New York Islanders: Missing the playoffs is not the issue, it is what happens next

New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders have recently been playing some of their worst hockey of the season and with the playoffs right around the corner, the issue once again becomes the big picture.

The New York Islanders have been struggling lately. If not for two wins vs the already eliminated from the playoffs Ottawa Senators, I would be even more concerned. Those four points have ended up being incredibly valuable. But if you take away those two wins, the Islanders haven’t beaten a team above NHL .500 since the win vs the Maple Leafs in February. That’s all I will say about that.

To pour salt into the wound, the team has lost its identity too. A team that has ridden and died on goaltending and defense this season has floundered. Robin Lehner will miss yet another game on Monday night when the Isles host the Blue Jackets. Relying solely on Thomas Greiss, outside of this season, has rarely worked out.

For reference, and I’ll include the Senator games this time the Isles have given up 3,4,4,2, and 5 goals in their last five respectively. That is basically their worst five game stretch of the season, not even matched by the West Coast swing to start the season.

So, the Islanders are not only losing game and failing to stay in the Division race, they trail by four points going into Monday night, they are failing to even live up to their identity. Failing to play the style of hockey that has gotten them this far is what has worried me the most.

So, I did some research. I looked at three different sites for Stanley Cup Playoff odds. Basically, I was almost worried if the Isles would fall out of the playoff race, they aren’t losing close so it is not irrational, this is what I found:

Editors Note: These websites all use different types of simulations and/or metrics to calculate playoff odds, however, the correlation and relevance was enough to use them. 

So, even though the Islanders have been playing some of their worst hockey of the season, the Islanders are still in the fast-lane to at least make the playoffs. While I am not using that as an excuse for how terrible they have been, it does show just how many points they banked.

But, what the recent stretch of games does tell us has been the same narrative and story for the entire season. That none of this is about this season.

Right now, the Islanders are a team that could make the playoffs, nay probably will make the playoffs, yet are not playing like a team that would win a playoff series, at least not right now. So, once again the story becomes that it is not about this season. Even since the deadline, the Islanders’ playoff odds just have not gone down that much, it has felt as if they will at least make it for a while now.

The Isles’ front office, whether they actually believed that this roster was good enough to not invest in, or not good enough to invest in, they have regressed massively. Now, I will not credit that to the deadline directly, the Islanders started playing games against better teams and the Nassau Coliseum effect wore off the more they played there. However, even with Lehner going down, Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd coming back, the home stretch they have been on, nothing has really been used to their advantage like it should.

This is the same theory, just a different story. This Isles roster, while they still have a lot to prove and are hopefully playing with a fire lit under them, might just be coming back to reality after a magical four-month run.

The playoffs would actually be solid enough for me, to be honest. I was one of the many who expected the worst this season. However, management has always alluded that this was never about this season. Say whatever you want about that, the deadline, the offseason, whatever, but the recent stretch of games is proof of that. The lack of offense, two goals or less in each of their last four losses, is proof that their plan to fix that goes beyond this season.

Hopefully, the Isles get back on track and win in spite of that. They have gotten this far and will likely make the playoffs, the odds are in their favor and they would play the Penguins if the season were to end today.

However, as real as a deep run in the playoffs felt just a few weeks ago, it is not looking likely right now. The odds for a run deep into the playoffs is not in their favor this year. None of this is trying to bash the Islanders. I’m thrilled the playoff odds are still that high despite the miserable play of late. It is just meant to be a realistic story about the reality of the situation. Who to blame, who not to blame, and the reasons why or why not, is for a different day.

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Right now, the Islanders are still in a great spot to make the playoffs. Hopefully as the days go on, that does not change. But after that, there is just no way of knowing, but it doesn’t feel right.