Islanders Gear Focus Towards Playoffs

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hello again Islanders fans! Last time I discussed the Islanders’ consistent play since the new year began and the Islanders’ potential move away from the Barclays Center in the near future.

Now, the trade deadline is near for every team in the NHL, with the first notable trade being made on Feb. 20 with Arizona Coyotes defenceman Michael Stone being traded to the Calgary Flames. The Islanders are on the fence of being buyers or sellers and have a nine-game road trip that can determine their playoff hopes.

Trade Deadline

The deadline is approaching fast. With a week left until March 1, the question arises whether the Islanders will be buyers or sellers this year.

The Isles have proven time and time again that they can be a force to be reckoned within the Eastern Conference despite their record. They’ve recently defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers — three of the top five teams in the league.

New York is tied for the second Wild Card spot with the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers. They have gone 22-11-6 since their 6-10-4 start and have gotten points in 13 of 17 games since Doug Weight took over the bench.

With a decent amount of games under Weight’s belt, it makes the trade deadline more interesting for the team that seems to be on the fence of buying and selling.

Just like many teams in the NHL, the Islanders could use a number-two center under captain John Tavares. Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche has been a top candidate to fill the spot, as the team has been tracking him since November.

Duchene broke his career-high in goals last season, netting 30 goals to accompany his 29 assists for his fifth season with at least 50 points. He’s up to 16 goals and 20 assists through 53 games this season with the underperforming team.

However, Colorado is looking to go into sell and rebuild mode this trade deadline, but are asking high for their star players in Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.

The Avalanche sit in last place in the league standings with a 16-39-3 record, so they may have to negotiate their asking price for their stars if they want to make some moves by the trade deadline.

According to Islanders insider Arthur Staple, Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic is looking a top-flight defenseman, a young prospect and a top draft pick in return for Duchene. This might not be a move the Islanders front office may want to make, but Duchene would be an excellent addition to the team.

Another good addition to the team would be Arizona Coyotes winger Anthony Duclair. He would be a great addition to the Islanders at 21 years old. He doesn’t have a lot of experience at the NHL level, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance, he’s under cost control and has a lot of potential to be good in the long run.

Whether the Islanders go into a win-now playoff mode and take Duchene, or stay conservative and build for the long run with Duclair, both would be strong options for the team’s future.

The Decisive Road Trip

The Islanders may be on a hot streak that fans may not see because of the standings, but the fate of their season could rest on the nine-game road trip they are just beginning.

As of noon on Feb. 23, the Islanders own an 8-13-4 record on the road, which displays a shocking difference between that record and their home record.

The Islanders are 20-8-6 at Barclays Center — so a successful road trip can ultimately show whether or not the Islanders are a new team under Doug Weight.

The Islanders need as many points as they can possibly get. It would be ideal to win them all, but even seven out of nine would be a “Yes! Yes! Yes!” for the Isles.

If the Islanders can win a majority of the road trip, they not only would be deserving of a playoff spot in the highly competitive Eastern Conference, but they can potentially be one of the most dominant teams in the playoffs if they can handle the road.

Being on the road in the playoffs is a completely different atmosphere. The fans are louder, the stakes are higher and the pressure is raised for both participating teams.

This road trip will likely determine the playoff future of the team, because the playoffs will be determined on consistency. The Eastern Conference is too competitive to even go on a slump right now for contending teams. Every game counts, no matter where it is played.