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Islanders: 20-21 NHL divisional realignment will be a challenge

Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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What does the temporary divisional realignment for the 2020-21 season mean for the New York Islanders? Adding the Boston Bruins could be an issue.

The NHL is seemingly set to begin the 2020-21 season on January 13, 2021. But because the border between Canada and the US is closed for the time being a divisional realignment has to take place. And the New York Islanders division just got tougher.

We always knew this was a possibility. The border between Canada and the US has been closed for some time now. And with cases still on the rise, even as the vaccines arrive, that border will remain closed for a while still.

So the NHL is seemingly ready to create an all Canadian division and merge all the American teams into three new (but temporary) divisions. While the Isles will remain with a host of familiar faces, a few new ones will make an already tough division even tougher.

It’s Harder Now

According to a report from Pierre LeBrun, the NHL is set to realign the four divisions for the 2020-21 season. From what has been leaked so far the divisions will look like so:

  • Canada: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators, Jets, Oilers, Flames, Canucks
  • East: Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals, Bruins, Sabres
  • Central: Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Panthers, Wild, Predators, Lightning
  • West: Ducks, Coyotes, Avalanche, Stars, Kings, Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights

(Those are the division names I came up with and by no means set in stone.)

The changes from the 2019-20 Metropolitan division are Carolina and Columbus are to be replaced by Boston and Buffalo.

While the Hurricanes were certainly a banana skin for the Islanders, the Boston Bruins have routinely beat-up on the Isles over the last few years. The Isles are 1-3-2 against Boston with a -12 goal differential since Barry Trotz took over. So even as the Islanders climbed up the NHL ladder, the Bruins were always a few steps ahead.

Then add the fact that the Rangers were already on the rise before they added the first overall pick at the draft. The Flyers finally have a top tier goalie in the crease. And the Penguins and Capitals are always tough.

The Metropolitan Division was already difficult enough for the Islanders, but with Boston now in the mix, it makes things harder.

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…Unless

I didn’t want to just paint this gloomy picture where it was impossible for the Islanders to make the playoffs because of their new division.

The Boston Bruins were the best team in the league last season, but losing Torey Krug and not replacing him was a big blow for them. Sure, they still have Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and likely Zdeno Chara. But they could very well take a step back in 20-21.

And while the Rangers did well to push up the standings at the end of 19-20, what do we really know about their star goalie? Is he actually a star? Shesterkin looks good, but that’s based on a 13 game sample. The Rangers might be back to competing with the top teams in the division this year, but they could also not.

Sure, adding Boston makes things more difficult but the Islanders were a top team in an already tough division. They could very well be a top team in this new division.

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