The New York Islanders’ locker clean-out day on Monday, May 6 was very insightful as players’ injuries were finally explained.
Johnny Boychuk’s 2-3 week “lower body injury” was a broken foot, but he would have been ready for Game 6, had the Isles’ Round 2 series gotten that far. Scott Mayfield could barely put his skate on during the last month because his ankle kept filling with fluid and was swollen. Cal Clutterbuck’s back probably needs major surgery due to a stress fracture, two slipped disks, and two rotated vertebrae.
So many injuries for such a long time. Why weren’t Mayfield and Clutterbuck taken off the roster and put on injured reserve? The Islanders certainly had healthy scratches waiting for the call. On defense, Thomas Hickey would have seen ice time sooner if he filled Mayfield’s roster spot. Replacing Mayfield would have meant filling a position that matched his style of play more than Boychuk’s did. Then Dennis Seidenberg most likely would have replaced Boychuk later in the playoffs. As rusty as the older veteran is, Seidenberg plays a similar style to Boychuk and would have paired better with Nick Leddy.
On offense, Michael Dal Colle would have seen ice time sooner, too. Since Dal Colle had filled in for members of the fourth line before, the resulting line shuffle wouldn’t have upset the team’s balance. As well, as a player who made a noticeable difference throughout the regular season, Dal Colle deserved to see more than one game in the playoffs. The Islanders even could have inserted Ross Johnston for Clutterbuck. Johnston would have fit right into the fourth line, no other line shuffling needed.
Obviously, nothing can be done now about the Isles’ lines throughout the playoffs, but some of these injuries could have an impact on next year’s lines. Clutterbuck could be out until August, in perfect time for conditioning and pre-season, or, at the latest, until October when the regular season has already begun. Andrew Ladd has also been out since late March due to a torn ACL and won’t be ready until early September. Tanner Fritz, however, is almost ready to return from his blood clot surgery and should be healthy by June.
These players’ progress will affect the moves that Lou Lamoriello makes over the summer. He will have to consider whether or not to acquire players to replace these injured ones while they are out. Besides the injuries, Lamoriello has to contend with the Islanders’ four unrestricted free agents this summer. While all fans certainly want the team to re-sign Captain Anders Lee and Robin Lehner, they are conflicted over Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle.
With few draft picks this summer, Lamoriello will rely on trades for most roster moves or will simply open up space on the roster for prospects waiting in Bridgeport.
Of course, the draft is not until late June, and all of these concerns are more than a month away. But, as the Islanders begin their off-season, these questions should be at the forefront of Trotz’s and Lamoriello’s minds as they work to build off this year’s record-breaking team.
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