As we inch toward training camp and the 2023-24 regular season, the NHL.com team-by-team previews are coming out for each franchise. On Saturday, it was the New York Islanders' turn in the league's 32 in 32 slate of previews, questions, and predictions.
Hosted by writers Dan Rosen and Amalie Benjamin, the segment painted a familiar picture of the team's outlook heading into head coach Lane Lambert's second year. The Islanders are somewhere between the true Stanley Cup contenders and those teams that are rebuilding their roster. They'll be good enough to be in the playoff mix, but there are teams around them that got better this off-season and others that are emerging to playoff contention, such as the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators, that could take away a playoff spot next season.
"It's sort of just a blah situation, said Benjamin. "I think that's what you're looking at. It's a little blah. I am intrigued to see what you're going to get from a full season of [Bo] Horvat and Mathew Barzal. They have talent, but there's nothing exciting that pulls it all together."
"They're built well down the middle, and that's why they are going to be a contender to be a playoff team, said Rosen. "What they have is an elite goalie in Ilya Sorokin." Rosen later described the Islanders as a team "stuck in neutral with great goaltending."
The great goaltending part is undoubtedly true. The Islanders blueprint for success this season is to hope that full seasons of Horvat and Pierre Engvall along with an improved power-play and steps forward from younger players such as Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson are enough to take them from a 93 point team to around the 100 point mark. They won't be chasing the Presidents Trophy or a Metropolitan Division banner, but if they get in, their style of play can still make noise in April and May.
When it came time to make their playoff predictions, both Rosen and Benjamin have the Islanders on the outside looking in citing the Pittsburgh Penguins acquisition of Erik Karlsson and the improvement of other teams in the Atlantic Division to be the reason why. Other teams around the Isles have gotten better whereas their ceiling has remained largely unchanged.