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New York Islanders Have Now Legitimized Themselves As An NHL Powerhouse

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Through decades of misery, all New York Islanders fans can finally breathe easy and realize their team now stands with the big boys of the NHL.


Now that the dust has settled with the New York Islanders finally locking down Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, signing them both to Multimillion dollar sever-year contract extensions, it is time to understand what this actually equates to for the once laughed at organization.

Just as Islanders nation began to get the alerts on their phones, emails, twitter feeds and every hundred thousand other media sources that the Isles have come to terms with Boychuk, the dams broke with opinions on the deal.

Most were excited to lock down the solid D-Man with a howitzer of  shot, a player whose veteran presence carries from the blue line to the locker room.  There were some who scratched their head and shouted, “didn’t we learn anything after the Rick DiPietro debacle of a contract.”  There were those who could not stomach the length, seven years for a guy who is thirty-one!” (umm Chris Chelios).

When both Leddy and Boychuk were traded for this past October the cogitation were here we go, just another two players that we will move come trade deadline time.  This thought process stems back from the Thomas Vanek type of scars.  Players seemed to always enjoy their brief stay on the island but just not enough to stay.  So why would two past cup winners have the slightest interest in being an Islander when their payday is coming, most likely from the heavy hitters that usually real in the big fish in the pond.

Mar 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) celebrates after center John Tavares (not pictured) scored the game-winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Islanders beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Well this time it is different, Boychuk and Leddy showed us that our fears is just our battered and beaten Islander fan mentality.  For the past twenty-years any attempt the Islanders have made either through trades or free agency to sign and maintain even their own  players had been a losing battle.

Players simply did not want to come to the New York Islanders organization, and if forced they sure were not staying.  We fans have watched beloved players say they love being an Islander only to move on in their careers and go to contenders for their own shot at the Stanley Cup.  Solid seasoned Vets did not want to step up to the plate and be “that” veteran the team would rebuild around.

Ryan Smyth, a wasted rental.  Thomas Vanek revitalized his career because of John Tavares and shoved Garth Snows offer back in his face, with a pathetic response of “It’s not you it’s me,” have fun being insignificant in Minnesota Tommy.

Players like Adrian Aucoin who could have been vital pieces that would have possibly put the Islanders back on the map sooner than later, took the money and ran.  It is fine to get paid and go for the Cup as your career winds down, the Tony Gwynn sole team loyalty mentality does not exist nearly as much anymore.

Islanders fans unknowingly dwell deep into the past embarrassment when players would learn they were traded to the Islanders, then watch them go as far as neglecting to show up to their respective new club.  It is always fun to return to the Kirk Muller saga.  A case of an okay player who spurned to respect the business aspect of the job and refused to be an Islander.

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Fast forward a little over a decade and enters Ryan Smyth who was traded for in 2007 and came to the Island with fans hoping that maybe they could make a true run in the playoffs with him.  His first game at the Nassau Coliseum had Islander fans serenading the new Islander chanting his name during the National Anthem.  What better of a welcoming matt then that.  There was no great playoff tail as the Isles were knocked out by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.

Smyth barely gave the Islanders a second thought during free agency when he ran from the Island and signed a five-year deal with the Colorado  Avalanche.  Another futile Snow attempt for a key franchise player gone in hopes having them spearhead the team in the right direction.

The Isles could not hold onto or obtain players who did not see the bright future Garth Snow was building, so the authentic youth movement began and the organization scouted the earth for their future.  The team was just unable to literally grab and keep big name players.  It was time to rebuild from within and create those big name players on their own.  So began the almost decade journey to where we are now.

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Evgeni Nabokov had a good three seasons filled with passion and fun as he wore the orange and blue.  He was a large part of helping put the Islanders back on the NHL map.  Nabby was not so innocent in the beginning.  The Islanders claimed Nabokov off of waivers as he was planning on joining the Detroit Redwings as Chris Osgood pulled a mid-season retiring.

Nabakov did not hesitate letting the NHL know he was unhappy with the development and outright refused to report to New York, having to want to play for Detroit, again a contender.  The Islanders in response then suspended the disgruntled goalie for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.  Whatever creative conversations was to be credited behind closed doors,  The “Nabby era began in August of 2011 when he reported he will be arriving at Islanders camp.

Nabakov came to a team that was at ground one in their rebuilding stage.  Nabakov was looking to take the next three to four final seasons of his career out in glorious fashion, and he did that, but not in a way he first planned.  “The Professor,” as Stan Fischler nicknamed him became the Islanders starting goalie for the next several seasons.

In 2012 he signed an extension and did the same in 2013-14 signing on for another season.  Nabby actually gave fans and possibly outside players the hope that this team is changing and growing in the right direction.  He spent three good seasons with the team and was in-goal for the 2013 playoff war against the Penguins.  Nabakov enjoyed his stay and as fans we had a number one keeper that when he was on point, was tops in the league.

Just like Nabakov another player not having any interest coming to the Island was Lubomir Visnovsky.  In June of 2012 the Isles traded for Visnovsky.  The disgruntled defenseman went as far as filing a grievance against the Anaheim Ducks claiming he still had a no-trade clause and the Ducks did not ask for his permission to waive it.  An obvious please don’t send me to the rumored dark abyss of hell called the Islanders.

The Visnovsky situation was significant because it showed a turning point from a player who not at all wanted to be a part of to team to realizing something is happening on the Island.  Visnovsky at first refused to associate with the Isles after the NHL lockout saying he will stay in the KHL.  Snow convinced him to finally join the team, three weeks later Visnovsky arrived and the rest is history.

The two signings (Leddy, Boychuk) are showing the entire NHL that this team is not a Cinderella story.

Visnovsky enjoyed his playing time and was an integral part on the power play.  The D-man realized this was the right fit for him and the once Mickey Mouse organization had some solid prospects and near future plans to turn it all around.  Visnovsky stabilized the young defense at the time and agreed to a two-year contract extension.

Now here we are, Snow made some solid moves in the off-season grabbing forwards Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, more proof that players around the league were buying into the fact that the Isles have changed.

Snow’s bold moves in acquiring two seasoned Stanley Cup defenseman in Leddy and Boychuk had an instant impact on the team and the current success of this season.  The fear of losing Boychuk had been on my mind from the first time he fired the puck from the blue line as an Isle.  I ordered a number 55 jersey and hoped I didn’t waste over two hundred bucks come March.

What all of this adds up to is that the Islanders have hit rock bottom and like a Phoenix risen from their ash to now a team that is on the verge of playing well into June.  When players like Leddy and Boychuk who may have had some reserved negative emotions being moved from Chicago and Boston, two established teams.  To an Islander club with a giant questions mark of what type of team they are sign the dotted line, it is a pat on the back to Garth Snow, Jack Capuano and the staff.

The two signings are showing the entire NHL that this team is not a Cinderella story.  They are being built to do this for a protracted amount of time.  Boychuk was going to get some serious offers from big market clubs.  Well guess what the New York Islanders are now one of those teams.  This is no fluke, Islanders fans are now going to understand that being a playoff team does not come every leap year, this current success is going to be more than expected for the years to come.

Currently the Islanders have enough youth to fill specific gaps but now the kids might feel some pressure.  If they do not develop or play to NHL caliber there are going to be some big UFA’S waiting happily for a call from Garth Snow.

When you are good and stay good everyone wants to join the party.  Looks like for now and the future the Islanders are going to have no problem in getting what they need when they need it.

Next: EOI Power Rankings, V. 2

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