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31 in 31

Inside look at New York Islanders

Center Barzal, new coach Trotz tasked with turnaround after departure of Tavares

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the New York Islanders.

The New York Islanders are in the process of creating an identity in advance of the 2018-19 season, which begins at the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4.

What do they want it to be?

"Winning, with respect on and off the ice," general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

The Islanders changed direction after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season. Lamoriello was named president of hockey operations May 22 and fired general manager Garth Snow and Doug Weight on June 5, the same day Lamoriello, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils, became GM. He then hired Barry Trotz, fresh off a Stanley Cup championship with the Washington Capitals, as coach June 21.

 

[Islanders 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

John Tavares is also gone. The 27-year-old center signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent July 1.

"It's always tough to see a guy like that go," Islanders forward Brock Nelson said. "He's the captain and leader for nine years. He's been there, kind of been the face of everything, so you hate to see it.

"It's a lot of opportunity for some other guys to step up, some new faces we got, so there will be some change obviously, but we have to feel it out and go with it."

Mathew Barzal will be asked to step up and be the No. 1 center. The 21-year-old won the Calder Trophy last season as NHL rookie of the year after scoring 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games.

Video: Mathew Barzal takes the No. 16 spot on the list

New faces include forwards Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin, who returns to New York after being traded by the Maple Leafs for goalie prospect Eamon McAdam on July 3.

"You can go on and on about how tough it is [without Tavares], but I think the future's still bright," Nelson said. "We have one of the best players in the League with Barzal. He came in right away and won the Calder, so that's a guy right away you look at [who] could even take a bigger step forward and lead us even more than he did last year. So we can lean on guys like that."

Lamoriello will try to make the necessary changes in order to turn the Islanders around, the way he did for the Maple Leafs as their GM the past three seasons. Toronto qualified for the playoffs in the last two seasons with Lamoriello; it missed in nine of 10 before he became GM on July 23, 2015.

Trotz, 56, arrives in New York as the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history (762), 20 behind Al Arbour, who coached the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. New York added associate coach Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn (each worked with Trotz in Washington and with the Nashville Predators); assistant coach John Gruden (who won an Ontario Hockey League championship with Hamilton last season); and goalie coach Piero Greco, who last season helped Toronto of the American Hockey League win the Calder Cup.

"I'm excited about the coaching staff," Lamoriello said. "Not only the experience there, but the winning end of it. Each one of those people behind that bench have won a championship in one area or the other, whether it be Stanley Cups, Memorial Cups, you name it. In my opinion, winning breeds winning, and that's what you feel good about."

Video: 31 in 31: New York Islanders 2018-19 season preview

The Islanders will split their home schedule between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum as they inch closer to a new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It will be their first meaningful games at the Coliseum since the 2015 playoffs.

Lamoriello told NHL.com the arena at Belmont Park remains on track to open for the 2021-22 season.

"One hundred percent," Lamoriello said. "I was in a recent meeting and I came [away] more excited leaving it than going into [it]. Things have progressed, and what the ownership, in particular Scott Malkin, is putting into this facility."

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