New York Islanders Don’t Pass Stats Test, Who Cares

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 18, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Islanders defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 18, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Islanders defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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The New York Islanders don’t have great underlying numbers, it’s true. But yet they’ve won seven of their last eight. Numbers aren’t everything.

Yahoo’s Ryan Lambert has a point. The New York Islanders underlying numbers aren’t very good. And if you prescribe to numbers dictating where teams should be in the standings then you might worry about the New York Islanders.

Lambert rightly points out that the Islanders have a terrible all-situations CF rating (seventh worst in the league) and their PDO in all situations is incredibly high at 101.9 (fifth highest in the league). The Islanders are outperforming metrics and are “lucky” in doing so. And the Islanders aren’t in a playoff spot.

It’s all true. But who cares right now? Islanders fans shouldn’t care that they’re outperforming metrics that tend to identify “good” teams.

Not Numbers vs. Eyes

This isn’t a post to say that numbers don’t matter. Corsi, expected goals for, even PDO all have value. Advanced statistics are incredibly valuable in order to “see” what took place. But predicting what will be is something that numbers (as well as the eye test) has a hard time doing.

Again, Lambert isn’t saying anything that isn’t true. The New York Islanders are performing better than expected. They’re up a half goal per game when comparing what they’ve currently done and what their xGF and xGA say they should be (as Lambert points out). All of that and they aren’t even in a playoff position.

While the New York Islanders aren’t currently in a playoff spot at the moment, they aren’t far off either. They’re one point off the Columbus Blue Jackets for third in the Metro with a game in hand and four points off the Washington Capitals at the top of the Metropolitan division with a game in hand.

The Islanders are right in the mix of things with the rest of the division in spite of the underlying analytics.

It’s All About Talent

Ultimately, Lambert’s point is that these numbers combined with the lack of talent on the New York Islanders isn’t sustainable.

It’s true. It isn’t. Not over the long-term. As in over multiple seasons. The formula that the New York Islanders are using won’t get the same traction next season. But for the rest of the 2018-19 season, there’s enough evidence to suggest that it can stick.

We’ve just started to get that point-per-game Mathew Barzal we knew was there. Through November Barzal scored nine points in 12 games. Through December he put up 15 in 14 games.

Our power play is finally starting to look like a threat. Since December eighth, the Islanders have scored seven power play goals on 34 opportunities. That’s a 21 percent efficiency. Compared to the 15 percent efficiency (12 PPG in 82 opportunities) before that.

For this season the Islanders will continue to be a team that outperforms its metrics. To the annoyance of some who still hold on to their pre-season expectations for teams.

But going into 2019-20 and forward these numbers are a big problem. Assuming that the New York Islanders talent pool doesn’t increase over the summer that is. Again, the issue here is that the Islanders don’t have the talent to win while outperforming what tends to translate to winning hockey.

By all indications that’s an issue that the New York Islanders are well aware of. If the Isles were comfortable with their current talent pool Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle would have a contract extension in hand.

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For the moment, enjoy the New York Islanders win despite the numbers. It’s going to be a fun rise that seems to be headed toward the playoffs. After that, watch the New York Islanders add to their talent pool.

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