The State of the Islanders At the All Star Break, My Opinion Only


I always find it interesting and sometimes humorous when I read all of the comments and opinions that float around and are exchanged in Islander country.  Not that we, as Isles fans, have not had more than our share of frustrations and hardships  over the years, but the frequent negativity and lack of faith in the team and organization seen in recent years disturbs and disappoints me quite a bit.  I am surely not happy all of the time, but I was in business for sixteen years and I am a loyal fan who understands and appreciates the reality of a sports franchise in 2011.  Thus, I think that Charles and Garth are doing a fine job and are trying to run a team in an economic environment that is quite hostile and during a rebuilding process to boot.

Of course, every move Garth Snow makes is going to be pretty much scrutinized under the proverbial microscope.  When James Wisniewsky was traded, well, according to many, we didn’t get enough in return and, well, management was already giving up on the season.  When Dwayne Roloson was traded, it was basically the same song and dance about a lack of caring and only looking forward to the next draft.  Then, all kinds of rumors began to circulate about Matt Moulson being traded for below market  value to dump additional salary.  To some fans, settling for another first round draft pick and the “status quo” was all we should “expect” from the organization.

Well, Moulson is now locked in for the next 3 years, and imagine that?  He actually wanted to stay here.  Yes, for a club that is so vilified and looked down upon, players actually desire to remain part of the team.  Furthermore, they also believe in the team and feel that Garth Snow and company are going to build a winner in the end.  Despite that NHLPA poll just released about the Islanders being the least desired team to play on, there are still guys who want to be a part of the organization.  This, I’m sure, may astound some, yet if things were “so bad” why did Moulson state several times that he wanted to remain an Islander?  Why have John Tavares and several other guys basically said the same things?  Yeah, I guess it must just suck to play here and be an New York Islander ….

I don’t think there is a fan of the team, a player on the team or a member of management who wants to find themselves 15-27-7 at this point in the season.  With so much excitement and a great deal of expectation at the start of the season, like many others, I believed we would be in the midst of a fight for a playoff spot at this stage of the season.  I would have imagined us, at least, having 20 points more in the standings with a record more on the positive side of .500 than 12 games under it.  I would have found myself feeling that so many of those games we “almost won” would have been victories for us in the past.  Frankly, 37 points and 14th in the conference was a place I would have relegated to past history as far as how this team would be performing at the end of January of this season.

But that is not the case.  For a variety of reasons, things just haven’t turned out as many of us thought or certainly would have wanted.  More than a few games were  potential victories we had in hand, but did not result in a W.  Injuries and simple “bad luck” has plagued this team from preseason on.  Our best defenseman and quarterback on the power play has been out all season and we only just got back who is arguably our best, all around forward from the IR.  All four of the “veteran” defensemen signed or traded for before the season are either injured or gone.  Overall, we have lost the most man games in the NHL to injuries this season.

Is it a matter of making  “excuses”?  Am I just being an Islander “fan boy”?  Have there been other teams in the NHL who have overcome injury problems and are competing much further up in the standings?  Perhaps, the answers to those questions are all, yes, to some extent, but, nevertheless, there are more factors involved in the situation the Isles currently are facing than simplifying it down to it being the case of the team being “bad”.   Frankly, I think the talent and skill level of the New York Islanders is far from “bad”, and I believe, despite what some think, Garth Snow is doing the best he can in a realistically tough economic situation when Charles is consistently losing money on the team and the reality a new arena is still up in the air.

As they say, though, it is what it is.  As far as I am concerned, I would rather dwell on the positives than jump on the negativity bandwagon that so many in Islander country have chosen to ride.  Yeah, there is a lot of things we can all point to on the negative side, and we can list our “gripes” and “complaints” until the cows come home.  However, it doesn’t help the guys who take the ice each game, and it only does more to perpetuate the unflattering image this team has seemed to been given by the NHL and other fans during the last few years.

I am not going to go through a player by player evaluation nor am I going to talk about the coaching change, the trades or the draft possibilities.  I am going to simply point out some of the positives and surprises that we should all be focusing on, instead of either disparaging the team and the organization or turning our backs on them all.  That, to me, solves nothing, and when a group of guys needs supportive fans the most, that’s what we should be giving them.  We might not like where we are in the standings or what our playoff hopes appear to be, but the boys still have to take the ice for 33 more regular season games, and they, as a group, deserve our support and encouragement.

First off, congratulations to Michael Grabner for winning the fastest skater competition at the all star extravaganza.  What a steal this guy has been for us.  So far, 15 goals, 21 points, and a simply exciting player who gets better and better each game.  How many saw that coming?

PA Parenteau and his 30 points and 12 goals, to me, is another “quiet” pick up by Garth that has not received its deserved credit.  Another guy who seems to get better every game, how well has he complimented JT and Moulson on the first line?  I had my own doubts about him at the beginning of the season, but he has made me a fan of his by his play.

The combination of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic, thanks to our tons of injuries on the back line, has become our top defensive pairing.  MacDonald just continues to prove what an absolute jewel he was to grab in the draft, while Hamonic, despite probably being rushed into the NHL, has done all the team could ask for from him.  It may not be the combination anyone expected to be our top 2 of our 6, but they have done a fantastic job adapting to their roles and getting the job done.

With 18 goals and 36 points, John Tavares continues to demonstrate why he was a first round pick.  I still personally say he should have been selected to the all star team and that the Islanders were slighted by the NHL by not having JT chosen.  Bigger and stronger, Tavares has been so much better on the puck and scoring goals in the “dirty areas” of the ice.  I’m tired of the comparisons to Stamkos and how many goals he “should” have.  JT is improving every game and his confidence is growing as well.

It’s early and a lot still can happen, but Kevin Poulin has been another of the bright spots we have had as well.  Another example of a young man who was forced to take on more than the organization had probably desired, he has responded quite impressively.  His last start in goal against the Penguins and the 1-0 loss truly showed how much potential the 20 year old has.  He, to me, can serve just fine as Rick DiPietro’s back up the rest of the way through the season.

Perhaps, statistically he has not shown a great deal as far as offensive production, but I have additionally found Zenon Konopka to be yet another great signing by Garth Snow.  This guy says all the right things, does all the right things and exemplifies true team play.  He stands up for his teammates, and he wins important face-offs.  He plays so well defensively, and deserves a lot of credit for his play thus far as far as I am concerned.

There are many other positives as well.  Frans Nielsen and his continued play as one of the most underrated centers in the NHL, Radek Martinek who has stayed healthy and who gets the job done every night, and Jack Capuano, a guy who has gotten his team to compete hard every night and not tank the season, are just a few more.  Matt Moulson is on his way to another 30 goals season, while Blake Comeau is having a career year.  Kyle Okposo, just 5 games back, has fit in quite nicely on a line with Nielsen and Grabner.

Are there things that could be better?  Are there players who might not be doing as much as were expected to do?  Are there areas that need improvements?  Of course the answers to those questions are, yes.  However, again, as “bad” as things appear in the standings, my focus and outlook is on what is going right or what is being done well.  It’s easy to point out every negative thing and to discuss what we’d like to see done differently or “better”.  I, though, will leave that to all the others out there who seem to take pleasure in wallowing in misery and complaining and griping about what they think Charles or Garth should be doing.

Thus, to those who fall into that group, I suggest you take Gary’s advice (read his post above).  I just don’t care.  Sit out the rest of the season with Evgeni Nabokov.  Disown your team.  Turn your back on the players.  Flame the organization on blogs and discussion boards.  Rant and rave about it until your blue in the face.  Give up your season tickets.  I  simply refuse to travel along that road.

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