Everyone is rightfully focused on the final day of the year (April 29). The New York Islanders have until that day to make the playoffs. They've got nearly 100 days to turn their season around, right?
Technically, yes. But there's actually less time than that. The Islanders have until March 21st to turn things around. That's the trade deadline. Because on that date, the Isles will have to figure out what they want to do with the rest of the year.
New York Islanders: Trade deadline date vitally important
Obviously, where the Islanders are at the end of the season will determine if they make the playoffs or not. But where they are a month earlier will be much more important. By March 21, the Islanders have to decide if they're close enough for a playoff push or not.
That leaves the Islanders with 58 days and 27 games to play before they have to make a decision on what they'll do with the season. Are they still in it or are they so far out that they need to sell of some pieces.
As it stands now the Islanders are rising up the standings. They sit sixth in the Metro with 34 points from 33 games but more importantly they're fifth in the Wild Card race (three places back). Boston, the team with the last Wild Card spot is 14 points up on the Isles with four more games played.
That's a large gap to make up in little time. Can they close that gap? Sure it's possible. Anything is possible but can they get within reach of a playoff spot? And by "within reach", can the Isles sit 4-8 points back of a playoff spot by the deadline?
Where the Islanders are in the standings by March 21 will determine if they sell off some of their depth (Parise, Chara, Greene, Clutterbuck, maybe even Mayfield) to give them some draft capital to (1) gain prospect depth or (2) pieces to acquire better talent for next year. Or decide to double down and acquire some depth of their own to make a push.
So while we focus on where the Islanders will be by end-of-day on April 29, the line is much earlier. Where the Islanders are going into March 21 will say what kind of year they'll end with.