In just four days the new hockey season begins. For the New York Islanders, there are many questions that they will face in 2017-18. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made.
Our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
There’s no question the Metropolitan Division is the best division in the National Hockey League.
After all, the division has the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Captials, who have won the Presidents’ Trophy the last two seasons. The division also features the Columbus Blue Jackets with Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky and Jack Adams winner John Tortarella and the New York Rangers who have made the playoffs 11 out of the last 12 years. Rounding out the Metro is the up-and-coming Carolina Hurricanes, plus the building Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, who both got the first two picks in this summers’ draft.
The Islanders, are the last team in that powerhouse of a division.
They’ve been one of stronger teams in the Metro the past three years with a 103, 100, and 94-point seasons. The Islanders are a combined 54-21-11 against the Metro over the last three years. That’s pretty darn good with how much the gap has closed in recent seasons. The strong division play is one of the key reasons the Isles made it to the playoffs twice in those three years.
I mentioned earlier of how much more competitive the Metro is going to be this season, but determining where the Islanders fit in with those other six teams is interesting.
Are they closer to the top dogs — the Pens and Caps — yet? New York is trending upward toward them with their high-powered offense. But to get on those two teams level, the Islanders will need to show consistency this year and distance themselves from the other teams as the season goes on. Are they more in the middle of the pack with Columbus, the Rangers, and the Hurricanes? Many will tell you yes, because the Isles have their strengths and weaknesses, just like those three clubs, which still places them in that position.
The Islanders are definitely better than the Flyers. The Flyers are coming off a rough season a year ago and are in the midst of a mini-rebuild. They are also miles ahead of the Devils. New Jersey is still building for the future and aren’t ready yet for prime time. The Isles have also dominated them for a long time now.
Many of the critics are predicting New York to finish seventh in the Metro, which is laughable.
Out of the eight teams, the Islanders have one of the top-four offenses in the division. They do have question marks on defense, but they still have good depth and a boatload of experience. The goaltending situation is now solved, and both Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss make up one of the more underrated one-two punches. And if the Islanders can win against division opponents like they have over the last few years, they will quickly build confidence and establish a bigger presence near the top.
The future is very bright for the New York Islanders. Taking that next step forward in the Metro in 2017-18, will only make that future shine more.
New York has all the tools this year to become a top-tier team in the division, but they have to let their play show it. Sticking in the middle with the other teams that will be fighting for a wild-card spot will only make it more difficult for the Islanders to widen the gap. That same statement goes for if the Islanders want to return to the playoffs.
The Metopolitan will be no walk in the park this year. And for the Islanders, where they stack up will say a lot about the direction the team is headed.
Prediction: The Islanders finish third in the Metro.