Can the New York Islanders Be a Playoff Team in '09-'10?

Eddie O'MalleyContributor IApril 21, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 11: Pregame cermenoies before the St. Louis Blues took on the New York Islanders included youth hockey players holding an American flag during the national anthem on October 11, 2008 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With nonstop talk in Islander country about John Tavares, ranging from will he be the Isles choice to the garbage spewing out of the Toronto media that he won't play for the Isles, I've decided to switch gears here.

As I watched the Bridgeport Sound Tigers open their first round playoff series at the Coliseum last Friday, I thought to myself, Is it possible for the Isles to be playing playoff games, at this time, next season, at the Coliseum?

Here are five reasons why I feel the Isles could be a playoff team next season, five reasons why they won't be, and what I ultimately believe will happen.

Reasons why I feel they can make the playoffs:

1. The Isles could be a playoff team because the young players started to play better in the second half of the year, and the Isles played much better in the second half of the year.  I expect guys like Okposo, Bergenheim, Bailey, Gervais, etc. to continue to develop and get better.

2. If the Isles do draft John Tavares, they have the makings of a solid top line with JT and Kyle Okposo.  Throw the veteran Doug Weight on here and this would be one of the better top lines the Isles have had in a few years.

3. Look at the in season turn around the two teams went through the last two seasons.

3A. Last year, the Capitals were last in the Eastern Conference in late December, and they went on a huge run to win the South Division and make the playoffs on the last day of the season.

3B. This season, The St. Louis Blues were last in the Western Conference, until about the same time, and they went on a big second half run to make the playoffs this season, as the sixth seed in the West.

4. The last time the Isles finished with the fewest points in the league, they did have a huge turn around to make the playoffs the following year, as the fifth seed in the East.

5. The Flyers also went from the worst team in the league, two seasons ago, to a playoff team last season.  They also went to the Eastern Conference finals last year.

Reasons why I do not feel the Isles will be a playoff team:

1. I do not think the Isles will be a playoff team because it is difficult for a team to go from worst in the league to a playoff team in one season.  That is a lot of points a team has to make up to get to the playoffs.

2. The East had two teams, the Sabres and Panthers, crack 90 points this season and miss the playoffs. 

3. Even with the addition of Tavares, the Isles are still missing one scorer.  Even though their top line would fill out nicely, there really is no go to guy on the roster, to balance the offensive attack out on the second line.

4. The defense also lacks another top flight defenseman to play with Mark Streit.  With the exception of Brendan Witt, the rest of the defense is made up of fourth, fifth, and sixth caliber defenseman.

5) If Rick DiPietro still is not healthy, then the Isles have no starting caliber goalie.  This would obviously sink their season for a second consecutive year. 

Wth the way the roster is currently constructed, I do not see the Isles in the playoffs next season, even with the addition of Tavares.  I know there is still free agency, but I do not expect the Isles to be major players, and Tavares could be the only big name added to the roster.

I also think it's asking a lot of a team to go from last to the playoffs in one season, I know the Flyers and Caps did, but the Isles don't have all the offensive weapons either of these teams possess.  Throw in the fact that two teams missed the playoffs while totaling over 90 points, and I think that is just too big a hill to climb in one season.

However, I do think they will compete for a playoff spot right down to the wire, and ultimately, will fall short, and the experience the young players will gain from a playoff race will help them make the playoffs the following season in 2010-2011.