The New York Islanders are riding a wave of success built on last year’s recipe, a recipe that still tastes delicious. And the head cook deserves all the credit that a shiny, new Jack Adams Award sitting on his mantle justifies.
Winners of seven straight after a 1-3-0 start, New York is the toast of the town right now, albeit with largely feeble competition (Rangers, Devils, Jets, Giants, Knicks, etc.).
Coach Barry Trotz has taken a team with 1½ offensive lines, a defense led by youngsters (Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews), a veteran thought to be on his way out (Nick Leddy), one who has found the Fountain of Youth (Johnny Boychuk) and an oft-injured goaltender replacing a fan and locker-room favorite and led them. The results have been nothing short of remarkable over the past year and 11 games.
Sure, things are not all roses in the garden. Jordan Eberle is nursing a knee injury that has him just now skating on his own. Leo Komarov has a mysterious illness that has kept him out of the lineup and off the practice rink. Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin are slated to each miss four to six weeks with injuries. But hey, when bad fortune occurs, opportunity knocks. And the young Islanders are answering the bell.
Anthony Beauvillier may only have two goals to his name but has brought an energy that few forwards can match. Brock Nelson just wrapped up another successful “Brocktober,” collecting a team-leading 10 points in 11 games.
Mathew Barzal has stepped up and seems to be realizing his potential as the successor to he who shall never be named again. Barzal’s highlight-reel goal Sunday was a thing of sunsets and rainbows.
Toews has eight points already, and Ross Johnston seems like he can handle the Martin role just fine. Oliver Wahlstrom? Oh, no big deal. Reduced minutes and a couple of scratches, then he comes out banging like no tomorrow, leading to Johnston’s goal in the second period.
It’s the next-man-up philosophy that the Islanders actually trademarked before the Yankees practiced it this year when their own ridiculous and record-breaking spout of injuries showed up. Everybody pulls their weight. Everybody contributes. If your contribution isn’t on the scoresheet, you best make sure it’s to be found somewhere else within the game film. It’s the recipe that ultimately leads to the deliciousness of the dish. And there is no better cook in the National Hockey League right now than Trotz.
He is the master chef. He is the gourmet. The ultimate culinarian. If you’re still scratching your head in disbelief that he is, indeed, your head coach, go ahead, nobody will blame you.