The New York Islanders want to return to where they were before last season as a Stanley Cup Contender in 2022-23. Before the 2021-22 season the Isles made it to the Eastern Conference Final in back-to-back postseasons and were just two goals shy of beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and making it to the cup final.
Now the Islanders are trying to climb back up the NHL mountain in an effort to return to form as a legitimate playoff threat. However, making the playoffs next season will be a tough task for the blue and orange.
A lot went wrong for the Isles last season, between the 13-game road trip and a Covid outbreak early last season where the team was severely short-handed for several games. Having said that every NHL Insider and fan knew how deep the Eastern Conference was and that a really good team would be on the outside looking in come the playoffs.
Now as the Islanders enter next season in a Metropolitan Division that is mostly improved, but that's not as clear in the Islanders' case after GM Lou Lamoriello swung and missed on Johnny Gaudreau and it's been radio silence since.
Making the Playoffs a Tough Task
All eight Eastern Conference playoff teams last season had at least 100 Points. The Washington Capitals clinched the eighth seed and the secong wildcard and finished with 100 points even. The Islanders were next best as the first team outside of the playoffs with 84 points, a 16-point differential.
So for the Isles to just get back to the playoffs they are going to need to muster up about eight more wins to be in the playoff equation if things play out similarly in 2022-23. A 100-point season appears necessary to print blue and orange playoff tickets in 2023. Given how the Metro, as well as the East, appears improved this summer, the Isles will need to be competitive for 82 games with little margin for error ahead in the Isles conference, especially due to the fact that teams that finished after the Islanders are also significantly improved.
The Columbus Blue Jackets added Gaudreau and the Ottawa Senators traded for superstar Alex Debrincat and goaltender Cam Talbot, then followed that up by signing Claude Giroux. Don't sleep on the New Jersey Devils either who signed Ondrej Palat and traded for John Marino to add to their talented young lineup.
Looking at all the factors involved, it's apparent how imperative it is that Lamoriello adds a significant player to this roster. The Islanders have to upgrade to give themselves a realistic chance of being a Cup contender as they were in 2020 and 2021.
Is it possible with no significant moves after the acquisition of Alexander Romanov that the Isles are a contender this season? The answer is yes, however (and that's with a capital H), Lamoriello is betting on an awful lot of things to go right in order for that to happen. That includes players who disappointed such as Mathew Barzal & Anthony Beauvillier to significantly improve and banking on players who had big years like Brock Nelson to duplicate last season. Lamoriello has been vocal about his hope for youngsters like Oliver Wahlstrom to take a big step in their development next season as well.
Core players like Anders Lee and Nelson are in their early thirties. The Isles are a win-now team and Lamoriello needs to act accordingly. Prior to last season, it was clear the Isles were an upgrade to the top-6 away from getting to the promised land. Not only have they not added that player but most of the Eastern Conference did. If the Islanders want to stand a chance in the beast that is the East, it's time for Lamoriello to step up or the Islanders could be on the outside looking in once again.