Well, folks, we actually did it. We made it through the offseason. It was painful and scary, but we perspired (during free agency) and percolated (thinking about free agency) and persevered (through the doldrums of August) and we're all better for it. Maybe not the Islanders, but why not us, as people?
Anyway, as we know, we said good-bye to three pillars of the organization in Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin. To replace them, we brought in Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, and P.A. Parenteau (HA!). Luckily, though, it would appear that Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, two very promising 19 year-olds selected in the first round in 2015, have made the team. For how long, who knows. I'm sure they'll play every game. No need to fear. None at all.
This offseason has not been great, to say the least. Still, with two solid-if-not-great goalies, a very good, albeit star-power-lacking, defense core, and one of the best players in the league in John Tavares, you would think that they should be competitive enough to qualify for the playoffs - what they do when they get there is another story entirely, but we should at least be able to get to that point.
Well, uh, let's just say that some pundits agree and some very much disagree. Statistics paint us as a decidedly average team, which kind of feels like the correct description, but they may also be overrating us.
The NHL's circus act of a website allowed its staff to make projections, and while some are reasonable, others give reason to wonder how they managed to secure a position working for the league.
Twenty different analysts, columnists, and staff writers projected how they feel the dominoes will fall this season - 13 of them picked the Isles to finish third in our division, behind the Capitals and Penguins (in some order); the other seven staff members had us missing the playoffs, not even making the Card.
This is a bit concerning, that so many people think we are going to fall short of the playoffs. I also find it rather peculiar that some think we could be the third best in our division, and others think that we aren't even fifth-best (some of those that left us off had two teams from the Metro taking the Wild Cards.
Still, though, some of these projections are hard to take seriously at all. I mean, does anyone actually think that the Ottawa Senators are a playoff team this year? Or the Buffalo Sabres, even before the injury to Jack Eichel? Or how about Mike Rupp, picking the Columbus Blue Jackets as a Wild Card? Even the most extreme of optimists would tell some of these folks to stop sniffing glue.
Surprises can always happen, but I would have to think that even the Devils (with shockingly good forward depth and of course Cory Schneider) or the Hurricanes (with very good forward and defensive depth) have better chances of sneaking into the postseason than these disastrous organizations.
Puck Daddy Projections
Yahoo! Sports' hockey blog employs many different writers of varying levels of skill and competence. Some can have some very valuable things to say; others tend to hold on to traditional hockey values, or just lazy biases that they not-so-subtly include in their writings and opinions.
Here, seven different writers offered their opinion on where each team will end up in April, and they were a bit more kind to us than NHL.com. I can't decide if this is good or bad.
Of the seven writers, three picked the Isles to finish third in the Metro. Two others, including their most stats-oriented blogger, Ryan Lambert, picked us to finish fifth in the division (and in Wild Card 2 to qualify for the postseason). Noted Devils fan Greg Wyshynski picked the Devils to finish in fourth, while we sit fifth, outside the playoff bubble - though he at least acknowledges that his homerism may be slipping into his decision.
Meanwhile, West Coast-based blogger Jen Neale believes a goaltending tandem of Eddie Lack and Cam Ward is going to be enough to vaunt the Hurricanes into the dance, along with the Rangers AND Flyers, while we finish sixth. Like I said above, the Hurricanes are a surprisingly good team. But I'd be genuinely stunned if all three of these teams found a way to beat us out. It is certainly plausible, but a bit bold to actually think that we will fall so far in a softening division.
Scott Burnside (ESPN.com) Projections
HockeyViz (Micah Blake McCurdy) Projections
The previous sets of projections were created using, well, nothing of substance. That can be the nature of projections, after all. No one can accurately predict the future. But I like the idea of using numbers to do this, as they are the only truly objective evidence we have to determine a player or team's value.
Micah McCurdy has built a new model for predicting the season standings each of the last few seasons; this season's model is named Cordelia (no, I don't know why he names them, or if Cordelia is even a real name) and it/she (depending on the sentience of the model) predicts us to finish third in our division with around 95 points. This would put us sixth in the conference, sandwiched between Florida and Philly.
Oh, and the Rangers would miss the playoffs by two points. Two sweet points.
Scott Cullen (TSN.com) Projections
Scott Cullen is one of the better mainstream hockey writers out there. He reaches a national forum, like Steve "I-can't-believe-I-share-a-first-name-with-him" Simmons, but he doesn't have to lie about things like NHL stars' hot dog consumption to do it.
Instead, he translates statistical information into an easily-digested collection of words. He writes about the stats as they relate to gameplay, making them easier to understand and generating exposure to a more casual audience as well as the die-hards.
Scott doesn't make a prediction based on a statistical model; instead, like many of us, he reads the stats and interprets and understands them, and makes a prediction based on what seem to be the most likely outcomes, in their own opinions.
In his opinion, we will finish third in our division, qualifying for a playoff spot against the eventual repeat champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins. That seems about right. (...right?)
What it all means
Nothing. Absolutely nothing!
Okay, no, it means something. Projections, while utterly meaningless, can be both a lot of fun to peruse (or a lot of frustration, depending on your team). They also give us a decent idea of what we should be expecting out of our team and the rest of the league this season.
For example, among the most popular Stanley Cup finalists and winners are the Lightning, Penguins, Predators, Kings, Capitals, or Sharks. It should stand to reason that these teams would do well both in the standings and the playoffs this season. However, anything can happen, and very often it does. Remember when the Kings missed the playoffs in 2015? They led the league in CF%.
Of course, teams that have done well in CF% more often than not tend to do well in the standings (and playoffs as well). For that reason, I predict that we'll finish fourth in our division, behind the Penguins, Capitals, and Flyers. I think we'll also make the playoffs in a Wild Card position. I would be pretty surprised if we made it past the first round as currently constructed, though.