The Islanders Need to be Creative with Identity Line
On Saturday, the New York Islanders officially brought back the “Identity Line” for another season.
Cal Clutterbuck began the season on the IR and did not dress for the opener against the Florida Panthers. Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas complete the “Identity Line” and have been playing together for parts of a decade now.
The line was put together as a fourth line and has brought much more than a prototypical fourth line.
A brief separation occurred when Matt Martin signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, where he played just 132 games before being traded back to the Islanders in the summer of 2018.
It may be time for the Islanders to split up the “Identity Line.”
Over the years, each player has complemented the others well and earned significant ice time in important parts of the game. With the wear and tear of the style they play and their age, the line has not produced as consistently as it has in the past.
The line is truly built for playoff hockey, but last year, this team was unable to qualify for the playoffs. Could everyone help the overall depth by splitting it up?
Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck
The elder statesmen on the line, not by much, are Clutterbuck and Martin. Clutterbuck is 34 years old, and Martin is 33 years old. Being two of the more physical players on the ice, the game has worn them down.
Clutterbuck is coming off a season that ended shortly due to injury, and there was a delay to this season due to injury.
Martin has had his fair share of injuries throughout his career, but his play has slipped over the last two seasons. Still, a key leader in the locker room, Martin brings much more than his production on the ice.
Clutterbuck is a player that can be a pest while throwing the body. One aspect of his game that is underrated is his wrist shot. He has a hard and accurate shot from the right side and has shown flashes over the years.
In Minnesota, Clutterbuck scored 19 goals in the 2011-12 season. With the Islanders, he scored 15 goals in the 2015-16 season.
It would be beneficial to Clutterbuck and the team if he was able to ease off the physical play and bring his leadership to a line that needs help. His shot would translate well on other lines and his defensive play would help some of the younger wingers.
Playing alongside new linemates could unlock things for Clutterbuck and a player like Kieffer Bellows or Oliver Wahlstrom.
By doing so, The Islanders would be able to mix and match the lines differently, depending on the hot hand and injuries.
Martin brings physicality to any line that he plays on, but it may be time to cut his minutes and play a true fourth-line role.
His skills are limited and, in a sense, hold back a player with more skill, like his long-time center, Cizikas.
Cizikas has been a phenomenal all-around center since taking his place on the Islanders roster. Having played a physical style of play as well, Cizikas has had trouble staying on the ice.
Despite injuries, Cizikas has shown the ability to play with speed and physicality while being able to chip in offensively. He has been an excellent penalty killer and is solid in the face-off dot.
With the ability to play with younger and faster players, would Cizikas be able to produce better numbers while playing consistently in other areas?
Again, this could take the stress off Cizikas and allow him to play less physically because he would be out of his own zone with more offensively creative players.