With the Islanders win last night over the New Jersey Devils, you may want to draw a line above a few teams that you may feel are probably not going to make the playoffs, even though they’re technically still in it. Once you’ve drawn that line, the upcoming trade deadline drama will begin to heat up. To do that let’s take a look at the current standings. Again, this is going by the percentages or my point pace.
3. Florida 92
4. Toronto 92
5. Boston 92
6. Sabres 85
7. Tampa 85
8. Detroit 81
As far as I’m concerned, if you’re a Florida, Toronto, or Bruins fan, you can place your team anywhere in the 3,4,5 positions. A 7 point spread may not be much, but with most teams entering the 60 game mark of their season, it’s easier said than done. Detroit missing the playoffs could be “official” for me if the Islanders can beat them on Tuesday. Tampa will almost certainly unload any unrestricted free agents before the deadline, while it looks like the Sabres have a week left to either be buyers or sellers. Now for the Metro.
5. Isles 90
6. Flyers 88
7. Canes 83
8. Devils 83
The Carolina Hurricanes made a great run a few weeks ago, but could not sustain it and they look like they’re running out of gas. The loss last night to the Islanders may in fact have been the nail in the coffin for the Devils, so I would expect both teams to unload on their potential free agents. The Flyers are going to hang around for a while longer, but I’m not sure if they’ll be buyers or sellers. This week will certainly decide that. So we’ve covered the divisions, let’s look at the last wild card spot to see who’s in it. For the sake of this piece, I’m going to say for now that the Panthers claim third place in the Atlantic and go with the rest of the teams.
WC Toronto 92
There’s that dreaded 7 point spread again for the Sabres and Lightning. When it’s this late in the season and when you’re working by a point pace, or percentages, this may as well be 7 games back in the baseball standings. In my opinion, this is why you haven’t seen any trades being made yet, every team is still in it, but it appears that a few are now starting to lose ground and may want to start looking into the future and the draft.
So the Islanders may have eliminated the Devils last night and are in a position to keep pace for the rest of the season. I’ve stated here before that the second wild card holder never got over the 92 point pace mark during the entire time this season. We technically have three teams at 92, and the Isles at 90 who may have a shot at getting over that hump. Can the Flyers, who at one point were on pace for 101, get above the 92 point pace again? I’m not too sure. It may be too little too late for the Sabres and Lightning, but a 3 game winning streak before the trade deadline could change that.
For the Islanders, it appears that this nine game trip away from the Barclays Center is the make or break stretch of their season. They have three games before the trade deadline and if they come away with three points, they’re still in a better spot than either Tampa or Buffalo, who basically need to win out before March 1st. I’ve been asked if the Isles are buyers or sellers this year and my answer was simply, yes. I do see them as buyers as they have more staying power over the rest of the teams in the standings and if there is room for improvement, long or short-term, the Isles should make a move, maybe two. That’s a piece for another time.