It may not be what the fans or the NHL want, but the likelihood of getting a full 82-game 2020-21 regular season and playoffs completed by July is doubtful. With Gary Bettman announcing that the NHL is looking to have a start date of Jan. 1, it is possible the league could go back to what they did in 2012-13 when they had a 48-game regular season and normal postseason after the lockout.
The league would have a three-week head start than when the 2013 season started on Jan. 19. However, if the NHL wants to get back to a consistent schedule, they will need to make some adjustments after COVID-19 impacted last season. The Islanders could also benefit from a shortened season as they look to get to the Stanley Cup this year.
Early Season Success
There was a time when it seemed like November was a month of misery for the Islanders. They were never able to win consistently and continuously found themselves out of the playoff race by the winter holidays. That changed over the past few years as the Islanders have been terrific in the early part of the season. In 2019-20, New York went on a 17-game point streak from the end of October until the middle of November.
Through 60 games the past six years, the Islanders have been in first place twice at that point in the season. However, the Islanders have yet to win the Metropolitan Division over that stretch and finished last year on an eight-game losing streak. It also seems like once the postseason starts, New York can pick up their play. They have won three first-round playoff series since 2016 after not winning one since 1993. That also was the last time the Islanders made the Eastern Conference Final before their run this summer.
While they have a core group intact, runs like these should be expected for this team with a potential Hall-of-Fame Coach in Barry Trotz. The dewer number of games should allow the Islanders to get more rest before the playoffs after playing into September and keep them fresh for a long playoff run again.
With the small amount of cap room the Islanders have, it is very likely that they will continue to put out a similar team as they did in 2019-20. There is always the possibility they can acquire a superstar in Patrik Laine or sign someone like Mike Hoffman, but almost everyone on the team has played together.
If Matt Martin re-signs, the fourth line has played together for much of the past half-decade. They also have a strong second line of Anthony Beauviller, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey and have had many of their young rookies play together in the AHL, making up the third line. The last area the Islanders have the worry about is their top line with Anders Lee, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle and had most of their defense find their partner last year.
With all that being said, there won’t be a 10-game period where the Islanders have to get adjusted to themselves. With a potential shorter training camp as well, the team could start to get hot early and win the Metropolitan Division. They can also pay a bit more attention to detail early on and fix some of the areas that New York struggled on in the playoffs as the lone player on the power play they are losing from last year’s team is Devon Toews.
There is no ideal situation to get back to a regular NHL season, but this is possible. It could limit travel as teams play just their conference and could be a way that the Islanders have success.