After a brief period of decent hockey, the Isles have made it painfully obvious that a playoff run is not in the cards. No matter who is running the team in either the front office or behind the bench, a plan needs to be put in place going forward. The development of young players in addition to making decisions on others needs to become the priority for the remainder of the season. This organization will have questions to answer at the end of the season, now is the time to accumulate all the information needed to make those decisions. Here are four key players to watch for the remainder of the season.
The next 55 games or so are critical to Strome’s Islander career. If there is any hope for him at center, he needs to play there. No more yo-yoing around the lineup and healthy scratches will no longer help him going forward. It is time for him to sink or swim, if he does not take advantage of the opportunity now, it will be time to move on before next season. Put him in the space to succeed now so we can finally decide if the Isles should move on now.
One of the biggest issues coming into the season was how to protect Ryan Pulock from the expansion draft. With Hamonic, Leddy and Boychuck all but guaranteed to take those three defensive protection slots, Pulock looked to be a goner. Now Pulock is back in Bridgeport playing in the American League. He has done everything there is to do in that league. He needs to learn how to play defense in the NHL, and that can not be done in the AHL. It is time to see what he can do and handle the growing pains now. TO open up a spot, the Isles need to trade Seidenberg. As well as he has played, being a pending ufa he is not a long term asset therefore he is only taking away opportunities.
Why is he not in the lineup every night at this point in the season? Since he is only a part time player at this point in his career it would make sense to let him go play in the World Junior Championships for Canada. Getting him into a situation where he can play competitive hockey every night and come back to the Isles with limited consequences is positive. In the meantime his roster slot could go to Josh Ho-Sang which is a double positive for this situation.
For the last two seasons the Isles have been carrying Berube on the roster. If he does not play in 28 games it will all be a waste when he becomes ufa next year. Since he shares an agent with Jaro Halak, we already know Berube will not be signing up for this if he has the opportunity to leave. Here is where they need to trade Thomas Greiss who is a pending ufa, in order to see if this carrying three goalies was worthwhile. Berube needs to play as the backup goalie for the remainder of the season.
This is the time to determine who needs to be part of this team going forward and who is replaceable. The Isles don’t have answers for these questions, but now is the time to figure those out. Figuring out the roles of these four players is a good place to start.