Steve from St. James, New York asks: Assuming the Islanders make no other moves this offseason, will they make the playoffs in 2016-17?
I think so. The one move they definitely will make it re-signing restricted free agent Ryan Strome to a new deal. I know some fans are worried that it isn't done yet, but the Isles have plenty of time, and there's absolutely no reason to assume something won't get done. Of course, this would be retaining an in-house player, so your point remains.
While the losses of the offseason hurt, in my mind, they're definitely still a playoff team. The most consistent criticism the Islanders' offseason gets is that they basically made lateral moves by replacing Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin with Andrew Ladd, P.A. Parenteau, and Jason Chimera. But they have been a 100-point team the last two years. Staying at that level isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The bigger question is have they done enough to take the next step as an organization. Winning their first playoff series since 1993 was a hurdle the franchise needed to clear in the worst possible way, but the next step is getting to a Conference final, and winning it. Have they done enough in that respect? I honestly don't know. I thought the Penguins were dead in the water in January, so admittedly, these things are a little hard to forecast.
I think it's great that Isles fans have raised expectations and are holding the team to a higher standard. I'd rather be debating if their big free agent signings are enough over of taking about who we should be eyeing with our lottery pick any day of the week. But I think it's also important to remember that the nature of American sports playoffs is that they're a crapshoot. It's why they're so exciting. So, once you're in, anything can really happen. The Isles have enough to get in, and the personnel to think a deep run is possible. Personally, that's really as much as I can ask for.