Four Big Questions for the New York Islanders in 2020-21

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Mathew Barzal (13)

Mathew Barzal #13 and Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There are Four Big Questions the New York Islanders need to answer in 2020-21.

After falling just two wins shy of making it into the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019-20, the New York Islanders will have their work cut out for them this season in the toughest division in hockey.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Despite the 10-game win streak and the 17-game point streak that we witnessed earlier in the regular season, this New York Islanders team took a step back. The offense went dry, while the defense was unable to rebound from the Adam Pelech Achilles injury.

The fourth-line was banged up all year, and if it wasn’t for the halt in play, this team would have missed the Playoffs. But fortunately, they did and showcased how dominant they can be when healthy. The offense awoke, while their healthy defense was as good, if not better, than advertised.

Heading into the offseason, the top priority was to bring back the team’s three RFA’s: Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews. Now the team also was looking to bring in a sniper, but given the stagnant salary cap, that was more likely a wish.

Devon Toews was shipped to Colorado as events unfolded, while the team retained Pulock and Barzal (signed this past Saturday). The team did lose Johnny Boychuk, as an injury forced him to hang the skates up. The notable UFA’s Matt Martin and Andy Greene were brought back, with General Manager Lou Lamoriello signing goaltender veteran goaltender Cory Schneider as well.

But like every team, there are questions we must ask, questions that will be answered as this 202-21 season progresses.

So, without further ado, let’s delve into the 4 Big Questions facing the New York Islanders in the 2020-21 NHL Season…

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4. Can Noah Dobson Handle His New Responsibilities?

The now 21-year-old Noah Dobson will have his work cut out for him this season. With Devon Toews and Johnny Boychuk gone, Dobson will be an everyday staple on the Islanders’ backend.

During the 2019-20 regular season, Dobson dressed in 34 games, accumulating five points (one fluke goal, six assists), as he averaged 13:17 minutes per game. When the team’s best defenseman, Adam Pelech, went down with an injury after the New Year, Dobson was inserted into the lineup. He struggled mightily to adjust to the speed of the NHL game, as he just did not look ready.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello decided to get an old friend, acquiring veteran, and captain, Andy Greene from the New Jersey Devils to help stop the bleeding. This meant Dobson would head back to the media suite as a healthy scratch. Having Greene was beneficial for Dobson, as this was just another veteran mentor to have.

As the season progressed, Dobson did, in fact, get better. You could see his confidence growing, slowly, but steadily. Being able to continue practicing with the team in the Canadian bubble, given the long Playoff run, only helped him continue to develop.

Dobson did get the chance to play in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game, where he turned the puck over twice, recording three hits in 12:55 minutes.

Noah Dobson (8)

Noah Dobson #8 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When training camp came around, it was clear Dobson would be an everyday player, which left many fans uneasy.

But, according to Head Coach Barry Trotz and his teammates, Dobson looks very strong thus far in camp. Adam Pelech stated to the New York media that the young defenseman is a talented player and has grown a ton over the last year.

The team does not need Dobson to be a superstar defenseman like a Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) or a Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks). Given the structure of this Islander club, he needs to be responsible in his own zone and make quicker decisions. Playing alongside Greene will allow Dobson to take the puck up when need be, knowing he has ol’ reliable on his left.

But playing alongside Andy Greene on the team’s third defensive-paring will not be the only role for Dobson, as he will be slated on the Islanders’ top powerplay unit as well. This just goes to show the trust his coach has in his ability.

And that segways us into our next question…

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