Arizona Coyotes 2014-2015 Season Preview: The New York Islanders

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Arizona Coyotes vs. New York Islanders: Playing the “what-if” Game

Dec 12, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck (15) checks Phoenix Coyotes defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) in the second period at Arena. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

HH: This has been one of the more… ah… interesting dialogues, so let’s make it fun. WHAT IF one of these two teams made the Stanley Cup Final next year- which team would it be, and why? 

MH: Wow, talk about the dream. The Isles haven’t won a playoff series since 1993, so just getting past the first round would cause me to celebrate in a way that would put Ryan Malone to shame. 

Seriously, though, I do think that both teams have legitimate shots to sneak into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed. If they can both make it, though, I would have to say that the Isles have a better shot of making the Final. It’s not me being a homer (okay, maybe a little), but I just think the Eastern Conference presents a less difficult path to the Finals than the West, where the Ducks, Kings, Blues, and Blackhawks will all be serious threats to make a Cup run. Plus, the East just saw the Rangers make the Final- if they can do it, anyone can.

“Seriously, though, I do think that both teams have legitimate shots to sneak into the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed.”

CS: As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with that. Earlier today, I saw a Twitter dialogue explode over which WC teams would be seeing post-season action this year. The competition is so much tighter, so much fiercer, in the West- both the Atlantic and Metropolitan conferences seem to see post-season play characterized by head games and dramatic upsets. My playoff bracket last year sums this up in a nutshell- I got every single WC series win correct up to the Conference Final, and I only got the Tampa Bay-Montreal series correct in the East. If the Islanders make the playoffs, the Final is theirs for the taking. If the Coyotes make it, they’re in for a fight to the death. 

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HH: This sounds a lot like you guys think that the West is a harder conference than the East. 

MH: There’s no question in my mind that the West is more loaded than the East. The West has three California teams, the Blackhawks, Blues, Wild, Avalanche, and Stars- just to name some of the mainstays and up-and-coming teams. The talent level is unbelievable; in the East, the only elite team is the Bruins, in my opinion. The Penguins have a head case in net come playoffs, the Rangers lack firepower up front, and while the Canadiens have some talent, they don’t have enough to be considered among the game’s best. Even everyone’s summer darlings, the Lightning, still have questions on the blue line- and have struggled to put together consecutive successful seasons. It used to be that the two conferences emulated different styles of play, but now it comes down to talent. I think that any “good” team in the West would still be successful in the East; only a handful of teams in the East could carry their success to the other coast. 

CS: I think the West is harder, no question. Teams in the East are often characterized by ‘a’ superstar- teams in the West are just all-around powerhouses. The talent level is just so much higher- and richer- in the West than it is in the East. That’s not to say that the east is weak, but… I’m just going to stop there.