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New York Islanders Can Be Better in 2019-20 Season

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 10: The New York Islanders celebrate their victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on April 10, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 10: The New York Islanders celebrate their victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on April 10, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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On paper, the New York Islanders didn’t get any better but they also didn’t get worse. Are we so sure that they can’t be better in 2019-20?

It’s been a boring few weeks for the New York Islanders. After the frantic first day of the free agency period, things have quieted down significantly. Giving us all plenty of time to think about the upcoming season and what could happen with the New York Islanders in 2019-20.

Will they be worse, the same, or better?

We aren’t the only ones asking those questions. The Athletic’s Alison Lukan (subscription required) sought to predict NHL standings for the 2019-20 season based on wins above replacement (WAR).

The New York Islanders, according to the model will finish with 82 points and fifth in the Metropolitan Division behind the Capitals, Blue Jackets, Penguins, Hurricanes, and Devils in that order. I know. The Blue Jackets?!

That projection from Lukan is well under the 92.5 line that sportsbetting.com has for the Islanders season. It seems like the Islanders are bound for a regression this season.

But are we sure that’s going to happen?

Not Better…

The case for an Islanders regression in 2019-20 is quite easy to make.

It’s true that on paper the New York Islanders didn’t get any better. Subbing out a 0.930SV% goalie for one that hit a 0.909SV% last season doesn’t scream “improvement”. Especially not on a team as reliant on goalkeeping as the New York Islanders were in 2018-19.

There’s also the simple luck test that the Islanders don’t pass. Their 5on5 PDO was tied for the highest in the league at 102.2. That’s really lucky. Looking at that number alone, the New York Islanders are regression bound. Because on paper, the Islanders just don’t have the talent to thrive with a system that sacrifices the number of opportunities for the quality of opportunities.

That’s exactly what Ryan Lambert wrote halfway through last season that got everyone up in arms. He was waiving the flag of regression back in December. Admittedly Lambert was waiving that flag way too early. But, headed in 2019-20 his point that in the long term the Islanders can’t continue to play this way and expect the same results should be well taken.

With all of that being said, it’s easy to see how the New York Islanders will be regression candidates in 2019-20. But are we sure there isn’t more to consider here?

But They Can Be

The power play was hot garbage last season with a 14.5 percent efficiency. Good for 29th in the NHL. Again, it was a flaming pile of garbage. It will be better in 2019-20.

An average power play would definitely make up for a portion of any projected drop off in 2019-20. The hiring of Jim Hillier will certainly help the Islanders struggling power play.

There’s also the idea that another year under Barry Trotz can only make things better.

In year one player had to adapt to a system that was the polar opposite of what was tough to them under Doug Weight. There would be a premium placed on defense and not offense.

Another year to adapt and adjust can only help the Islanders as they look to improve in year two. Remember, none of these models that are out there take coaching into account.

And then there’s the issue of goaltending. Varlamov is certainly coming off a bad year with a 0.909SV% and 2.87GAA. But so did Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss before last season. But Varlamov holds a career average 0.916SV% and 2.68GAA. He’s been a good goalie over his career.

Can he be again with the Islanders? With the coaching infrastructure, they have to surround him it’s certainly possible. If he can hit his career average it’s certainly possible for the Islanders to do well next year. Varlamov aside the roster is essentially the same.

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Most of these models and stats assume that what happened last season will happen again. But that’s not what happens. It’s no guaranteed, but the New York Islanders can certainly be better in 2019-20.

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