Looking at the Islanders division in the realignment and which teams got better or worse for the 2021 season vs the 2020 season.
In 2021, the Islanders and the rest of the league, will be playing in different divisions to limit traveling during COVID. As of now, it looks like the East will be made up of the Islanders, Rangers, Bruins, Sabres, Devils, Flyers, Capitals and Penguins.
This, of the four divisions, looks to be the toughest based on competition. What I wanted to do was look at each team, what they did last year and if they got better or worse based on free agency so far.
We’ll start with the Islanders, and then get to the rest of the division after that:
Islanders – 2019-2020 PTS%: .588
The Islanders were forced to trade away Devon Toews, one of their better defensive defensemen for a couple of picks due to the cap restraints in 2020. Nick Leddy will likely slide up into Toews’ role.
While Toews leaving via trade is a blow, the Islanders will get to see more of Noah Dobson, and also they have an upgrade in net with Ilya Sorokin. The argument could be made that with both of these guys as “additions” and a healthy roster, they’re at minimum the same.
Verdict: The Same, playoff contender
Bruins – 2019-2020 PTS%: .714
The Bruins were the only team to finish with 100 points last year and had a league-high .714 points percentage. In the playoffs, something just wasn’t clicking for them and they bowed out in the second round.
Boston lost Torey Krug and free agency, and hasn’t really done anything t replace him. Also there’s a chance the Zdeno Chara doesn’t return. Still Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak is a deadly top line.
Verdict: Slightly worse, still very good – playoff contender
Sabres – 2019-2020 PTS%: .493
The Sabres surprisingly landed Taylor Hall this past offseason. A top-six that includes Hall, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Jeff Skinner, and newly acquired Eric Staal should be an interesting one. Still, until proven otherwise this looks like a team that will start out okay and then go ice cold in the second half.
Verdict: Better, but not playoff level
Devils – 2019-2020 PTS%: .493
Do you believe in Corey Crawford? The Devils decided to change it up in net and bring in the former Stanley Cup winner. Outside of that, New Jersey added Nicholas Merkley but that’s about it. The Devils are still very much rebuilding and shouldn’t be much of a threat in the East this year.
Verdict: The Same
Rangers – 2019-2020 PTS%: .564
After getting bounced in the qualifiers, the Rangers landed the number one overall pick. Add Alexis Lafreniere to an already solid defensive core and that’s a good sign for the Rangers. Also, year two Igor Shesterkin should be even better this season.
Defensively, this team still isn’t very good but that might not matter with the offensive upside on the roster.
Verdict: Better, borderline playoff team
Flyers – 2019-2020 PTS%: .645
A well-coached team that didn’t change all that much. They lost Tyler Pitlick and Derek Grant in free agency but that shouldn’t be too much of an impact. They also added Erik Gustafsson for depth on the blue line.
This is pretty close to an identical roster. They absolutely look the part of a playoff contender.
Verdict: The Same, playoff contender
Penguins – 2019-2020 PTS%: .623
The Penguins let Justin Schultz go to Washington and replaced him with Cody Ceci in free agency. They also let veterans Patrick Marleau and Jack Johnson walk as well. Pittsburgh also elected to move on from Matt Murray and roll with Tristan Jarry in net.
With Crosby, Malkin, and Letang I guess they always have a shot but this thing has to come to an end eventually no?
Verdict: Slightly worse, borderline playoff team
Capitals – 2019-2020 PTS%: .652
They upgraded massively behind the bench by bringing in Peter Laviolette. In free agency, they added depth by bringing in Justin Schultz, Henrik Lundqvist, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk to supplement the core that we’re all familiar with.
They should be good again, and I expect Ilya Samsonov to get more reps in this year. An aging core that probably still has a couple more years left in the tank.
Verdict: Better, playoff contender