Should we care that the NY Islanders aren't in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving?

Nov 22, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save
Nov 22, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Following the New York Islanders 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thanksgiving Eve, the team finds itself ahead of the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings, but on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture at the somewhat important "American" Thanksgiving Day marker.

The Flyers and Detroit Red Wings both have 21 points, two more than the 7-6-5 Islanders on Turkey Day, with Detroit owning the second Wild-Card spot having played 18 games compared to Philadelphia's 19. So, why should we care?

From 2005 through the 2018-19 season, more than 75% of teams in playoff position on Thanksgiving Day finished the season in playoff position. That trend continued over the last two seasons as four teams outside of playoff position on the holiday made the playoffs in 2021-22 and just three were able to break into the top eight of their conference last season.

Whether you buy into this manufactured season milestone or not, it has historically served as a time when NHL General Managers and front offices survey their team, taking a good, hard look at where they are lacking and potential ways to improve the roster.

"Make no mistake, this Thanksgiving statistic, call it a deadline if you will, it is discussed in coaching rooms across the NHL. In the two I have been in we talked about it and how it was important that we were in position to try to be successful the rest of the way because it matters. It's real."

Mark Recchi,

Looking at the Eastern Conference standings, the biggest surprise is the Washington Capitals and their 10-4-2 record which has them in second place in the Metro and ahead of last year's division champs Carolina Hurricanes. Over in the Atlantic Division, before the start of the year, there was some thought that the Boston Bruins would slide down to a Wild Card level team. That clearly hasn't happened as Boston is on a blistering pace that resembles last year's record-breaking team.

The Tampa Bay Lighting remain in playoff position, even without goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Florida Panthers have carried momentum from last year's run to the Stanley Cup Final and have the conference's third best point total.

Overall, things aren't too far different than we imagined they'd be at the start of the season. The Islanders are likely going to have to stay ahead of four teams, the Caps, Red Wings, Flyers, and Penguins to finish in a Wild Card spot, with the assumption that the super-talented Devils put things together at some point and go on a run.

Despite their seven-game winless streak, they're either ahead or 2-3 points behind each of those teams. With three-quarters left to play in the regular season, what will happen after we start digesting Thanksgiving dinner will be what decides if the Islanders are among the usual 25% of teams that end up in the post-season despite not being in that position on Turkey Day.