The “debate” among the fan base of the New York Islanders over how one should “view” this season has been an ongoing one since the Isles are eliminated from the playoffs in game 7 against the Washington Capitals. Basically, the two opposing views over whether this season should be called “successful” or not has been the real center of the debate. Was a first round exit a “successful” season for the Islanders, despite a 101 point season, or was it realistically a “failure” because they didn’t progress any further than the 2013 season?
I am, without a doubt, still disappointed. I really believed the Islanders were going to win that game and I still think they should have won the series. Realistically, if they held leads, it would have been over in 4 or 5 games. I think the Isles were the better team throughout the majority of the series and had the Caps off balance many times.
However, that didn’t happen. The Islanders didn’t seem to show up for game 7. They took 11 total shots on net and only 3 of those 11 shots came from forwards. The Caps dominated the game and the only goal the Islanders got was a “gift” goal.
Still, I thought the magic would be there. I thought that, somehow, they would tie the game up and Someone would play hero in overtime. I just kept on thinking that the boys would, despite the lackluster effort, sneak away with the series and They’d be playing the Rangers right now in the second round of the playoffs.
If Travis Hamonic or Lubo hadn’t gotten hurt, would it have made a difference? What if Anders Lee did play game 7 and was on the power play unit for that closing PP the Islanders had? What if the Islanders had a little more puck luck? What if they had gone 3-14 or even 1-14 on the power play and had gotten a big goal at some point in Any of the games? These are among the Many questions that still haunt me to this day.Looking back, it would be easy to simply right off the season as a “failure”. The Isles did make the playoffs two seasons ago and took the Penguins to 6 games. So, in effect, they got One game further against the Capitals with the same basic results. In the end, they still have not advanced beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1993….
It has taken a little time for me to recover, but as I have said, I always try to look at the positives when it comes to this team. My simple question I asked myself when the raw emotions and disappointment subsided was, did I expect the New York Islanders to have the kind of success they did have this season with 101 points and challenging for the top spot in the division and conference back in September? Let’s be honest. Prior to Garth Snow pulling off those amazing, last second deals to land Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk here, I doubt any fan of the orange and blue would have foreseen what the Isles did accomplish this year.
So, they finished with 101 points and 47 victories. John Tavares was second in the NHL in scoring and is one of the 3 guys up for the MVP award. Jaroslav Halak broke franchise records in net this season and simply led this team at times with big saves and clutch goaltending. Boychuk and Leddy gave us much more than we could have expected and they also will be a part of the fold for the next seven years. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee both had 20 goals seasons and Ryan Strome proved why he was such a high draft pick. Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin added secondary scoring and great defensive play to contribute to many of the victories. Josh Bailey injected life into the first line and regardless of the opinions of some fans, showed his value and importance to the team. The fourth line proved themselves to be the best fourth line in the NHL in the opinions of more than a few hockey experts.
It would be very easy to sit back and point out every mistake and every disappointment. Of course, losing home ice advantage the last game of the season probably sticks out in the minds of most fans. The lineup choices and injuries and blown leads are other areas many fans will continue to bring up over the summer. Capuano should have done this or that … why didn’t Lee play in game 7 … why did Matt Donovan sit most of the season … why did Brian Strait play during the stretch in which he was horrible on the ice … Etc, etc.
I remember a few months ago at a New York Islanders Booster Club meeting in which Mike Bossy was our guest. When someone asked him his thoughts about the current Islanders, he praised the team quite a bit and spoke of the talent and skill and character Garth Snow had collected. One thing he did say that sticks out in my mind was making the point that “good teams have to learn to lose” before they can become champions. He pointed out how the Islanders of old, prior to the glory years, took some hard losses and learned some valuable lessons in the playoffs before they raised the Stanley Cup for the first time in 1980.
With that thought in mind, I see the proverbial glass as half filled. Boychuk and Leddy are signed long term. John Tavares keeps getting better and better and has assumed and embraced the leadership role on this team. Kyle Okposo has stepped up and become the player many people expected him to be. The youth of this team continues to contribute and improve. There is a lot of depth within the organization on defense and offense to enable Garth Snow to make a trade if the opportunity should ever present itself to add another piece. Jaroslav Halak is signed and will be here for the future as the #1 goaltender.
I don’t know what the opening night roster will look like next October. Will Michael grabner still be here? Will Matt Donovan still be wearing an Islander uniform? Will we see one or two of the blue chip defenseman we have in the system patrolling the back line? Will we see a trade bring a top 6 forward or will someone else step up from within the organization? Who will play with JT on the top line? Will the building in Brooklyn sell out and be as loud and intimidating as the old barn was?
I don’t have answers to any of those questions beyond opinions. All I do know is the New York Islanders have another season of playoff experience under their collective belts and have guys on the team for the long term who have won it all. The team will take steps forward and go deeper into the playoffs. There will be more records broken and more than a few of the guys you know in the present will write their names in the history books for this team as the heroes of the past …. Bossy, Trottier, Smith, Gillies, Nystrom, Tonelli, etc …
I don’t know if it will be next season or the season afterward or three seasons from now. I do believe, though, that the New York Islanders will raise the Stanley Cup in the near future and the core of guys we now see will be a part of that day. I Firmly believe that. Remember that the Islanders of old got their first taste of the playoffs in 1975, but did not raise the cup until five years later. Have patience, Islander fans. I know we have had to maintain them for quite some time, but after this season, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is not that of an oncoming train either.
Happy Mother’s day out there. Hockey moms are the reasons why young hockey players become NHL stars. Without them, there would be no support system. To the rest of us, without our moms, we would not be the people we are today, and I am thankful for the blessing of having had my mother in my life, especially having lost my father.