The New York Islanders will be in a new re-aligned division for the 2020-21 season. The Isles find themselves in the East division against strong competition.
The New York Islanders will be one of eight teams in the NHL new East division. Their divisional opponents are Boston, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers.
The Isles will play each divisional opponent eight times in the regular season making up their 56-game schedule. The top four teams in each division will make the playoffs and then face-off against each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Most NHL Insiders will probably pick the Bruins or the Capitals as the favorites in the East division. The Bruins lost Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara to free agency. Also, Brad Marchand and David Pasternak had off-season surgeries and could miss some time at the beginning of the season. The Bruins depth will be tested.
The Capitals have a new head coach in Peter Laviolette. How will his hard-nosed approach go over with a veteran Washington team? The Caps have eleven players at least 30 years of age and four more players going to hit 30 during 2021. Finally, the Caps are going to have to rely heavily on Ilya Samsonov in net, with Braden Holtby gone to Vancouver via free agency and Henrik Lundqvist out for the season due to injury.
Pittsburgh’s cornerstone guys in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are heading into their mid-thirties. Plus are the Penguins strong enough in goal and on the blue line to make a run at things?
Big expectations are now in store for the Flyers. Are their youngsters led by Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provonov ready for that task? Also, does Philly’s veterans have enough of their big-time hockey left in them?
Buffalo might have won the off-season headlines by signing Taylor Hall but hard to see them contending in this division given their depth. The Devils are clearly in a rebuild and still are at least a couple of years away.
The Rangers look like a team ready to take that next step and become a contender. With front-line players such as Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanjad, and Jacob Trouba it backs up that argument well. Let’s not also forget they also have the number one overall pick of the 2020 Draft in Alexis Lafreniere.
The question with the Blue Shirts though is are they deep enough in their lineup, as well as playing strong team defense for the long-haul. Let’s not forget as well while talented the Rangers net now falls to two youngsters.
As one can see every team has a great deal of talent but also a number of questions to answer as well.
The Islanders are going to have to bring their A-Game night in and night out in this division. But they don’t have to take a back seat to anyone.