Bo Horvat of the Islanders plays the puck during the first period...

Bo Horvat of the Islanders plays the puck during the first period against Robby Fabbri of the Red Wings at UBS Arena on Saturday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

No gambler wins every wager, and Lou Lamoriello certainly has not hit on all roster decisions he’s made as an NHL general manager since 1987. But the Islanders’ boss has always been 100% decisive. Once he makes up his mind on what he believes is the right course of action, nothing sways him from that path.

Even as the Islanders stumbled through an awful January, Lamoriello believed his team was a strong playoff contender. He was going to be a buyer, not a seller, to give his trusted core group perhaps one last chance at a long run before real roster renovations need to be made.

Which brings us to Friday’s NHL trade deadline. Lamoriello made no further moves after acquiring top-line center Bo Horvat from the Canucks on Jan. 30 — setting off one of the wildest five-week trade frenzies in league history — and versatile forward Pierre Engvall from the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

He didn’t acquire sorely needed defense depth, and that seemed somewhat curious with playoff rentals such as Shayne Gostisbehere and John Klingberg being traded for moderate returns.

Nor did Lamoriello trade away impending unrestricted free agents Zach Parise, Scott Mayfield or Semyon Varlamov. The obvious risk is that they can leave for no return this offseason, and the organization is thin on top prospects and draft capital. But all three will be crucial for the Islanders’ playoff push, even with Varlamov serving as a backup to Ilya Sorokin.

At this point, the three can be considered self-retained playoff rentals that cost Lamoriello nothing. Parise may well re-sign if he chooses to continue playing, but Mayfield and Varlamov might be too pricey to retain as UFAs even if both have professed a strong desire to remain with the Islanders.

So Lamoriello has laid his wager on a twofold gamble.

Author Joe Buono and illustrator Joe Maracic have published 'New...

Author Joe Buono and illustrator Joe Maracic have published 'New York Islanders A To Z, a children's primer on the team's history. A is for Al Arbour, B is for Mike Bossy, etc. Credit: Newsday/Andrew Gross

Are the Islanders good enough defensively to A) get into the playoffs and B) be able to win in the playoffs? (Answer coming soon.)

And can Lamoriello formulate a long-term plan for the organization while lacking the aforementioned draft picks — the Islanders have not picked in the first round since 2019 and Lamoriello included this year’s first-round pick in the Horvat deal, albeit as a top-12 protected selection — and prospects?

Key Islanders such as Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, Kyle Palmieri and Mayfield all are on the other side of 30. Defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock will turn 30 after next season.

Given Lamoriello’s famously secretive nature, it’s unclear how he’ll navigate that minefield. Or even if he will. He is 80 and believed to be in the last season of his contract.

Adam Pelech of the Islanders skates against the Penguins at UBS...

Adam Pelech of the Islanders skates against the Penguins at UBS Arena on Feb. 17. Credit: Jim McIsaac

As for the Islanders’ defense, the team’s overall structure has improved during the past couple of weeks. Coach Lane Lambert did well to uncouple Pelech and Pulock to help buttress Mayfield and Alexander Romanov.

But he left the Sebastian Aho-Noah Dobson pair intact, and those two have struggled in their own end. Lamoriello would have done well to import another defenseman.

He didn’t.

It’s a gamble.

Pelech's tough recovery

Adam Pelech missed the rest of the regular season after suffering an Achilles tendon injury on Jan. 2, 2020, and was able to return for the Islanders’ playoff run to the NHL semifinals only because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the postseason until that August.

But the defenseman said his recent recovery from a head injury was much more difficult. Pelech missed 21 games from Dec. 6-Jan. 21.

“It went on a lot longer than I thought it would and, honestly, it was a lot more difficult to come back from than anything I’ve dealt with, including the Achilles,” Pelech said. “Coming back from this and not even really being able to exercise for over a month and missing seven weeks, especially with a head injury, yeah, it was difficult to come back from.

“It’s taken me some time. But I feel like I have kind of gotten back into the groove and I’m starting to feel like myself again.”

Saturday marked Pelech’s fifth game paired with Scott Mayfield after coach Lane Lambert separated him from longtime partner Ryan Pulock.

“Recently, I’ve seen him moving the puck a lot quicker and recognizing things a little bit sooner,” Lambert said. “I thought there were times when he was having a little bit of trouble. It wasn’t all the time, but when he did have trouble, it was a little split-second delay, and that comes with getting up to game speed.”

Appealing to young fans

Author Joe Buono wanted to make the Islanders accessible to younger hockey fans, so he and illustrator Joe Maracic have published “New York Islanders A To Z,” a children’s primer on the team’s history, through Book Baby.

A is for Al Arbour, B is for Mike Bossy, etc.

“I wanted to create a fun way for parents to connect with their kids through the love of their sports teams,” Buono said. “The book, thanks to the illustrations of Joe Maracic, is a bright and colorful way to bring the history of the team to life and pass on memories to the next generation of Islanders fans.”

Islanders television voices present and past Brendan Burke, Stan Fischler and Jiggs McDonald as well as radio play-by-play announcer Chris King contributed essays for the book, and team statistician Eric Hornick also was involved.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Islanders’ Children’s Foundation.

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