Since breaking into the league during the 2013-14 campaign, Brock Nelson has recorded 20 or more goals in six of his eight seasons for the New York Islanders. The Minnesota-native is averaging about a point every other game over his career but has been a streaky player which has its perks but also brings about problems.
In last year’s postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Nelson was centering the Islanders’ most productive line, as he recorded 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 22 playoff games.
Regardless of the stats, Nelson has been a streaky player during his career. And that has its perks and its downfalls. But one thing is certain: Nelson possesses one of the better shots on the Islanders hockey club.
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But for some reason this season, Nelson has not been shooting all too much. In the nine games the team has played, the 29-year old center has taken 15 shots on goal, recording only three points. That averages out to 1.67 shots per game thus far, much lower than his 2.57 shots per game he averaged last season. Now, this issue could be attributed to his lineman struggling, as his left-winger Anthony Beauvillier was off to a very slow start before landing on IR (one assist in five games). His right-winger to start the year in Josh Bailey was struggling as well, as Head Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his line, as he swapped Bailey and Jordan Eberle.
In last night’s game, Bailey scored a crucial goal to cut the Isles’ deficit to only one, as they eventually came back before losing in overtime. Eberle has played to a much higher-level than we have seen since he joined the Islanders in 2017 since his ‘demotion’ these last two games.
But back to Nelson. The more concerning part about Nelson’s play is the number of mistakes we have seen thus far. While he only has been credited with two turnovers, he has looked sloppy with the puck on his stick and has made some bone-headed decisions that have cost the team goals and, ultimately, points. Yesterday, with the Islanders already down a man, Nelson took a hooking call, which led to a 5-on-3 for the Flyers. Fortunately, the Islanders killed it off, but he put his team in a bad spot.
He was a -2 in yesterday’s loss, with one shot on goal and only winning 33.3 percent of his draws.
Besides shuffling lines, Head Coach Barry Trotz needs to sit Brock Nelson to make a statement.
Speaking of faceoffs, he sits in last place among the team’s centers, winning just under 50 percent at 49.2. While Nelson has never been stellar in the faceoff dot (career 47.2%), the Islanders are a team that sits third in the entire NHL (55.2%). He just has not been effective this season and I think, given the Islanders’ five-game skid, Head Coach Barry Trotz needs to make a point.
Trotz runs a tight ship and expects more out of his players than what we have seen. We just saw Philadelphia Flyers’ Head Coach Alain Vigneault bench one of his stars in Travis Konecny as he wanted to see more out of him without the puck on his stick. This decision was made even though his team had been winning more often than not. He benched him for one game, and it seems that Konecny got the message.
I think it is time we see something like this from Barry Trotz. Last game, Islander fans saw two new faces hit the ice in Dmytro Timashov and Austin Czarnik, two players who were acquired this past offseason. While Timashov did not do much, Czarnik impressed every shift, as he showed how hard he was willing to work to help the team. Despite playing wing yesterday on the third-line (14:12 TOI), he is a player that can play center. It would be up to Trotz if he wanted to move Pageau to the second-center role for the one game or Czarnik.
Regardless, this decision would make a statement, not just to Nelson, but to the other veterans in the lineup that have failed to play to the level that is expected. The fourth-line has been pretty ineffective at doing their job, as Cal Clutterbuck has struggled the most out of his linemates.
No one ever wants to be benched, but if losing ice time after being a staple in the lineup does not get the blood going, and the compete level higher, nothing will.
The New York Islanders currently sit 29th out of 31 in Goals For Per Game (2.11), so Nelson must get going to help out top-line center Mat Barzal, who has taken the offense upon himself with 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in the team’s first nine games. The only way the Islanders will turn their poor start around is by the veterans doing their jobs. Brock Nelson needs to be better, and watching from the press box for a game should light a spark, which could get this team fired up in the long run.