Are the New York Islanders really poised to miss the playoffs in 2016-17? After two 100 point seasons in-a-row is it possible that the Isles actually regress this season?
It’s fair to say that nothing is guaranteed in the world of sport. But is it at all possible to say that based on the New York Islanders roster moves this offseason that they could miss the playoffs?
There are two articles on the internet that state the Islanders could very well miss out on a third year with post-season hockey. Both USA Today and Sportsnet put lists of the five teams that could miss out on the post-season, and the New York Islanders made it on each list.
Both USA Today and Sportsnet have their reasons. But neither of them are at all convincing.
We’re obviously biased, being Islanders fans and all. But let’s look at each of the two reasons and give them the benefit of the doubt. But by the end, you’ll see that neither of them hold any water.
USA Todays’s list is more recent than Sportsnet so perhaps you haven’t seen it yet. It was published just at noon on September 3rd. The Islanders are the last team named on their list, and as justification for inclusion they say the following:
“The Islanders’ addition of Andrew Ladd and speedy Jason Chimera is helpful, but they lost Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin to free agency. It would be sinful to underestimate a John Tavares team, but it is more than fair to say the Islanders are not a lock to make the playoffs.”
USA Today’s logic is that without Okposo, Nielsen, and Martin we can’t be playoff bound. They end it with a nice little homage to John Tavares in the hopes it placates Isles fans.
Let’s start by just saying that keeping Matt Martin would have had no effect on whether we make the playoffs or not. His contributions on the ice are incredibly valuable, but he didn’t take any win’s with him when he left for Toronto. In fact, Chimera is an upgrade on Martin.
That leaves Nielsen and Okposo. The loss of both hurt emotionally. Both were tremendous individuals for this franchise. But are we worse off without them?
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Ladd comes in as a direct replacement for Okposo. Ladd is three years Okposo’s senior, which is going to be a factor. But like Okposo Ladd is good for 20+ goals and somewhere between 45-50 points over the course of a full season.
The big loss for the Islanders is going to be Frans Nielsen. Based on rumors before free agency opened, the Isles were still trying to get a deal done with Nielsen. Indicated just how much GM Garth Snow and the management team valued his services.
Now with Nielsen gone the second line center role will likely fall to Ryan Strome. This might sound like a downgrade. But remember that Strome was drafted 5th overall in 2011 after exploding on the scene with a 106 point season with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.
He’s also the player that put up 50 points in his second full season in the league just two years ago. Strome was used improperly as a winger last season. He’s a center. The team realized it’s mistake and will place him in his natural center position, where he should flourish.
But to simply state that because we don’t have Kyle or Frans we aren’t a shoe-in to make the playoffs is lazy. Sure we don’t have them, but what we do have is still a playoff quality team.
The USA Today piece follows what Sportsnet writer Eric Engels wrote fairly closely. Only Engles provides more details as to why they feel the Isles might not make the playoffs.
It would be sinful to underestimate a John Tavares team
Again, the fear for the Islanders is that replacing Nielsen and Okposo with Ladd and Chimera, and this time P.A. Parenteau gets a mention, isn’t going to equal out at the end of the day.
But interestingly enough Engles states that Tavares and the Isles top four defensive pair can single-handedly keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot. So adding the compliment of players that make up the rest of the Islanders should certainly factor in to punch their playoff ticket?
Engels’ issue with the Isles is what he feels to be their lack of “top-end scoring”. We already have one of the best players in the league in Tavares. And the top tier offensive talent for the Isles of Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, and Ryan Strome are good for 35-50 points each.
That range isn’t fantastic for any single player, but spread out over five different players gives the Isles great offensive depth. Add John Tavares to the mix and that’s two full lines with a minimum of 105 points each.
Did They Get Worse?
The arguments, if you can call them arguments, being made by both USA Today and Sportsnet are that the Islanders haven’t gotten any better this offseason. The additions of Andrew Ladd, PA Parenteau, and Jason Chimera didn’t push the needle forward for the team.
At the very least their additions didn’t make us worse than last season. Meaning that another 100 point season still seems entirely plausible to us.
But the additions we made in the off-season bring their own value to the team. Ladd brings leadership and post-season know-how (he’s got two rings after all). PA Parenteau brings reliable secondary scoring, and an oh-so-nice cap hit. Chimera brings experience and what can only be defined as tertiary scoring.
Can we still make the playoffs next season? Absolutely.
Unlike the views expressed by USA Today and Sportsnet, we feel like the Islanders haven’t actually regressed despite losing some very valuable free agents in free agency. Getting to the playoffs for a third year running will happen.