Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
When GM Garth Snow decided to call his 'go-to' in Peter Chiarelli back in June, it was to finalize a lopsided trade that would send Ryan Strome to Edmonton for what was deemed to be an Oilers salary dump in Jordan Eberle.
The 27-year-old forward from Regina had been on the Islanders radar for quite some time and Snow pounced at the opportunity to land the scoring winger who had averaged 27 goals and 62 points in seven previous seasons playing in Alberta while carrying a cap hit of $6 million over the next two seasons.
Eberle then proceeded to marry long-time girlfriend Lauren Rodych before coming to Brooklyn in a ceremony that featured one last hurrah with former and current members of the organization he called home since he was 20-years old.
All through the summer, it was assumed by, well, just about everyone that Eberle would line up next to John Tavares on the right side with 34-goal scorer Anders Lee manning the left. Training camp came and gave us that predicted look that carried into the regular season.
Things don't always go to plan, as I'm sure most can attest, and you have to be adaptable and open to change or else run the risk of being left behind. Through 10 games, the Tavares-Eberle combo just wasn't producing. It wasn't that they were playing bad. Quite the contrary, actually, as Eberle, in particular, had very good shifts and made something happen more often than not. But with zero goals, even taking a playful shot on Twitter from former teammate Taylor Hall, and six assists, something had to give.
At the beginning of the third period in Minnesota on October 26, during a dreadful 6-4 loss, head coach Doug Weight made the switch, putting Josh Bailey back on the top unit and pairing Eberle with upstart rookie sensation Mathew Barzal at even strength. The results, needless to say, have been fantastic on all counts. The team went from averaging 3.2 goals per game to 4.4 and the momentum at even strength has carried over to the power play, which has gone nine for its last 19 (47.4 percent).
Barzal, who set an Islanders rookie record earlier this week with a five-assist game, has a goal and eight helpers in the five games since Weight instituted the changes. Tavares has six goals and two assists, Bailey eight assists and Lee two goals and five assists. Eberle? How about five goals and an assist which has put him close to a point-per-game pace (12 points in 15 games), something he has not sniffed since his second year in the league back in 2011-12 when he finished with 76 points in 78 games.
"It's been unbelievable, crazy fun," Eberle said on Tuesday. "We have good chemistry. He's (Barzal) a real easy player to play with, creates a lot of space for you. He's found me open quite a few times when I thought I hadn't created the space. Incredible passer. It's been a great start, we need to keep rolling with it." "It's disappointing, you know, I really wanted to beat these guys, but that's just how it works. We have to quickly change our mindset to Dallas and St. Louis."
There really is nothing to suggest that a regression might be coming anytime soon, either. Eberle is second only to his new linemate Barzal in even strength Corsi at 57.7 percent, fourth on the team in shots through percentage at 61.7 percent and is shooting 13.5 percent, which is right on his career average. His individual PDO of 98.3 also suggests he could be seeing some 'puck luck' coming his way soon.
Back in the summer, when New York was involved in the Matt Duchene sweepstakes, Colorado GM Joe Sakic insisted on Barzal as being the cornerstone of any package in addition to a defenseman, prospects, and draft picks. Snow steadfastly refused and deemed the young rookie 'untouchable.' Combine that with the pickup of a bonafide scoring winger in exchange for an underachiever and that puts us where we are at present.
Yes, the Islanders need to be much better defensively if they are going to seriously compete for a playoff spot and beyond in 2018, but the offense is certainly turning out to be something they can just 'set it and forget it.' (Bonus points for whomever gets that reference, by the way).
We have all likely seen the video of owner Jon Ledecky inviting a woman to her first game at Barclays on the LIRR. In yet another unscripted act of genuine kindness, check out this story on Ledecky and what he did for a family in Staten Island. This guy is as authentic as they come. He just gets it.
Thanks as always for reading. You can follow me on Twitter, @andygraz_SNY, if you want to see incoherent ramblings that now go out to 280 characters.