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

With the New York Islanders completing the first half of the 2018-19 season on Tuesday, ESNY decided to answer the big questions.

Justin Weiss

On Jan. 5, the New York Islanders shocked the hockey world by winning their sixth consecutive game and pulling into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

This season, the Islanders have been the most remarkable — and surprising — story in New York sports.

Will they qualify for the postseason? If so, where will they play their games? Today, the writers at Elite Sports New York decided to answer the big questions regarding the Islanders’ present and future.

Will the Islanders qualify for the postseason?


Justin Weiss, Islanders writer: Despite the Islanders’ stunning resurgence, there are still many in the media who believe that the team isn’t as good as advertised.

I’m much more optimistic.

The Islanders are playing with a chip on their shoulder, have improved from 31st to second on defense, and have enough offensive weapons (i.e. Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier) to compete with the best of them.

With Barry Trotz at the helm, it’s reasonable to believe that the Islanders are — finally — here to stay.

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John Fiorino, Islanders writer: Yes, if they maintain the level of play they’re at now. The Islanders are in a different situation than in years’ past. With a new coaching staff, most significantly head coach Barry Trotz, they’re playing a defensive game not many teams can match.

They’ve stymied powerful offensive lineups like that of the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, and Toronto Maple Leafs. On top of their overall game, the goaltenders have been magnificent at the midway point of the season, posting above-average numbers and making timely saves when called upon.

The one variable is how well the Atlantic Division teams perform. If Buffalo and Montreal are in it until the very end, it will be tight down the stretch. Still, the Islanders are well-rounded, and they should at least capture a wild card spot, if not one of the divisional spots.

Matt Di Giacomo, Islanders writer: This time, the Islanders are for real. After being written off by nearly every pundit before they even hit the ice, the Islanders have flipped the script and currently occupy a playoff spot 41 games into the season.

Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello are doing what was expected of them — nearly to a tee — and with Lamoriello’s pedigree, Islanders fans are in for a treat at the coming trade deadline.

It’s full steam ahead for the Islanders as they attempt to capture the top wild-card spot for a triumphant return to playoff hockey.

Nick Leddy New York Islander
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Rank the current Islanders defensemen.

Weiss:

  1. Johnny Boychuk
  2. Ryan Pulock
  3. Nick Leddy
  4. Devon Toews
  5. Scott Mayfield
  6. Thomas Hickey
  7. Adam Pelech
  8. Luca Sbisa

Fiorino:

  1. Ryan Pulock
  2. Nick Leddy
  3. Scott Mayfield
  4. Johnny Boychuk
  5. Thomas Hickey
  6. Devon Toews
  7. Adam Pelech
  8. Luca Sbisa

Di Giacomo:

  1. Ryan Pulock
  2. Scott Mayfield
  3. Thomas Hickey
  4. Devon Toews
  5. Nick Leddy
  6. Johnny Boychuk
  7. Adam Pelech
  8. Luca Sbisa

Of the current Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who is most primed for a midseason call-up?

Weiss: Last season, Sebastian Aho made a strong impression on his teammates and coaches. In 22 games, he posted a positive CFRel% and impressed with his strong skating and decision-making ability.

If injuries arise on defense, it’s only logical that the Isles will call on Aho — even if he is currently buried on the depth chart behind Luca Sbisa and Adam Pelech.

New York Islanders

Fiorino: The name everyone wants to see is Kieffer Bellows. He has a great shot and is rounding out his game to make the jump to the NHL. However, it would be more intelligent to keep him in Bridgeport for the season so that he can finish developing.

What’s more likely is that we’ll see Sebastian Aho again. Aho was impressive last season in a brief call-up and has been even better in the AHL, where he was recently named an All-Star. He isn’t far from sticking in the NHL, but it may take an injury or two for him to get his shot.

Di Giacomo: Barring injury, none of them.

The Islanders roster is maxed out at 23 contracts, with Josh Ho-Sang having been sent down to accommodate Valtteri Filppula. By the time the trade deadline rolls around, the Islanders will have some interesting decisions to make, especially with Jordan Eberle priming himself up as the Islanders’ biggest trade chip.

Any prospects that were NHL-ready have already hit the Islanders roster. Devon Toews is likely to stick, while Michael Dal Colle has had some strong performances and Joshua Ho-Sang was playing well before he was sent down.

Once the Islanders make a decision on Eberle, Ho-Sang will be there to take his place.

Sebastian Aho impressed over 20 games last season, and he is the most seasoned player currently in Bridgeport. For all these prospects, showing that they can keep it up consistently is key.

If the Islanders were to make the playoffs, where do you believe the games would be played?

Weiss: Ideally, the games would be played at the Coliseum. The Ol’ Barn is the louder of the two arenas and is markedly more convenient for the majority of the fanbase.

Sadly, money talks — and there is more money in the Borough of Trees than on Long Island. The Islanders will sell out Barclays Center for the playoffs, and the money that they can make from suites in Brooklyn far outpaces the money they can make from suites on Long Island. However, before we can address this, the Islanders need to make the playoffs.

Fiorino: It will undoubtedly be Barclays Center. Isles fans showed in 2016 that they will travel for playoff games, and the Barc got pretty loud during the Panthers series, a playoff series that they finally won.

Of course, the Coliseum is the true home of the team, but there is little reason why the owners would give up the extra revenue. Perhaps next year, when the Islanders will be one year closer to a permanent move to the new building at Belmont, things will be different.

Di Giacomo: The Islanders have been in a failed relationship with Barclays Center, but playoff games are pretty much a guaranteed sellout.

With that in mind, Barclays Center is equipped with nearly 2000 more seats and more than five times the number of suites. Even though that’s an issue on paper, it doesn’t seem like the Barc is desperate for the Isles to stay.

Given the team’s return to Nassau, my money’s on them returning to the Coliseum full-time starting — if everything goes their way — in the playoffs.

Sergei Bobrovsky
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If you were Lou Lamoriello, would you target Columbus Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky this offseason?

Weiss: The Islanders inquired about Bobrovsky this summer, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Bobrovsky is the crown jewel of the NHL offseason, and the Islanders are still looking for a long-term solution in net.

I question, however, if throwing $10 million per year at a 30-year-old netminder is the best idea, especially when the Islanders may have homegrown talent (i.e. Russian phenom Ilya Sorokin) waiting in the wings.

Spend the money on offense.

Fiorino: Absolutely. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss have been fantastic, but goalies like Bobrovsky don’t hit the open market every year.

Lehner and Greiss have the leverage to demand a salary increase. Bobrovsky will command a big contract, but he is still in his prime and would turn the Islanders into instant contenders.

Perhaps the Islanders could use his signing to attract other talents and make Long Island a desirable place to play.

Di Giacomo: The hockey world was abuzz over the summer with the news that Lou Lamoriello might be targeting Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina winner with outstanding numbers during the regular season, and a history of playoff struggles. Fortunately, the Islanders went out and hired the best goaltending staff in the business. If there’s anyone that can get Bobrovsky over the proverbial hump, it’s Mitch Korn and Piero Greco.

Signing Bobrovsky would solidify the Islanders goaltending as they await the arrival of Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom.

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