The 2023-24 NY Islanders met expectations and that's the problem

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Meeting expectations is good, exceeding expectations are better.

For the most part, the 2023-24 New York Islanders met the expectations of most and exceeded the expectations of others. The only expectations they didn't meet were likely their own, and that's the way it should be for every team that has a chance at winning the Stanley Cup and falls short.

If you went back to the various predictions made by publications prior to the start of the season, the consensus was that the Islanders were to finish somewhere between 90-95 points and compete for one of the final playoff spots with a number of teams. That list ranged from the improved Pittsburgh Penguins to the upstart Buffalo Sabres or Ottawa Senators. Some thought the Detroit Red Wings would crack into the post-season, while others thought correctly the Washington Capitals had enough veteran talent to squeak in.

When using that as context, it's hard to be disappointed in how the season turned out. Sure, you could be upset and frustrated by losing to the Carolina Hurricanes for the second straight year, but can you really call the season a disappointment?

If the answer is no, then that's part of the problem.

The Islanders are not a Stanley Cup contender, nor are they expected to be. The realistic objective over the last two seasons has been to make the playoffs and take a shot at beating a better team or two in a long, hard-fought series. The Islanders are recognized as a "tough out," which is another way of saying they're not as talented as their playoff opponents. This strategy worked for them in 2020 and 2021, but it's now been three seasons with a total of three playoff wins.

You'd have to go back to 2018-19, the first year under Barry Trotz, as the last time the Islanders had a sustained great regular season. They finished with 102 points and earned home ice in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The franchise hasn't won a division title since 1987-88.

The fanbase wants to enter the season knowing, not hoping they'll be a playoff team, and they want to enter a playoff series as the favorites for a change. Wouldn't that be nice? The expectations are higher in the dressing room than they are on the outside, but recent history has proved that the perceived ceiling for the Islanders is there for a reason.

We don't know what to expect this offseason, but if the talent level of the roster isn't raised, neither will the expectations.