All submissions sent to [email protected] will be published on the website at a rate of one per day. Share your thoughts on what the season and return to relevance meant to you.
Submission by : Michael Ristano
For me this year has been a long time coming. Even though the Isles made the playoffs five times since the 1992-93 season, they never made it back to the Conference Finals and none of those teams remotely came close to that magical season.
That next year we still had a young team, but unfortunately we had a washed up Ron Hextall minding the pipes. Come playoff time many New Yorker’s joked that if he stepped out in front of a city bus he would have been ok because it would have went through his legs. After being swept by the Rangers it was a long seven year drought that finally saw our Islanders back in the playoffs during the 2001-02 season only to be beaten in seven games by the Maple Leafs in the opening round. We would make the playoff three times in the next four years only to be ousted in each of those in five games by the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres.
Then finally after six long years we made it back to the playoffs and out of the doldrums, but would this be the same as years past or would it be different? We were eliminated in six games, but this had a totally different feel then what we had been accustomed to in previous years. This wasn’t a team comprised of some young decent guys and a few high priced veterans. It was a team that was years in the making, a revamped franchise that Garth Snow started to rebuild through the draft after that last playoff failure during the 2006-07 season.
After years of high first round draft picks we started to see those picks start to turn into legitimate players. After a mediocre season, Kyle Okposo elevated his game in the last month of the season and put together a sensational playoff run to finally show he has arrived. Josh Bailey also put together a nice season and also elevated his play along with the emergence of Casey Cizikas. Travis Hamonic, affectionately known to us all as the hammer, broke out this season and you didn’t have to look any further than his play against the Pens top lines to see he has to come in to his own and is a legitimate upper tier defenseman in this league.
And last but not least John Tavares. What can I say that hasn’t already been written. In order for a franchise to step out of the darkness and back into relevancy they need a face, a player that works hard and leads by example and that is what Johnny T brings to this team. A breakout year in which he finished third in the league with 28 goals and finished his first playoff run with five points, three of them coming off the first playoff goals of his career. Nominated for the Hart Trophy, an award he is absolutely deserving of winning, not only do we recognize that our face of the franchise has finally arrived, but so does the rest of the NHL.
So to answer my own question : yes this does have a different feel, it has the feel of something big about to happen on the Island.
How big you ask? That I can’t say for sure but what we just witnessed this year makes us beLIeve it’s gonna be something special!!