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

Mathew Barzal #13 and Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Mathew Barzal #13 and Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Matt Martin (17), Casey Cizikas (53), Cal Clutterbuck (15)
Matt Martin #17, Casey Cizikas #53, and Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

2. Can the Fourth-Line remain healthy in 2020-21?

Last season showcased yet again how dynamic this New York Islanders team is when their fourth-line is healthy. We also saw how crucial their absence is to the success of this team, or lack thereof shall we say.

Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck all missed time last season with injuries. Martin missed 13, while Cizikas and Clutterbuck missed a combined 49 games due to skate lacerations.

This fourth-line is the identity line for this hockey club, as Head Coach Barry Trotz has the faith to play this line against the best of the best. And when one player from this bruising trio is absent, the line is not as productive.

Luckily, these players were completely healthy when the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs began and were able to do their job each night.

But, prior to Game Four against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, Cizikas left the bubble due to a detached retina. It was a tough blow, as that line was playing so well.

With Matt Martin a UFA once the season ended, would this fourth.line be no more? That question was answered early on, as a “verbal agreement” was made between Martin and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. Last week, Martin signed a four-year deal worth $6 million, as he will remain an Islander for the rest of his career.

Casey Cizikas (53)
Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

But, nothing is easy for this Islander team. During their scrimmage on Sunday, Cizikas left early with an injury. After a big hit behind the net, Cizikas remained down for a good sixty-seconds, as he was favoring his wrist. Initial updates seem more positive than negative, but we still do not know the severity just yet.

If this line cannot stay healthy this season, especially with Cizikas heading to Free Agency following the year, this could be the last time we see this fourth-line together. If they can stay healthy and be successful, there is still a chance Cizikas will not be back next season due to cap issues.

But the focus is on this year. And this line will need to play as they played in the Bubble if the New York Islanders are going to find themselves in a top-four spot come the end of the 2020-21 season.