If the NHL realigns divisions for 2020-21 what would that mean for the New York Islanders?
With the border between the US and Canada still closed the NHL is likely to realign the division for the 2020-21 season. That means the New York Islanders Metropolitan Division (or whatever they actually call it) could look drastically different this season.
Teams from the Atlantic and Pacific Division will see that largest change next season under this potential realignment. Both divisions hold three Canadian teams each. With all seven Canadian teams staying up north it means the other teams in the Atlantic and Pacific will have to find new homes.
That could have the Metropolitan Division look like so: Boston, Buffalo, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
How does that benefit or hurt the New York Islanders?
Under this possible realignment, both the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres would move into the Islanders division.
The Bruins are clearly going to be a problematic side to deal with. Over the last two seasons, the Islanders hold a 1-3-2 record against the Bruins being outscored 18-6 in those six games.
The Islanders are a good team, but the Boston Bruins are a better team and they’ve routinely had their way with the Isles. Adding them to what was already a tough division only makes things so much more difficult for the Islanders.
Pro: Carolina Gone
If we’re talking about teams that have the Islanders number we have to talk about the Hurricanes. While the Isles .333 points-percentage against the Bruins is much worse than the 0.571 they have against the Hurricanes over the last two years, there’s no doubt that seeing Carolina move to another division is a good thing for the Islanders.
Over the last two seasons the Islanders have played the Hurricanes (in the regular season) on seven occasions, Thomas Greiss started all seven going 3-2-2 with a 0.936SV% and a 2.14GAA. And as you may recall, the Isles don’t have Greiss to put between the pipes anymore.
Con: Tougher Division
Facing Boston is already going to be tough enough, but consider the quality of the other teams in this hypothetical situation where the metropolitan division is realigned
The Rangers rebuild is surely complete. They took a huge step forward last season by making the qualifying round and they added the first-overall pick to boot. They were already a difficult team and they just added more quality to their mix.
Pittsburgh (who won two-cups over the last five years) could be headed for a decline but who knows. Washington won the cup three years ago and just added a top-tier coach to lead their team. Philadelphia finally has a goalie in Carter Hart to add to their core of talent. They may have finally turned a corner.
This new division would feature four of the top ten teams in the NHL over the last two seasons. That’s an incredible concentration of quality which doesn’t look good for the Islanders on the surface.
Pro: Match-up Well
So after putting forward that gloomy narrative that this new division will be wildly difficult to navigate for the Islanders consider their record against these teams over the last two seasons:
That’s a combined record of 26-16-5 over 45 games returning 57 points.
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A 45 game season might just be how long the 2020-21 season could be if it’s not going to start till January. A 57 point return is two points more than what the Islanders did the last time the NHL schedule was so short (2012-13). That 55 point return was good enough for eighth in the NHL and third in their division.