Bruce Boudreau does not believe in the NHL’s Thanksgiving rules. The teams that occupied playoff spots on the traditional U.S. holiday had long been a good indicator of who made and does not make the postseason. Recent 82-game seasons have revealed the foundations of that notion in doubt as well as a variety of notable injuries and COVID-19 protocol failures makes it less relevant this year.
“It’s an inordinate amount of injuries that seems to (happen) every day and with the COVID and everything else, the deadline seems a little premature, I would think,” Boudreau declared. “But it’s not the right person. I’ve always believed that you’ll be a playoff team.” Boudreau coached the Anaheim Ducks to the Pacific Division title in 2015-16 , after finishing four points outside of the playoffs on Thanksgiving.
He also assumed his role with the Washington Capitals when they were last in the league at Thanksgiving 2007 and was awarded the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year after leading his team towards their first Southeast Division championship. Do you know of a team capable of putting together the same kind of worst-to-first run next season? Perhaps this team is the New York Islanders from last place in the Metropolitan Division — considering they started by playing a 13-game road tour and are missing the captain Anders Lee, forwards Josh Bailey, Kieffer Bellows and Ross Johnson and defensemen Adam Pelech and Andy Greene (all COVID-19 protocol) and the defenseman Ryan Pulock because of injury.
The Islanders have lost 10 of their initial 15 games. “Obviously this isn’t what we envisioned coming into this season with our record where it’s at and the things that have been thrown at us as of late,” veteran forward Matt Martin said. “I would not say that there’s an atmosphere of fear. However, there must be an urgency. We’re a great hockey team.” Ray Ferraro is more concerned regarding the Islanders than, for instance, those of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also had to drop 10 of their initial fifteen games with center Evgeni Malkin.
They also missed the captain Sidney Crosby for long stretches prior to a winning streak, which increased their chances. The former ESPN analyst believes that the loss of Jordan Eberle to the Seattle expansion draft as well as Nick Leddy in a salary-cap saving trade has reduced New York’s roster. But, Ferraro concedes, “The Islanders, yeah, there’s lots of road left in front of them.” In the coming games, the division rivals New York Rangers, Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers give the Islanders the chance to determine the outcome of their season.
“I’ve got to believe the Islanders are better than their record shows,” Boudreau declared. “That’s a team that can easily go on a seven-game win streak over the course of the year and be right back.” If the Islanders or Boston in the East or Colorado in the West are to make it into the playoffs, somebody will have to fall. It could be they’re the younger Rangers and Blue Jackets in the East or Anaheim or Nashville in the West. “It’s going to be hard for Anaheim to take as big a step as they’ve taken already apparently in the first 20 games,” Ferraro declared.
“Troy Terry won’t score in every game, but it seems as if he’s going to. They’ll need offense that goes beyond the top line, but will they be able to get it?” The past two seasons when the NHL was a 82-game league with 12 teams with playoff chances at Thanksgiving actually made it to the playoffs in 2018-19 as well as 11 teams in the 2017-18 season with that of the Vegas Golden Knights in their first season. The new expansion Seattle Kraken would need a Boudreau-like leap from 10 points in order to achieve the same feat. It’s not likely, but it’s not impossible considering all the uncertainty and the added factor of the Olympic break in February.