Islanders & Red Wings Already Regretting Trade Deadline Silence

The Hockey Writers

The New York Islanders’ game against the Detroit Red Wings on March 21 displayed two teams that looked far from playoff-worthy. There’s a common philosophical question about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Well in the third period, the Islanders’ hapless offense (a stoppable force) was trying to mount a comeback against a flawed Red Wings defense (a movable object).

Related: Islanders’ Roy Can Learn From Hurricanes’ Brind’Amour

The Red Wings won the game 6-3 and moved into a wild card position in the Eastern Conference. That said, both these teams don’t look like they’ll make the playoffs and more importantly, are far from making a run at the Stanley Cup. At best, one of these teams will sneak into the playoffs and give a top seed a fight in the first round but that’s about as good as it gets.

The product circles back to the trade deadline when both general managers (GMs) could have made a move, even a minor one, and instead did nothing. The Islanders and Red Wings have been awful since and it’s made for a messy finish to the season and a playoff picture that looks chaotic at the bottom. The final wild card teams will secure the spot at this point by default as in, someone has to make the playoffs.

Lamoriello’s Silence Keeps Islanders’ Ceiling Low

It wasn’t a shock that Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello didn’t make a move at the trade deadline. He rarely does and only makes the occasional splash when the deal all but guarantees he’ll be on the better end of it. Unless it’s the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade, the 2020 Trade Deadline deal that gave the Islanders a middle-six center for the long haul, or the Bo Horvat trade, a move that gave them a reliable top-line scorer, he’s not pulling the trigger.

Lou Lamoriello New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal since the Islanders were playing great at both ends of the ice. They entered the deadline on a five-game winning streak and with the newly-formed top line, where Horvat had Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal on his wings, the offense was clicking, with 24 goals during the winning streak. A move didn’t appear necessary. However, adding a depth forward would help just enough to make this team look worthy of a playoff spot and allow them to secure that final spot in the Eastern Conference.

Since the trade deadline, the Islanders have one win, the 6-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on March 10. After that game, they’ve lost six in a row and have fallen apart at both ends of the ice. That top line that carried them is a thing of the past as head coach Patrick Roy has put the lines in a blender and the depth, which has been a weak link all season, is non-existent. Even worse, the Islanders, who didn’t have a high ceiling to begin with, now have a limit on how far they can go this season. Last season they barely snuck in as a wild card team and were easily defeated in the first round. The same group isn’t getting any better.

Yzerman Is Aggressive, Until the Deadline

Looking back to the 2023 offseason, there was an urge from Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman to make the team a playoff-caliber one. The blockbuster move to acquire Alex DeBrincat was made, a deal that provided the offense with a star skater who has 23 goals and 32 assists. Along with the splash, Yzerman also acquired Jeff Petry, a minor move but one to round out the defensive unit while also signing J.T. Compher and Shayne Gostisbehere, two depth skaters to take this team to the next level.

All the signs pointed to Yzerman pulling out all the stops to get this team to the playoffs. The willingness to sign Patrick Kane early in the season further emphasized that. The Red Wings already had a reliable top six and adding a dynamic passer would put them over the top.

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Then comes nothing at the trade deadline. The Red Wings were expected to make a big trade but in the grand scheme of things, it felt shocking. Yzerman was making all the moves to prove that the rebuild was over and this team was ready to compete but as soon as they were ready to take that next step, he kept quiet and didn’t make that extra addition.

The Red Wings are barely clinging to that final playoff spot and if they end up coming up short by a point or two, the silent deadline will be what’s remembered. It will also put a damper on Yzerman’s tenure which for the most part has been a promising one. There’s plenty of optimism that he’s going to turn the Red Wings into a Cup contender and he has yet to build a team capable of making the playoffs.

Making a Trade for the Sake of Making a Trade?

After the trade deadline, where the Islanders stood pat, Lamoriello noted that he wasn’t going to make a trade as a lateral move and certainly wasn’t going to make a move for the sake of making one. It’s understandable. A team doesn’t have to make a trade just because it’s the trade deadline and everyone else in the league is doing so.

The thing is, that’s not what would have happened if he ended up making a move, even a minor one. Adding at least one skater sends a message to the locker room and the fans that the front office is committed to getting this team to the playoffs. Silence doesn’t do that and on the contrary, it leaves the Islanders in the same place that they’ve been in since last season. Even worse, with the roster starting to age, they have become a boring and at times, unwatchable team. The Red Wings don’t lack the entertainment value as a team that plays in plenty of back-and-forth games, yet their silence was a gut punch to a team and fanbase eager to return to the playoffs.

There’s no reason why either GM couldn’t move a fourth or third-round draft selection for a depth skater or even flip a prospect for a player like Frank Vatrano or Jack Roslovic, who was traded to the New York Rangers for a conditional fourth-round pick. Lamoriello and Yzerman both didn’t make that move and it’s leaving both their teams a step behind in the Eastern Conference.

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