Four bizarre stats that sum up the Islanders — and why their trade deadline may be quiet

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Lou Lamoriello spoke to reporters in St. Louis before Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Blues and outlined what’s been his trade-deadline philosophy for about four decades now: He’ll make a move to try and make the Islanders better but won’t mortgage the future to do so.

“You don’t trade a pick just for the sake of trading it. You don’t trade a first-round pick if you did not have a reason,” Lamoriello said. “It wasn’t just like throwing a dart in the wall and saying, ‘I hope.’ But you have to feel comfortable. I go back to history, we made some pretty big player trades because you felt you could win. That’s when you do it.”

The Islanders haven’t made a first-round selection since taking Simon Holmstrom 23rd in 2019. Every year since, Lamoriello has been in go-for-it mode, even after the lottery season of 2021-22, when he dealt the 13th pick on the draft floor to the Canadiens for Alexander Romanov. Every player Lamoriello has acquired for his last four first-round picks — Bo Horvat, Romanov, Kyle Palmieri and J-G Pageau— is still here. So at least the GM backs up his philosophy with actions, whether you love those actions or not.

After Thursday’s loss in St. Louis, the Islanders have 60 points in 56 games. They are still in the playoff hunt, thanks largely to the failures of teams around them — the Devils still haven’t gotten going, the Capitals and Penguins are deciding whether to sell and the Lightning, Red Wings and Flyers, the three teams in the last three playoff spots, haven’t exactly wowed anyone.

So Lamoriello’s options are open, to a certain extent. Robert Bortuzzo and Hudson Fasching are currently on LTIR to allow the Islanders to have a full roster; Fasching will be back at some point, and even if Bortuzzo is not, that’s only an extra $950,000 of cap space to work with. Even if Lamoriello decided to take another swing with his first-round pick before March 8, some money would have to move out or the Islanders would have to find a third team to help with cap-space retention.

This is the Lamoriello Islanders, so the rumor mill doesn’t make a pit stop in East Meadow. But we can certainly see from the four data points below that even in a year when Lamoriello made a go-for-it move by hiring Patrick Roy a month ago, an all-out quest for a playoff spot may not be the right move this time around. The Islanders, now 4-4-3 under Roy, may need to do more evaluating in the offseason than calculating how to sneak into the wild card.

The penalty kill

Still on a historically bad pace at 71.5 percent after allowing a power-play goal on Thursday, the PK is an incredible underachievement this season. The current success rate would be the worst in the NHL for a full 82-game season since 1985-86. Dig in a little deeper and things just get confusing.

The Islanders are tied for sixth in the league with nine shorthanded goals; Holmstrom is tied for the league lead with five. So it would seem, based on that number alone, that the Isles’ PK is aggressive and pushing up the ice for chances.

Except it very much is not. From Natural Stat Trick: The Islanders’ shot attempt share on the penalty kill is 8.92 percent, 29th in the league. They’ve allowed 541 attempts, 10th-most, and 49 goals, tied for third-most. And they’ve allowed all that while spending the seventh-fewest minutes on the PK (269:19). It’s an outright disaster and it’s happening with the same core of penalty killers who were part of the ninth-ranked PK last season and the fourth-ranked PK two seasons ago.

The individual data points for some of those longtime penalty killers are ghastly. Romanov has been on the ice for 30 PPGs against; Scott Mayfield for 17 and Casey Cizikas, almost always the first PK center over the boards, has an on-ice shot-share percentage of 4.4 and has been on for 18 goals in 94 minutes.

Average time trailing per game

The Islanders’ inability to hold leads, especially multi-goal leads, was dormant for a couple of months before rearing back up in the MetLife Stadium game Sunday and in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. It speaks to another bizarre stat, courtesy of the More Hockey Stats site: The Islanders have spent an average of 15:48 per game trailing, which is fifth-best in the league. Every other team in the top 12 in that category is safely headed to the playoffs, including the Rangers, whose average trailing time of 18:35 is way higher than the Isles.

Only one team in the last decade has finished in the top five in the time trailing stat and did not finish in the top eight in its conference: The 2019-20 Coyotes, who did make the bubble play-in tournament and advanced to the main postseason.

Empty net goals

This category is an extension of the above two: The Islanders’ breakdowns and failures when the opponent pulls its goalie look alarmingly like their terrible penalty kill and speak to how fragile the Islanders get when they have a lead, which is often.

As you may be aware, the Islanders have zero empty-net goals this season. They are the only team without one. In the last two decades, two teams have gone a whole season without an empty-net goal: The 2008-09 Avalanche and the 2005-06 Penguins. That Colorado team had the third-worst record in the league that season; that Pittsburgh team, in Sidney Crosby’s rookie year, had the second-worst record. They were teams that barely faced any empty-net situations because they barely won.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders have played 32:35 against a team with its goalie pulled, 17th in the league. Right in the middle of the pack. But hoo boy, the numbers to go with that stretch of time.

They have allowed 109 shot attempts, tied for fourth-most in the league. The Isles have eight attempts at the empty net, fewest in the league — the awful Hawks, headed for the worst record, have nine. The Senators, among the worst teams in the East, haven’t allowed a goal when facing an empty net.

The Islanders have allowed six goals when the opposing net is empty, and two of those came on Sunday to the Rangers. It feels like so much more.

Overtimes and shootouts

The Islanders have gotten some results in overtime after starting the season with five straight OT/shootout losses. They’re 7-9 since. Not great, but at least salvaging some points. The problem with having 37.5 percent of your games go past regulation is that it’s even harder to make up ground in the playoff race when you’re handing out extra points to teams you’re chasing and you’re not making up ground in the regulation wins/regulation-and-overtime wins categories, which are the first two tiebreakers.

The Islanders are on pace for 23 regulation wins and 32 ROW wins. Since the ROW was introduced as a tiebreaker after the 2012-13 lockout, no team in an 82-game season has made the playoff with fewer than 35 regulation-plus-OT wins. The Islanders barely snuck in last season and had 41 ROWs.

All this is to point out that, while this Islanders team has done some things that might make Lamoriello think they can get into the postseason and make some noise once they’re there, the data says something else. This team hasn’t earned a go-for-it trade before March 8.

(Photo of Casey Cizikas: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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