The New York Islanders are fairly close to NHL .500. The last three games, all loses, were close, tied in fact, going into the third period. And through the last few seasons, we have heard a myriad of anecdotes that the team is personally close.
Having said all of that, we may now throw out that word, “close”. Because your New York Islanders are not close to anything good right now.
In relation to that final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League, they are not within any realistic distance. If hockey is a game of inches, the Islanders are lightyears from contention. At least numerically.
After 29 games the Islanders are 12 points back of the Caps, who hold that final spot. And Washington has a game in hand. But it is frustrating because it didn’t have to be this way.
A Canyon So Wide
Look, every team blows a few games in heartbreaking fashion in the course of 82 tries. But no team can be excused for giving up last minute leads, or game-losing goals, in a third of its games.
It is frustrating because the Islanders put together a 5-0-1 run, against mostly good teams, and have played ok since, but have lost ground in the standings.
What seemed like a long shot two weeks ago, that might need a miraculous run by a hot goalie, has become a canyon so wide Evil Knievel would crap his pants if he thought about jumping it in a rocket.
It is frustrating because when the season started, even pessimistic Islander fans didn’t think The Rangers, the Devils, the Blue Jackets, and the Flyers were vastly superior. They are.
We’re homers. We thought we were better. But the difference between what we thought and we we see isn’t mere homerism, it’s Homer Simpsonism. We look at the standings and scream, “d’oh”!
It is frustrating because we can all see that Garth Snow was right conceptually that committing to the older team leaders, like Okposo and Nielsen, for the next seven years, when they couldn’t help us reach contender status was foolish and damning.
But he wrong is believing these replacements were adequate. The list of “he was supposed to replace them” failures is epic. Ladd, Chimera, Kulemin, Strome. They’ve contributed next to nothing. Nelson and Lee have specific skills sets that could be utilized and should be. But aren’t. And so the chasm grows.
There’s a hole list of guys who aren’t on the Barclays ice for one reason or another that could help. Pulock is in the minors, Barzal is in Juniors, Beavillier is in the press box, Grabovski is on IR, Sorokin is in Russia. You have to think between those five guys they could muster SOME excitement.
It is frustrating because we have a lame duck front office. I support the idea that it is more important to make the right choices than to make quick choices. So a post-season purge is fine.
But enduring the rest of December, and January, and February, and March (I’m writing them all out to show you how excruciating this wait is) and April, and May before we see new blood makes you want to scream as if you were Thomas hickey and someone just skated over your wrist.
Being a fan of a sports team is a little bit like belonging to a religion. There’s an element of faith. there’s a sense of community. There’s the comfort of fellowship.
But if your religion had, at it’s heart, the belief that a savior would one day come and deliver your people to an exalted place. And if that savior arrived, was recognized and hailed as such, and failed, what would become of that faith?
Our hockey savior arrived seven years ago, and though he clearly was not greeted by a single wise man in the Isles front office, he soldiered on as a man of unquestioned virtue. He has sacrificed for you, and is being sacrificed for you.
And still the chasm between the Islanders and a playoff position grows.