Man oh man do I love talking about the ‘intangibles’ in terms of . . . anything really. Sports, political leadership, historical figures, mail carrier efficiency etc. Why? Because you can basically say anything you want, the most flippant and irrational of comments, and possibly be correct. A person can know very few specific facts about a topic, but make a connection to something else, and seem like an insightful genius (or a moron). Happens all the time because there isn’t anything less subjective and quantifiable than the good ‘ole intangibles. Sure, you can support your point with obscure and random facts (yards after catch when playing at home after wife gave birth), but that takes too much digging and I don’t have a stats guy to perform said digging as my son is only 5. I’ll try to keep the irrationality out this preview segment, but feel free to let your own mind take flight.
Let’s focus on the intangibles as they relate (however the hell I want!) to the Isles 2013-2014 season. And bear with me if you will, but this writer is going to discuss in terms of the ‘team’ and the ‘whole’ much moreso than the ‘individual’. How Marxist of me. How, oh so, Belichick-ian.
You may not have noticed yet, but the Islanders updated their team slogan for the coming season, as they occasionally do from season to season, or regime to regime. “A Shift in Power” is the new one. Tough. So tough. I do like it I must say. Brett Yormark much? Pretty powerful stuff as the slogan is supposed to insinuate that the Islanders have gained traction locally in the NY Metro market and arguably within the division.
Past . . . There was the oh-so communal, “We’re all Islanders”. There was also, “Hockey with Heart”. And I’m sure you and your buddies had your own slogans from time to time after a few pops. Last season, the Isles were a playoff team and if all things progress as planned, they are heading to greener (more conrete really) pastures. There slogan must indicate as much.
The idea of a slogan as it relates to a sports franchise is simply marketing fluff. But a slogan, combined with other things, can loosely represent and reflect team culture. Franchise culture if you will. Traditionally it is important for fans of the team moreso than the players of a team. Or is it? Was it? With social media, the world wide web, and just living in the information age as we do, players and fans interact so much now that there is very little either side is not privy to, save for what goes on in team meetings.
For the perenially successful teams, the Bruins, Red Wings, Penguins, etcetera, team culture can have exponential positive intangiable effects on a fanbase and team personnel. Simply, it makes people feel good about their team. Nationalistic feelings? Pride?
The Islanders have been struggling with team culture for the likes of twenty or so years. Has this changed recently? What’s the forecast? Does making the playoffs in a shortened season as an 8th seed begin to establish a healthy team culture? Hard to say. It starts at the top for any professional sports franchise, and some argue that owner Charles Wang hasn’t done much to improve team culture since he took the reins. I’ll leave that argument up to ya’ll.
A great chemistry teacher I happen to know very well believes in a specific mantra that translates well to many facets of life, just as his students. That mantra is: Chem-is-try. This current Isles team, night in night out, tries. I give them credit for ‘bringing it’ on a routine basis, especially down the stretch and throughout their first round playof round versus the Pens.
This category, in terms, of intangibles, is certainly easy to cast an optimistic forecast around for the coming years. Yes, there is team chemistry on the New York Islanders and it is alive and well. Apparently this ain’t no ‘country club’ anymore. Was that Dwayne?
Two glaring indicators of a healthy team chemistry are the 180’s that goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky pulled once they ‘dipped their toes in the water’. Not only did they eventually honor their contracts, they re-upped them. Now these aren’t guys in their primes by any means, but they are damn good hockey players, and respected ones at that.
All you have read recently (past 2-3 years) through the team interviews by beat reporters, various blogs, and most importantly by the actions of the players themselves (long term contracts and extensions) indicate that these guys want to play with each other . . . and win a cup together. Team chemistry? Check. Prognosis: Outstanding.
Well now. Some interesting news broke on Twitter on Tuesday (and for me, via text from my brother in Nevada). John Tavares will be named the next captain of the Islanders within the next week. Outstanding! Give him the ‘C’ at 23. Who doesn’t love JT? Primarily a leader ‘by example’, Tavares has demonstrated his ability to guide and mentor those not even up with the big club the past couple years (Ryan Strome).
And with the ‘A’s? Probably Hamonic and Kyle Okposo. No slouches themselves and also, very young homegrown guys. Garth! What are you doing here? Building from within? No kiddin’. Huh. That works (‘Hawks, B’s, Wings etc.) No kiddin’. I digress.
Lastly, in terms of leadership, we look to Coach Capuano and his staff. Boy, it seems as though Cappy has been here forever. I dunno. He’s likely the right guy for now, with the current group, but I get the sense that Dougie Weight is really the guy pushing the buttons on this current team. It may seem unfair to some in the wake of the divisional restructuring, but if they miss the playoffs, I venture to say that Cappy is gone as head coach. Bold prediciton (sarcasm), I know.
So there you have it folks, your annual Islanders Season Preview: ‘Intangibles 2013-2014’ post; where everything is right and nothing is wrong!