The Islanders had one of the best offseason’s in franchise history, highlighted by the acquisition of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. Both players come from teams with Stanley Cup championships under their belts, and surely hope to make a run at another. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s ask the question- do these two players make it a possibility that the Islanders are now a threat in the Eastern Conference?
The Islanders have added over $20 million in players this year alone with the additions of Boychuk and Leddy. Before those additions, however, many fans had begun to wonder if the team could’ve made the playoffs. With the addition of these two players, fans are now expecting it.
And that’s great! Fans are happy and excited, which is the idea of sports. It’s good to have positive expectations about your team. However, if there’s something fans hate more than anything, it might be being disappointed by their team. So, what should Islander fans expect after these additions?
The Metropolitan Division is one of the most interesting in hockey, for the simple fact that any of the 8 teams in the division could make the playoffs. Seriously, let’s take a look at the division and tell me which team has no chance to make it-
Ranger, Penguins, Islanders, Devils, Capitals, Hurricanes, Flyers, Blue Jackets.
Each team there, if they made the playoffs, would not surprise me. Obviously a division full of teams who could make the playoffs doesn’t help the Islanders chances, but are they close because they’re all good, or are they all mediocre? That’s something that we’ll have to figure out during the season if we’re going to decide on their chances.
The other thing to consider is the fact that teams like the Penguins and Rangers really didn’t do much to improve dramatically, whereas the Islanders are by far the most improved in the entire NHL. The metro has also been bit by the injury bug early, seeing players such as Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Derek Stepan and others. The team will have to take advantage, especially since they play the Hurricanes so many times during the beginning of the season.
Another thing to consider is this- will the team make other roster moves or stand pat? Players like Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton and others will certainly be fighting for a roster spot much more than they did even a year ago. This is because the plan that Garth Snow put into place is finally coming to fruition, and these draft picks look ready to become the elite talent they were projected to be.
Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock and others are either in the NHL or knocking on the door, providing a stronger competition to keep your job. This benifits everyone, except those who will lose their jobs.
The rest of the Eastern Conference is pretty tightly knit as well. Of the 16 teams in the conference, the only team that is really in full on rebuild mode is the Buffalo Sabres, making each team a tough matchup. Once you get out of the East, though, you have to face Western Conference teams twice a year in match ups that will be even tougher.
However, if there’s a positive to take from this, it’s that every team has a schedule that will resemble the next. They’ll all play every team, so if the Islanders can hold their own against the West, the playoffs should be in sight.
Are The Islanders Playoff Chances Realistic?
In a word- absolutely. This is a team that is extremely young, but now has two Stanley Cup winning defensemen. As previously mentioned, every team in the metro has a real shot to make noise in the playoffs, however considering the upgrades to literally every point of the Islanders, it’s extremely likely that a post season berth is on it’s way.
Now, lets not get ahead of ourselves either- the Islanders made the playoffs two seasons ago and were knocked out in he first round in a great series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, however they took a turn for the worse last year. In the NHL, moreso than in other sports, nothing is guaranteed, especially a playoff berth, so they’ll have to play a full 60 minutes game in and game out for them to have a shot.
More than anything else, in my opinion, the additions of Boychuk and Leddy will drastically improve their chances. The only other player who will have as big an impact that was brought in this offseason has to be Jaroslav Halak, but even he might not have as big an impact. Boychuk and Leddy represent a change in thinking of the Islanders front office- the team to compete is now, not next season or in a few years. They’ll have all hands on deck and appear to have the willingness to spend money to win games.
So, to answer the question in short that was proposed in the title of this article- yes, I do think that Boychuk and Leddy make the Islanders a threat in the playoffs. However, let’s see how everything works together before making any other declarations, because despite how good the team may look on paper, the game is played on ice.