Answering five questions that have yet to be answered for the New York Islanders and their 2019-2020 season that has been suspended.
With the return of the NHL uncertain and no indication that the season will even continue with playoffs, we look at some “what ifs” and “would haves” for the New York Islanders this season.
1. If the season continued would the Isles make the playoffs, part 1?
Probably not. Assuming that the rest of the season is played out, the Islanders have 14 games remaining. The first five would be against, Calgary, Edmonton, and Pittsburgh, all on the road. Followed by Calgary at home and, finally, Toronto on the road.
The way the Islanders were playing, I don’t see them gaining more than 4 points during that stretch, especially with four of the games on the road against tough opponents. The caveat here is that the break may have given the team enough of a chance to re-group, think about the poor play over the last month and get healthy, but that goes for all the other teams as well.
On the flip side, the last two games of the season would be at home against Chicago and the Devils. Should the Islanders need four points to get into the playoffs, they would have a decent chance to gain them against these two, fairly lousy teams.
Under this scenario, I would say that they would have a 45% chance of making the playoffs.
2. Would the Islanders have made the playoffs, part 2?
Yes! Okay, it is a little more complicated than just a yes.
There have been many articles written examining every possible scenario the NHL could come up with for the rest of the season and playoffs. Here are two good ones; Brainstorming six Stanley Cup Playoff format ideas for 2020 by Ryan Dixon and Analyzing different NHL playoff formats to determine the fairest option by Dom Luszczyszyn, (Athletic subscription required).
As I noted, I believe that the NHL regular season is all but done. I would think though, that the NHL is going to try and absolutely find a way to have playoff games. If they use the play in format for teams on the bubble, teams like the Isles and Blue Jackets, this gives the Isles a fighting chance to make it.
Luszczyszyn also is also using simulation and modeling for the games that would have been played thus far into the season. The Isles are not going to make the playoffs under his simulations and in fact, his modeling is similar to how I see the Isles chances in part one above. It is important to note that the Isles have a better winning percentage than the Blue Jackets and if the NHL uses winning percentage for a standard playoff structure, the Isles are in.
If the NHL were to use points, the Blue Jackets have more and are in. Again, another twist is the Blue Jackets have played more games than the Isles, and this is why there is a call by some to use winning percentage.
There are so many options and scenarios that it’s actually mind-boggling, but I believe foregoing the rest of the season and using a play in scenario helps the Islanders and gives them the best shot for a playoff berth.
3. Would a healthy Casey Cizikas make a difference for a playoff push?
Absolutely it would. Cizikas could truly be called the heart and soul of this team. There is a reason that Trotz starts games with the fourth line and I believe it has to do with Casey’s style of play, the hustle and hard-nosed hard play that sets the tone. Casey and Cal Clutterbuck make a real difference together and give the Isles some good energy and vibe.
It is evident that this team has struggled with all the line juggling Trotz has had to do because of injuries and lack of production, particularly with Casey out. The line combinations have not been great and were not producing the offense the team needed. Sliding Casey back into center on the fourth line with a healthy Clutterbuck gives the coach more options for the third line to try and find scoring.
4. Would Brook Nelson have scored 30 goals this year?
Yes. With 26 goals in 68 games, (.38 GPG Avg) he is on pace for 31 and I believe that Brock would have reached the 30 goal mark this year. Since entering the league in ’13-’14, he has now averaged 21 goals per season and scored 20 plus goals five of his seven years in the NHL. Brock is a very good NHL player, who with little fanfare has become a solid offensive player.
5. Will the Belmont Arena be completed in time?
Now that Governor Cuomo has issued an order that all non-essential construction be halted until the COVID-19 pandemic is properly under control, there will be no more work done on the construction of the Belmont Arena in the short term.
Richard Browne, Sterling’s managing partner, said in a statement. “If construction restarts within a reasonable period, we expect to maintain our schedule and for the arena to be open for the 2021-22 NHL season.”
The question will be, if there is a delay does the team start the ’21-’22 season at the Coliseum and move to Belmont when it is ready? Just what the Islanders need, another season in two buildings after we finally parted ways with the Barclay’s Center.
On the bright side, once moved to Belmont, the Islanders will have a modern NHL arena and one permanent home.
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The NHL and Islander season has not gone as well as we have hoped. Let’s hope that the world and North America find ways to cure and manage COVID-19 and we resume somewhat normal daily living, and get back to being true sports fans, arguing and debating our favorite teams.