We can basically kiss this season goodbye, barring a miracle run that they have not shown they can pull off.
The New York Islanders, at one point second in the Metro, are now firmly in the bottom three, sixth right now. But the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that should be pretty bad, is now only two points behind. They’re six points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have two games in hand, for the final wild-card spot. The Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, and tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, have all blown past the Islanders by points percentage, which is a depressing .510 for New York.
It’s bleak, and as Jenny wrote the other night, it’s hard to care about this team right now. It has never been clearer that last year was not an anomaly but a harbinger of things to come. The only difference is that the season was over in November last year; at least we made it to January, I guess? And it is bleak knowing that they’re this bad in spite of world-class, possibly best-in-the-league goaltending. They don’t even have to be that good to be competitive, but they can’t even manage that.
What makes it especially bleak is that despite being non-competitive, this team, as constructed, is still too good to be a bottom-five team. The best they could hope for is the bottom seven. That would still put them within Connor Bedard/Adam Fantilli range, though their odds wouldn’t be great. Maybe, just maybe, they can manage to nab one of those guys with some lottery luck. Remember when the Carolina Hurricanes were on the cusp of becoming playoff-competitive but still missed the playoffs in 2018? They had low lottery odds but still managed to move up to second overall, where they got Andrei Svechnikov, now a huge driver of the Metro leader’s offense.
I’m curious what you fine folks think: If the Isles manage to get one of those guys because they moved up in the lottery, what would you do with the rest of the team? I’m of the mind that maybe they should give it a go with some of the core again—I mean, with the contract lengths and trade protection, they probably won’t have a choice—but an infusion of talent like that could be just what this team needs to get itself over the hump. Or perhaps their arrival will be too late.
That being said, I’m fantasizing big time in that tangent. No cold stretch lasts forever, and tonight’s game against the Red Wings is the penultimate game before the bye week and All-Star break, which could not come at a better time for the Islanders. What will most likely happen is the break and the rest will provide the team a chance to reset, and they will play better than .500 hockey down the stretch—not enough to make the playoffs, but enough to play themselves out of the possibility of Bedard and possibly Fantilli, too.
On that happy note, FIGs go here, assuming you think they’ll actually score any goals tonight. It’s a 7:00 p.m. start, and it’s ESPN, the TV kind.
#Isles pic.twitter.com/c4PiXWej6V— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) January 26, 2023
- A preview of tonight’s game. It’s John Tonelli Legends Night, and what a way to celebrate him. [Islanders]
- It’s their first of two chances to right this ship and head into the break with something resembling optimism. [Newsday]
- P.K. Subban sees a need for speed for the Islanders. He’s not wrong, but I think it runs deeper than that at this point. [Newsday]
- I don’t think speed alone would solve it because, in a season where offense is way up leaguewide, the Islanders’ offense is currently comparable to some of their leanest years in the 90s and 00s. Just getting faster won’t improve that more than marginally. [amNY]
- Spurred on by Elliotte Friedman mentioning on The Jeff Marek Show that he heard the Isles linked to Jakob Chychrun again, Shayna Goldman analyzes them as one of seven teams that could trade for him. But even she notes that they should probably be more realistic about where they are in the standings and what they need. [The Athletic]
- Everything sucks, but Samuel Bolduc looked pretty good and was trusted with minutes in his first two NHL games in Ontario. [NY Post]
Last night’s NHL scores include some pretty devastating, nail-in-the-Isles’-coffin-type results: The Sabres beat the Jets, the Red Wings took an overtime game against the Canadiens (hey, a point for a team with better lottery odds than us, that’s good!!!), and the two teams currently in wild card spots, the Capitals and Penguins, played a three-point game that Washington won in a shootout.
- I hope the Islanders will at least commit to being bad, unlike the Vancouver Canucks, who simply can’t decide what to do. They are going to trade Bo Horvat after extending J.T. Miller, and they just extended Andrei Kuzmenko when they could have sold really high. [TSN]
- It sounds like the St. Louis Blues have called it a season, as captain but pending UFA Ryan O’Reilly will be on the market. Who could trade for him, and what would it take? [Sportsnet]
- For real this time: It’s just about decision time for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. I can’t imagine they’ll opt not to be traded away from that mess. [NHL]
- The San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche swung a deal of bottom-of-the-lineup players. [ESPN]