Over the last few years, the rivalry between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders has changed. Throughout most of the 2010s, the Rangers were the clear better team. But recently the Islanders have been the better team, changing the complexion of the rivalry. With the Rangers as an up-and-coming team, and the Islanders being a top 2 team in the division, it’ll take a lot for the Rangers to catch up to them this year. The question remains, however, and that is how close are the two teams.
How The Two Teams Have Performed Over The Recent Years
Starting with the Rangers, the last four seasons have been rebuilding ones for them. After a 102 point 2016-17 season, the fall-off began during the 2017-18 season. From that point on, the Rangers began to trade key pieces. The last two seasons have trended upward, however, as they had 79 points in 70 games during the 2019-20 abbreviated season. And in last year’s 56 game season, they tallied 60 points. How good they will be this season remains a question. Some people think that they will make that big jump, others do not.
Now let’s take a look at the Islanders. In the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons they had success, with 101 and 100 point seasons, making the playoffs. They missed the playoffs the next two seasons, but have now qualified each of the last three seasons. This past year, they made it to what wasn’t really the conference finals but were still one of the final four teams remaining. After hitting a rough patch before the shutdown in 2020, the Islanders went on to make it to the conference finals. Expectations are still high for them coming into this season.
What Made/Makes The Islanders Better?
Although the Rangers have had young talent the last few years, none of them were really producing. This made the Rangers a top-heavy team, with Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad carrying most of the load. On the other hand, the Islanders have good depth on their roster, especially when you value the scheme that they play with. Although the Islanders haven’t scored a lot, they still get good production from all four lines. They also have a really good offensive-minded defenseman in Ryan Pulock.
Another reason has been coaching. The Islanders have one of, if not the best coach in the league in Barry Trotz. When he came in, the complexion of the team completely changed. This heavily differs from the Rangers, who had David Quinn as their coach the last three seasons. There’s so much he did wrong with the Rangers, you could write a whole article on it. After firing Quinn, the Rangers hired Gerard Gallant, who was a very good and respectable coach during his time for the Golden Knights.
Can the Rangers Ultimetly Catch The Islanders?
Although anything can happen, and the Rangers have the talent to do so, the safest bet is probably not yet. Guys like Kaapo Kaako, Alexis Lafreniere, and Vitali Kravtsov would need to take the next step. You can count of Panarin, Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Ryan Strome to preform. They also have a blue line that needs some improvements. Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren are pretty reliable, but the other guys can be viewed as question marks to a certain extent.
Although the Rangers can definitely make a jump this year, them becoming a top-two team in the Metro and catching their rivals is probably not likely to happen.