Most would have expected by the fourth season of Ryan Strome’s career that the 2011 fifth-overall pick would be finding his way into a consistent top-line role with the New York Islanders, potentially skating alongside John Tavares and forming a deadly duo.
Instead, he’s struggling to even stay in the lineup.
The Islanders’ overtime win Monday marked the second consecutive game that Strome, 23, found himself watching from the press box, a healthy scratch on the outside looking in, and there was some very obvious frustration on Strome’s part when he was asked about being held out of the lineup.
“It doesn’t really matter what I think (about the scratch)…I’ve either got to play better or find a way to make them more happy, I guess,” Strome said before the game, according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple. “You can talk all you want about what you do or don’t do.”
According to Staple, coach Jack Capuano said Strome was “an offensive guy for us that hasn’t produced offensively” and Capuano added didn’t want to make changes to the lineup coming off of the loss to the San Jose Sharks — a move, it’s worth noting, that worked in the Islanders’ favor Monday. And really, it’s hard to argue with Capuano’s reasoning if the lack of offense from Strome is at the root of the scratches.
Through 19 games, Strome has only managed to register two goals and six points. His ice time, for what it’s worth, has been all over the map. He has seen as much as 18 minutes of ice time and as little as 10 minutes. He has played alongside everyone from John Tavares to Alan Quine, and still there’s been no breakthrough. Strome hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 21 and he has one point in his past 12 games.
The most worrying aspect of his lack of scoring, however, is that this appears to be simply the continuation of his on-ice struggles that date back to the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
After the 2014-15 season, Strome looked to be set to finally break out. He played in all but one game for the Islanders, netted 17 goals and showed his excellent playmaking ability with 33 assists, all the while skating bottom-six minutes and giving New York a bit of bottom-six punch that they’d been sorely lacking.
But almost from the outset of 2015-16, Strome struggled. By November 2015, he had been scratched by the team and sent down to the AHL, where he would remain for nearly three weeks. At season’s end, he had managed just eight goals and 28 points in 71 games.
Strome’s issues this season go beyond his scoring, too. Overall, the Islanders are one of the least effective possession teams in the league with an unsightly 46 percent Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5. As far as contributing to swinging play in the Islanders’ favor, Strome hasn’t helped much, as he’s got the third-worst Corsi For percentage on the club, 43.3 percent, despite having the sixth lowest percentage of 5-on-5 defensive zone starts at 26.5 percent.
There’s no obvious solution to what ails the Islanders and Strome, though. There was hope for him with the exits of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, an expectation that he could slide into a top-six role and contribute like he had in 2014-15, but it hasn’t been fulfilled.
Capuano said Strome will absolutely find his way back into the lineup, but it’s difficult to understand what the next step is for the Islanders and Strome. Despite his signing of a two-year, $5-million bridge deal right before the start of training camp, it’s hard not to feel as if this could be heading to a point where both team and player decide they need to go their separate ways.
(All advanced stats via Puckalytics)
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