Hockey fans have heard this one for a while; 75% of teams that aren't in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving aren't there at the end of the season. And right now, the New York Islanders aren't in a playoffs position. They're ten points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the East. (With three games in hand mind you).
Talk to Elliotte Friedman and he'll tell you that his 'line in the sand' is November first, almost a full month ahead of Thanksgiving. In a recent latest 32 Thoughts blog, the NHL insider wrote that from 2005-06 to 2018-19, just 15% of teams "who were at least four points out after games on Nov. 1 came back to make the playoffs."
So, with Thanksgiving being yesterday let's take a look at the Thanksgiving theory and if there's any hope for the Islanders.
New York Islanders: Are they truly out of it?
If you got back over the last five full seasons (from 2014-15 till 2018-19) 23 teams have been able to turn their season around from out of the playoff picture at Thanksgiving to making the post-season at seasons end. And the last two full seasons have shown the most turnaround of the five.
Here are the numbers for teams that made the post-season after not being in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving:
2014-15: 13/16 (81%)
2015-16: 11/16 (69%)
2016-17: 13/16 (81%)
2017-18: 10/16 (63%)
2018-19: 10/16 (63%)
On that alone it's not impossible for the Islanders to turn things around. Of course, it won't be easy.
The most famous example of this turnaround is the 2018-19 St Louis Blues. On Thanksgiving that year, the Blues were second from bottom in the entire NHL with a 7-10-3 record (17 points). They'd end the year with a 45-28-9 record (99 points). And, more importantly, win the Stanley Cup.
So can the Isles effectively be the St Louis Blues of 2021-22?
Keep in mind that the 2018-19 Blues played more games than the Islanders did before Thanksgiving (four more to be precise). They had a pretty evenly split between home games (12) and road games (8). The Blues had some injuries to deal with but it's nothing like the Islanders are currently dealing with.
So when you think about it, the Blues weren't in the same boat the Islanders are in right now. The Blues were just bad and just became good all of a sudden. The Islanders certainly aren't good but you can explain some of the issues that see them near the bottom of the NHL.
That 13 game road trip to start the year wasn't ideal, but the Isles came out of it alright (at least from the perspective of their record). And then you consider COVID/injuries. With seven guys out on COVID protocol and another two out for a few weeks with injury, the Isles aren't about to get back to full strength any time soon. So any hope is significantly diluted for the Isles.
So while the situation doesn't look good for the Isles at the moment. It's not over just yet. The Blues didn't start turning their season around until December so the Islanders still technically have time to do what the Blues did. Barry Trotz and his men still have another 66 games and 132 points to play for.
We've seen teams routinely turn their year around after Thanksgiving. So the Isles aren't truly out of it yet, but it doesn't look good.