Blog: Too Little, Too Late

The one line that sent chills down my spine which clearly represented this New York Islanders season was said by their play-by-play announcer Brendan Burke at the last moments of the Isles losing to the Ottawa Senators was this: “Too little, too late.” As the Islanders completed their 31st game of this NHL season, it’s a harsh reality and a harder pill to swallow when I begin, with confidence, “eliminating” teams from the playoff race even after thirty games. Yes, it is possible after thirty games to do so and while this may seem like a “DUH!!” moment for some of the long, and still suffering Islanders fans, I do take into account the math part and less of the emotional. This is not baseball. This is not calculate how many points behind a playoff team, divide by two and that’s how many games back your team is. They play the percentages. Just because there’s roughly 50 games left doesn’t mean your team is still in it. Having said this, There are three glaring issues that are not Islanders related about why the Islanders probably won’t make the playoffs this year. First off, let me show you the point pace of the Eastern Conference:

1. Columbus 124
2. Montreal 116
3. Pittsburgh 115
4. Rangers 113
5. Caps 112
6. Flyers 101
7. Ottawa 100
8. Boston 92

9. Carolina 87
10. Buffalo 85
11. Tampa Bay 85
12. Florida 85
13. Toronto 82
14. Devils 82
15. Detroit 82
16. Isles 74

Here’s issue number one for the Isles: I have never seen a top five this dominant after 30+ games, and neither have you. Some of those point paces could win a Conference in certain years and there’s five of them right in a row. Once again, if you throw in Chicago (116), Minnesota (109), San José (100) and take out the Bruins, you’re looking at the current top 10 in the NHL. I was expecting a let down or a correction after 20 games and I was wrong on that (I was wrong on a lot of things this season). To make things worse, the Flyers going on a ten game winning streak all but eliminated the Isles from the playoff chase.

Second issue: It’s still possible that the Islanders could end up with 90-95 points and not make it to the playoffs. If you read my earlier article about the Islanders needing to make a push to the playoffs now, you’ll notice that the Isles have not fared well against the top 10 teams in the NHL. Even though the numbers have improved since then, the Isles are 5-11-1. However, the Isles record against the rest of the NHL is night and day. The Isles current record stands at 6-3-5 versus teams not in the top 10 in the League. The biggest issue is that 55 percent of their schedule so far has been against the top 10 in the NHL or within their own division. With close to 30 games remaining against the rest of the NHL, the Islanders may in fact be able to save some of their pride and make it look like they’re close. The problem is this, Boston can only be eliminated by a team within their own division. Meaning even if the Isles have similar records to the Sabres, Panthers or Lightning, they won’t be in the race because they’re not in the Atlantic Division. The Islanders could finish in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference and still not be in the chase.

Third and final issue: I’ve done the point pace (percentage) standings now for close to 7-8 years. I have my paradigm when I can eliminate teams from the playoff race and so far it has not been disproven. I’ve never eliminated any team 3 games under the NHL .500 after 30 games and most teams that flirt with that record during the season normally don’t get eliminated until early to mid February or when teams decide to throw in the towel and begin the trade deadline earlier than expected. Usually after 40 games there are teams that are too far low in the standings that it makes it easier to take them off the chase. For example, you can eliminate Colorado and Arizona from the chase after 40 games because it’s a smaller conference and it takes longer to take them off, but they already are well below the NHL .500 mark. The rebuilding Sabres two and three years ago, along with last years Blue Jackets team made eliminating them after 30 games very easy. Unless the Flyers internally implode between now and the next 20 games, or the Islanders pull off a Senators late season run of a few years back, it seems the Isles season was over before it even started. By the way if you know any Devils fans that you’re friends with, you may want to tell them their time is almost up as well if they don’t string up a few wins, and quick.

Am I making excuses for the Islanders? Absolutely not. There are plenty of issues surrounding this organization, but I will get into those at another time. Nor am I going to get into the Isles Talk Draft Previews any time soon. For the remainder of this season I will be watching how the Isles (professionals and minors and juniors) play the rest of the hockey season. If the Isles continue to lose to the other teams not in the top 10, the greater the chance changes will be made, at least to the coaching staff. I’m also going to watch how the rest of the Metro plays out. Those teams blew out of the gates and never looked back on the rest of the NHL, not just the Islanders. This is indeed a lesson to remember on how important it is to have a great start to the season, but this start from the top five Metro teams is nothing short of spectacular. The Isles may indeed get their game going and yes, they may just take a few teams out with them as the role of spoilers has now been placed on them, but make no mistake, not only are the Islanders too little too late, the top of the Metropolitan Division made them look like they never had a chance to begin with.

PK

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