In my usual custom, I rarely look at the standings until at least the 15th game and sometimes if there’s still some congestion, I won’t really look until most teams finish around the 20th game. It has always been important and emphasized by teams to get off to a good start, but there was always that one team that just flopped before the season really began. The prime example this year are the Arizona Coyotes who currently sit at 1-10-1. Most in the hockey world did not have them making the playoffs, but they’re better than this current record indicates. The Buffalo Sabres of a few years ago come to my mind and the Columbus Blue Jackets two years ago are also in this class of never really getting a good start to a season and miss the playoffs. But my curiosity kicked in and since the Islanders are in the eastern conference I wondered if there were teams that just got off to a slow start and even though they would rebound during the season, they still missed the playoffs. The classic case for Islanders fans was last year, getting off to a really slow start, only to miss the playoffs by one point. But what is that cutoff? How many points does it really take to get that good start? Turns out in a short sample size, there is. Over the last three years, any team that scored 8 points or less in their first ten games missed the playoffs. Since there really isn’t anyone else in the West that’s out, let’s take a look at the other teams in the east through their first ten games.
New Jersey 16
So as you can see, there are three teams with eight points or less and two of those names are quiet honestly surprising. The Rangers and Canadiens have the lowest total to start the first ten games. Am I going to write all three of them off? I’ll take this friendly bet this year and say, Yes. Should you? Well if you’re a Leafs fan or Islanders fan, you have no problem doing this. Speaking of the Leafs, they started the season with nine points and made it to the playoffs last season, so there is a glimmer of hope of sorts for the Panthers and Wings. As for the Sabres, I think they could still make it an interesting season if other teams get hit with injuries and it gets them back in it. For me, this is important because I had both the Rangers and the Habs around the 100 point mark to end the season and this definitely influences the points needed to get the wild card spots because at this point, they may just kiss the top three slots in their division goodbye. The Boston Bruins should still be a 90-95 point team which will give Montreal a tougher task and because of the revival of the New Jersey Devils, they’re throwing a big wrench into the Rangers playoff chances. The slow start of these two teams have opened the door for teams like the Bruins, Hurricanes, Flyers and the Wings to make a stronger push into April.
So what does this mean for the Islanders? It means 94 points may get them into the playoffs this year. There’s a little less stress in knowing that you may only need 94 points and not 97 or 100 to make it past April. But let’s take a look at what the Isles did so far. The Isles went 5-4-1 for 11 points, not the start they wanted, but enough not to panic. Last year the Isles started the season with a record of 4-6-0 for 8 points. However for games 11-20 the Isles went 2-4-4, also 8 points. The key for this team is the next 8 games since then the Isles have already won 2 in a row and look to be moving a head of the other teams in the standings. So at 7-4-1 you’re looking at a 103 point pace and that’s not enough to gain any kind of major separation just yet, but they’re in a far better position than last year.
Just a few thoughts on some Islanders topics
Josh Ho-Sang: If the Islanders weren’t on pace for 300 goals, I’d say he made a case to stay. Make no mistake, I think Ho-Sang is an eventual top six forward for the Isles. Having written that, Josh Bailey is having a phenomenal start to the season and as I just wrote above, the Islanders don’t necessarily need Ho-Sang and giving him more minutes in Bridgeport, it may be the right way to go for now.
Ryan Strome/Jordan Eberle: I wrote at the beginning of the season that getting Eberle practically doubles Strome’s point production. To my point, Eberle is on pace for 62 points, which dwarfs Strome’s 30 points from last year and making this trade was a no-brainer. What Edmonton is not doing is allowing Strome to play in his natural position, which is center. If he went there, you’d see more than 30 points from Strome, but how is he going to beat out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid?
Ryan Pulock: He’s making the most of his opportunity and I still believe that despite the limited amount of games played, he’ll rack up 30 points. For me, if he plays around 44 games or more and he racks up more points than former Islander, Travis Hamonic, this was a good year for Ryan.
Mathew Barzal: I’ll just write this now: It’s time to throw his name into the hat for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.