16 goals in 45 games with Bridgeport so far this season. While that may not seem like a huge number, he has been white hot over the past few weeks with 13 goals in his past 20 games.
The Islanders desperately need some of that to carry over to the NHL because the offense is among the bottom-10 in pretty much every category across the board.
• Entering play on Tuesday the Islanders are 21st in the NHL in goals per game, after finishing 22nd in the league a year ago. Among teams currently occupying a playoff position, only the Coyotes, Stars, and Blue Jackets rank lower. Only the Stars finished the 2018-19 season lower among playoff teams.
• They are 27th in shots on goal per game, 27th in total shot attempts per game, 20th on the power play, and middle of the pack (15th, 17th) when it comes to expected goals and scoring chances.
• On an individual level, the Islanders don’t have a single player (minimum 40 games played) that ranks in the top-40 in points per game, while only two players (Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson) currently reside among the top-125.
The old cliche is that defense wins championships, but you still need to have possess the threat of offense to win the Stanley Cup. Just look at the Stanley Cup Finalists over the previous seven seasons and where they ranked across the league in goals per game, shots per game, and total shot attempts per game.
With the exception of the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues, every team on here ranks in the top-10 in at least one (and sometimes two) of these areas.
The only two teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final during that stretch with an offense thanked close to where the Islanders do were the 2014-15 Blackhawks and 2013-14 Kings. And with all due respect to the Islanders and what they have done the past two regular seasons, they are not those teams. The 2014-15 Blackhawks were loaded with Hall of Fame players and were always a threat to score (look where they ranked in shots and shot attempts) even if it didn’t always result in a goal.
The Kings were at the peak as the most dominant defensive and possession team in the league.
The Islanders, again, are 22nd, 27th, and 27th in these three areas. No Stanley Cup Finalist in the past seven years has ranked that poorly across the board.
That’s just not good enough if the Islanders are going to take their next step.
Bellows allow probably will not be enough to make a significant dent in that, but they have to start somewhere. Maybe this is where it begins.