Islanders need to find the joy of the game again

New York Islanders - Salo and Sorokin
New York Islanders - Salo and Sorokin / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Growing up, my father would say to me during a rough patch: “el mono esta de espaldas.” It roughly translates to the monkey is on your back. It is easy to look at the New York Islanders and say, el mono esta de espaldas. Things have indeed been better for the New York Islanders, beginning with the dreaded thirteen-game road trip, moving into an outbreak of Covid positive cases while adding an injury bug. Let’s get the obvious out of the way; the NHL should have pressed the pause button on opening UBS Area and to the Islanders' schedule. The question remains: now what? 

New York Islanders: Need to have fun

The Islanders face a tremendous uphill battle and are seemingly not getting love from the league about their recent struggles. But, even before the injuries and the Covid outbreak, things were not looking right on Long Island. 

The Islanders just lost their point leader in Brock Nelson with a lower-body injury. He leads the team with 11 points. Eleven points in 15 games played is not ideal. Brock’s linemate, Anthony Beauviller, is third with seven points, one behind the Islanders’ most dynamic player, Matthew Barzal. One can move down the stat sheet, and the picture is rather bleak. So, what is going on with the New York Islanders? 

It is tough to say what exactly is going on with the New York Islanders. Even if the team abandoned the Trotz defensive system, they should still produce some offense. The offense is simply not coming for this group. Collectively, they could be gripping the stick too tight or suffering from the effects of an extended road trip. Perhaps, the group overachieved for the last two seasons? I do not think so, to be frank. 

Whatever is aligning this team (besides injury or Covid) is undoubtedly mental. The Islanders collectively are carrying a monkey on their backs. What is the solution for this? It all depends on who you ask. I think it is pretty obvious. The team needs to take a step back to see the entire forest and not get lost in the trees. Moving past the group being incredible athletes, they all got to this point because of a love for the game. They need to find that again. They need to locate that part of themselves that allows them to play for the sake of playing. If you have watched hockey for any time, the best teams play loosely; the Islanders are playing the opposite. 

Okay, but what about the playoffs? Well, here is the truth, it is November, and everyone needs to relax. The Islanders may miss the playoffs, sure. Or the Islanders pick it up and start collecting points. The season is going to play out, and there is still plenty of hockey to be played. I will concede, the runway is short but, there is still a runway to utilize. Plus, the fanbase has gotten something we have been clamoring for: the youth has played. 

All is not lost on Long Island. Now is the time for the team to look at Anthony Beaviller’s stick and remind themselves to have fun.  The points will come.