There shall most assuredly be countless epitaphs written about this New York Islanders season, let us count this amongst them.
There were moments where it seemed foretold that this grand venture we call a New York Islanders season should fail. Where it seemed consigned to the ash heap of hockey history.
Conversely, with less than a day’s worth of a clock’s ticks left in the season, less than a single rotation of the earth on its axis to go, there was both hope and valor.
Players play, coaches coach, managers manage with a balance of two main goals. This is their career. So they play for money. But this also is their passion, and so they endeavor toward glorious victory.
Won’t Someone Think of the Fans
New York Islanders
But what of us? By what measure can we deem this Islanders season a success or failure for us, the fans?
There is no remuneration for our efforts. Indeed our loyalty likely costs each of us a sizable slice of our income. Winning is most certainly sweet reward, but ultimate victory is so rare indeed that it can not be our motivator — for shall it never come, no fan would say on his deathbed that their life was spent in vain.
Nay, say I, whether or not we see this clearly in our most passionate moments, what we glean from decades of servitude to a sweater, a logo, a team, is entertainment. We enjoy the dedication, the roller coaster of emotion, and the vicarious pursuit of glory.
What we are addicted to might vary between us. Adrenaline? Catharsis? Ritual? But if you are reading this then you are amongst the addicts. Welcome.
So let us judge this New York Islanders season on its entertainment value as you might judge a season of your most adored 80s TV series.
Are You Not Entertained?!
In those terms, the season started off slow. Weighed down by unfortunate decisions by the creative team, and slow to adjust to some new cast members. But David Ogden Stiers didn’t find his groove until his second season replacing Larry Linville. And the Rebecca Howe that corporate first sent to manage the bar wasn’t nearly as well-drawn and she later became.
And so it was with Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. Where they first seemed pale imitations of Nielsen, Okposo, and Martin, they eventually ended up scoring more goals than the three combined. At less money. With shorter term.
Lee was expected to be no more than a limited role player. And here he was, months later, in TV terms, stealing the show from the ensemble that was expected to lead. He is to the Islanders as JJ was to Good Times. Those things happen in art… and so they do in sports.
Were we entertained? Not for the first third of the episodes. They seemed scripted by someone unfamiliar with the art form of either TV writing or building an NHL team.
But this show that was the Islanders season found it’s stride somewhere around the January Sweeps. There was tinkering with the performers and the creative staff, and it clicked.
They sent Jaro Halak on the kind of adventure that happens when a character gets written out of a script. Like Bobby Ewing on Dallas, when Patrick Duffy feuded with Producers. He was simply just gone. The audience was told “He died”
But like Bobby Ewing, he was resurrected months later. And like Dallas did with Ewing, the audience was told, “That was all a dream. He was never really gone at all, he was always part of our family”.
As far as entrainment value; along came Josh Ho-Sang. Sure, his style of play has its critics. And his personality has offended along the way. But like Vinnie Barbarino saying “Wha?”, an astute viewer can see the substance behind the flashy parlor tricks. And talent will, will out.
So while there was much to abhor in this season. And in terms of hockey results, it is an unadulterated step backward. It is also in terms of expectations, an utter failure.
But I am invested in these characters. And just as I tuned in daily, for more than a decade, to see if Robert Scorpio had recovered the Ice Princess, or if Scotty Baldwin could get back with Bobbi Spenser, I will be there in October.
I will be watching all of next season’s episodes. Starting in the fall. Lasting throughout the winter. And, if the season is well-constructed enough, onto a glorious awards season next spring.
There exists no prescription herein, no advice for moving forward, other than that which is contained in the photo above. No judgment passed on events that have transpired, other than acknowledging this season was a failure. Those are ahead. For today, simply, the season has ended. May the next one entertain us, more deeply, more thoroughly, and straight through to June of 2018.