It’s October 2, 2012. Today, Islanders fans were expecting to treat themselves to their first trip to the Barclays Center. The Islanders would face-off against the Devils for the first hockey game in Brooklyn for some pre-season action. I was looking forward to that, but what are you going to do when your favorite league decides to go on strike.
Yes, all hockey fans are suffering right now. The Islanders should be starting the 2012-13 Season in less than two weeks, but it seems as if the fans are not in the hockey gods plans right now. The fall is going to be very quiet, with a tiny bit of hope that the NHL Lockout will end by Thanksgiving. Come on, NHL. Get it together.
As an Islanders fan, I was particularly intrigued by this upcoming season. The Islanders were coming off their best season in the John Tavares era (even if it may not have felt like it at times), and I have to say, I had my expectations going forward. I also understand that many others have little-to-no expectations.
There’s frustration from the fan-base that the Islanders, a team that has not made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, has not done much to improve this team. There’s the notion that Charles Wang is running this team to the ground, and that the Islanders are getting by without surrounding their “kids” with a veteran presence. What I want to say is that the New York Islanders, and us, the fans, have to move away from the notion that the guys on this team aren’t good enough anymore. We have to move away from the notion that Charles Wang and Garth Snow aren’t giving their players a chance to succeed anymore, and that they are not doing enough to help our young players out.
Here’s the thing: it’s not 2007 anymore. The Islanders have been rebuilding, whether fans want to believe it or not. The Islanders are also in the next phase of the rebuild, whether fans want to believe it or not, so the notion that the Islanders need more of a veteran presence to win? Sorry. Remember those kids? They’re not kids anymore. They are NHL veterans, and it’s time that we all start acknowledging it.
It’s one thing to tell me that the guys on this team are no good. Look, the Islanders haven’t performed, plain and simple. We’ve been on the basement for several years now, and it is frustrating. Again, though. We have been rebuilding.
If you’re going to tell me it’s because they haven’t had their fair share of veterans, though, thats just plain ignorant. Let’s start during the 2007-08 season. That team was loaded with veterans. Miroslav Satan, Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko…the list goes on. The only kids we really had on that team were Blake Comeau, and a 23-year old Frans Nielsen. This team of veterans put together a 79-point season, which was good for 79 points, our current total.
You could say that was the point where the Islanders began “rebuilding,” but even then, the Islanders team was predominantly veterans. Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey played their first full seasons, and Andrew MacDonald saw 2 games of NHL action. To all the detractors, the Islanders also went out to sign some veteran-help, as they brought in Doug Weight, who had 38 points in 53 games, and Mark Streit, who led this team in points. The Islanders still came in last place, as they suffered from injuries and a goalie-go-round.
Nonetheless, year two of the rebuild featured the newly-drafted John Tavares. Still raw, Tavares proved to have potential, as he potted 24 goals and 30 assists in his first pro-season. As a matter of fact, he led the team in points. Kyle Okposo finished the year with 52 points, while youngsters Frans, Bails, and Comeau scored at least 30 points each. Matt Moulson also surprised Islanders fans, as he tallied 30 goals. Doug Weight was hurt all season, Jon Sim scored 13 goals in his first, and Sean Bergenheim did not live up to the promise he showed during the prior season. The Islanders, a raw team with veteran help, struggled, and received the 5th-overall pick, yet an improvement over the previous year.
On to year three, the Islanders were now looking at KO, FN and JB’s third season, Tavares’ 2nd-season, and the arrival of Travis Hamonic, Matt Martin, and waiver-claim Michael Grabner. Heck, the Islanders even made a trade to better the defense, bringing in James Wisniewski to the blue-line. Unfortunately, Mark Streit was lost for the year, Kyle Okposo was lost for half the year, and the Islanders saw six goalies in net. Granted, no one was complaining when the Islanders surged the second-half of the year. Islanders fans looked forward to the next season, probably more so in the last 5 years, in spite of the fact that there was very little veteran presence. No one was complainong about Grabner, who scored 34 goals, or Moulson who reached 30 for the second-year in a row. Tavares had a 13-point improvement. Sure, people were complaining about PAP despite his 53-point season, but whatever, he’s gone now. The kids were exciting, and that’s my point.
No one thought the Islanders were going to tank as hard as they did last season. Marty Reasoner was brought in, and everyone saw him as an improvement over Konopka, even though we may have loved Zeke. None of us thought he would be awful like he was. Mark Streit was coming back, which was a huge plus. The Islanders had Al Montoya, yet he showed why he’s a back-up goalie at best, rather than the steal we thought him to be. Islanders fans were excited for Brian Rolston, yet he showed up out of shape. Everyone loved Cappy for his laid-back style, yet he’s the worst thing about this team. Blake Comeau was expected to be a 20-goal scorer and we WAIVED HIM!
And in spite of all of this, the Islanders still had their best season since the 2007-08 Season. They did it without the “veterans,” too, or did they? Matt Moulson scored 30 goals for the third year in a row. He’s also 28 with 275 games under his belt. I wouldn’t call him a kid. Frans Nielsen is 28 with 319 career games, and coming off a career-best 47-point season. I’d say he’s a veteran. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey are going into their 5th seasons, and John Tavares, who was top-10 in NHL scoring, is going into his 4th season. And we’re still going to call these guys kids?! I mean, the Islanders also added Lubomir Visnovsky, Matt Carkner, and Brad Boyes, but we’re still going to refer to this team as a team full of youngsters?
These guys are NHL veterans. Here’s the trick, now. It’s about developing Ryan Strome, Nino Niederreiter, Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom, and the others. It’s not about leaving the responsibility on these younger kids, and throwing them out there without veteran help. The guys we have now ARE the veteran help, and the “kids” are the guys in our system right now.
You are not going to sell me on the “fact” that Snow and Wang are not doing anything to bring in veteran help. You’re not going to sell me on the fact that the Islanders would be better off with a few older guys that “can play,” just like the 2005-06 Penguins did when they brought in Palffy, Recchi, and LeClair, only to have a 58-point season! The Islanders HAD guys that “could play,” like Doug Weight and Bill Guerin, yet the Islanders had their worst season in years!
The players we have now are the players Snow and Wang have to figure out because these are not youngsters anymore. They should be able to take leadership of this team, and compete with opposing teams, while making the “kids” around them better hockey players. If Josh Bailey, for example, cannot do that, than it is HE who is expendable, and not the likes of Brock Nelson or Kirill Kabanov, who are waiting in the wings.
I understand the frustration, but you cannot blame Snow and Wang for their refusal to add new veteran faces. The guys they drafted to initiate the rebuild are now the veterans the Islanders have. No more Steve Staios’ or Brian Rolstons. No more older guys on the last days of their careers. The Islanders have their veterans, so stop worrying about that. They already locked up several of their guys for the long-term. Now, it’s about keeping the good guys (John Tavares, Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen), weeding out the bad guys, and implementing the new guys.
It took six years for the Kings to rebuild and make it to the playoffs, and it took them nine years to win the Stanley Cup. Going into year five of the rebuild, the standings show that the Islanders are on the upswing. The team has its best mix of veterans and kids in years going into a season where we actually improved in many areas, including power play, penalty-kill, and our overall-points. It’s up to the players on the ice now, and not the guys in the press box anymore. Hopefully, the NHL can get going, so the Islanders can show us that they mean it this year.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment!
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants