"The plan is a failure ... This is not a rebuilding program, it is a disaster.">>The reaction from some fans,
34 games into a multi-year plan
Throughout 2006-07, the Washington Capitals had losing streaks of 6, 5, 6, and -- to save the best for last -- 9 consecutive games. The next year started horribly, before a new coach put it all together and ignited them on an unbelievable run that took them all the way to the playoffs. Minus injuries and goaltending issues, today they are as dynamic a team as you'll find in the
2007-08 (edit: ha, calendar much?) 2008-09 NHL.
In November 2005, the Anaheim (then-Mighty) Ducks lost 8 consecutive games, a franchise record. They still made the Conference Finals that season, and the next season they were crowned Stanley Cup champions.
In the 2003-04 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 18 games in a row, a franchise record. Three seasons later, they made it to the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
In 2002-03, the Nashville Predators suffered through a 15-game winless streak, a franchise record. The next year, they improved by 16 points and made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They haven't missed the playoffs since, and if not for ownership woes forcing them to sell off stars, they'd be even stronger than that today. They have had one coach in their history.
In 1997-98, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost 13 consecutive games from Jan. 3 - Feb. 2, a franchise record. That summer they drafted Vincent Lacavalier, who would hoist the Stanley Cup in his sixth NHL season, under his third NHL coach.
In November 1990, the Quebec Nordiques lost 14 in a row, still a franchise record. Three seasons later, they had 104 points in the pre-loser-point NHL. Three seasons after that, they were Stanley Cup champions in their first year in Denver.
In 1986, the Detroit Red Wings went 10 consecutive games without a home win, still a franchise record. The next year, under new coach Jacques Demers (who now confesses he was illiterate at the time), the team missed the division title by one point and made the playoffs for just the third time in nine seasons in the 21-teams-or-less NHL. The next season the Red Wings won the division title. They have missed the playoffs once (1990) in the two decades since, and they've thrown in four Stanley Cups for good measure.
The point is not that the Islanders will be great next year -- although some fans, for some reason, are expecting they should be good now. The point is that a rebuild just doesn't work that way. It takes time, it takes the steady collection of assets -- and it takes a lot of pain and ugly nights. Sometimes it takes bringing in a new coach, much later on, who doesn't sound like the one who carried a team through its painful losing-streak years.
What it doesn't take is impatience and knee-jerk decisions -- management miscues that are precisely why the Islanders have never had a proper "rebuild" before. A Crosby/Malkin/Staal trifecta isn't going to drop in the Islanders lap; but they need more than the mid-round picks that just-get-by average finishes net you.
Tonight the Islanders lost their 10th game in a row (0-9-1), 4-2 at home to Atlanta. After falling behind 2-0, the spirited lines of Trent Hunter/Richard Park/Andy Hilbert, and Kyle Okposo/Mike Comrie/Blake Comeau worked their tails off according to coach Scott Gordon's plan, and the team got those two goals to tie it at 2-2.
A foolish retaliation penalty by Mike Comrie squandered a power play and gave the Thrashers the PP they needed to go back ahead, 3-2. But the Islanders spent the final 10 minutes of the game pressuring, forcing Johan Hedberg saves or just missing the net, before Atlanta got an empty-netter to ice it.
It was by no means a pretty game, but it showed the kind of life that made it far from the worst performance on this 10-game run of pain.
If the Islanders ever want to get out of this, they need some serious top-end talent in the mix. And they're not getting that but through the draft. So losses like this to 28th-place Atlanta are, frankly, necessary. If the young Islanders who are part of the long-term plan -- the ones who are healthy, anyway -- can use such losses to get quality minutes in, to show some spunk, and to teach us what they have to offer, then all the better.