2023 team report cards: Islanders return to playoffs, build for future

New York Islanders, Ilya Sorokin #30. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Islanders, Ilya Sorokin #30. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring after missing out in 2022. As the top wild card team in the Eastern Conference, expectations were not super high, though the Isles did come in with a reputation for knowing how to play in the postseason.

As the first wild card, they drew the Metropolitan Division champions, the Carolina Hurricanes, in the first round. Things did not get off to a great start for the Isles against the Canes, as they dropped both games in Raleigh to go down 2-0 in the series.

A Game 3 victory gave New York some life, but the Hurricanes dismantled any hopes the Islanders had of making the 2023 postseason their third deep run in four years. The Isles showed resilience, but they were ultimately eliminated in Game 6.

How should the Islanders be graded this season?

New York came into this season having missed the playoffs a year ago and moved on from head coach Barry Trotz. We all knew that this team would continue to be solid defensively, but how good could it actually be?

From a regular season standpoint, I think the Islanders delivered exactly what fans should have expected. They never looked like a sure-fire playoff team, but they were stingy and difficult to play against. It took nearly the entire season, but they returned to the playoffs.

That’s obviously a great thing for any team, but with a first-year head coach, it’s especially encouraging.

Also encouraging was the addition of forward Bo Horvat prior to the trade deadline. The former Vancouver Canucks captain signed an eight-year contract extension too, so he will be in New York’s long-term plans.

Overall, the Islanders went 42-31-9 (93 points) and lost in the first round of the playoffs, four games to two. If you judge this season based on the playoffs, it wouldn’t get an overly high grade. If you look big picture, though, the 2022-2023 campaign was a strong building block.

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Returning to the playoffs was a success, though they were eliminated quickly. Still, getting in with a first-year head coach and making improvements that will have a long-term impact is important for this team.

The Grade: C+