There have been so many reasons to get down on the Islanders floating around the media that I felt compelled to tell the other side of the story... for once.
1. Charles Wang.... yeah... I said it. There is probably nobody on this or any other site who's been up against the CA CEO and LHP leader as I have. But it is becoming quite evident that Charles Wang is ONE OF US. The more I step away from the situation, the more I feel he and this team are getting jacked around by everybody. It's time to turn that tide. For 10+ years Charles has tried to make this thing work. He may have had some ulterior motives, but he's still here... and after getting it wrong for so long he's GETTING IT RIGHT. He has good people doing good things and he needs our support.
2. Garth Snow. I just can't find any reason to doubt that Garth has a solid positive long range plan, he's sticking to the plan and he's not letting any pressure from anybody get in his way. This is the best damn 28th place team in my lifetime... and if they gain the double bonus of the third pick and maturation of CURRENT stars Garth will have more firepower organizationally than any team in history that didn't fleece Brian Burke for Phil Kessel.
3. Jack Capuano... I was a big Ted Nolan fan... I thought he got the best out of each individual player, and helped that group of men become a TEAM. Well... here comes your second chance, Garth... don't screw it up. Here is a guy who is willing to take this group whereever it can go. He's proven he can motivate, and direct them into a WINNING CULTURE. Yes, it's been a relatively small sample size... but it's been ALL GOOD... and we don't even have a full roster... just overperforming youngsters that should do nothing but improve.
4. John Tavares.... He is becoming an NHL MONSTER right before our eyes. I love Matt Moulson, and PA Parentau has played well for us... but they are MATT MOULSON AND PA PARENTAU and John Tavares makes them look like Jean Belliveau and Rocket Richard... well.. I do tend to exaggerate... but you get the picture. The Islanders haven't had a player, nevermind a 20-year old player that makes OTHER PLAYERS look this good since Pierre Turgeon. We know he was a #1 overall... but he's the best NYI pick in over 20 years.... you'd have to go back to Lafontaine to find talent even close. LET'S SHOW THIS KID ALL THE LOVE HE DESRVES!
5. Scrap heapers...
Matt Moulson... you know Matt Moulson stories don't grow on trees. All he does is score goals. He does what has appeared to be a disqualification for Islander employ since Mark Parrish was ex-isled. He goes to the dirty places... he takes the physical punishment and he perseveres. Why isn't Matt Moulson an ALL STAR... maybe Phil Kessel can answer that while he's driving around in his new car.
Michael Grabner… not quite the Matt Moulson story as Garth didn’t go out and buy 5 scratchers and hit the lottery with one Matt Moulson… no, this one fell right in his lap ala Chris Osgood. Grabner has found a home… and if that home has an alarm clock that is set for SEPTEMBER he very well could be a 50 goal scorer on the SECOND LINE… that just smells like playoffs.
PA Parenteau... wouldn't it be cool if he could help knock the Rangers out of the playoffs... and besides that he's become a very big part of the top six productivity for the Isles. It is this castaway that has helped JT and Moulson shine with career years.
Al Montoya... wouldn't it be cool if he could help knock the Rangers out of the playoffs... how awesome would it be if Al finds himself in Blue and Orange... and discovers his FORMER FIRST ROUND potential while leading the Isles next year. If his numbers continue he will rival the Islander greats... that's a huge OVER-EXPECTATION... but when you consider that the DEFENSE should improve next year... WOW.
6. 2008 Draft Class…
Josh Bailey… becoming Frans Lite with a physical upside. Well we hope that’s where it goes. Josh showed 60 PT potential in small flashes. He’ll have plenty of time to grow into that role… and the kid is gonna do it. Josh was definitely rushed into the NHL. He was thrown into a system that we can’t really say was working for too many members of the team… and he adjusted and survived. When that was changed he again was forced to adjust, and finally allowed to grow in a slower, smaller pond.. HUGE OUTPUT in an environment where he could dominate. He’s back, on the third line, with third line talent which is forever shuffling… and yet he continues to subtley progress… since the pitt game he’s ahd a pos +/- and has maintained a solid defensive posture while the top two lines produce. I am cool with that, and know there is HUGE potential when the team improves around him. I would expect next year moves Comeau to RW and Grabner to the left side, as Frans babysits Nino.
Travis Hamonic… Definitely the Islander rookie of the year. He has stepped into a role that he shouldn’t have been asked to fill for AT LEAST another two years, TOP PAIR DEFENSEMAN. He isn’t just a speed bump out there, he has contributed night in and night out… offensively, defensively, physically…. And with SPIRIT! Travis is THE REAL DEAL!
Kevin Poulin… amazing goaltending prospect who already has shown he can handle the NHL game… but we need him to stay healthy and get used to the PRO GRIND in the AHL for a little while longer.
Matt Martin… EXCELLENT bottom six physical presence… still only 21 with some good offensive upside. Matt has delivered more bonecrushing hits in his one full season than we've seen in most Islander's careers. He's just beginning to get more "offensive" responsibilities, and if those pan out... we could have ourselves quite a handful.
Justin DiBenedetto… nice gritty depth forward that can score goals. He just needs to do it on the NHL level. He always seems to prove his doubters wrong... what a great environment for him to DO THAT HERE!
AMAZINGLY STILL UNTAPPED FROM THAT DRAFT ARE… Trivino, Ness, Toews, PETROV, DONOVAN, and ULLSTROM... Incredibly there is still hope for all of them to eventually see the NHL. SIX (Bailey, Hamonic, Poulin, Martin, Dibenedetto and Spurgeon-MN) draftees have already seen NHL ice time... that is just INCREDIBLE.
7. Kyle "Harry Potter" Okposo... he really is a joy to watch.... losing him this year may have been as big as losing Mark Streit. Kyle is on the cusp of BREAKING OUT. He seems more PHYSICALLY ready for the NHL, and he has already shown the one-on-one abilities that make him a tremendous asset. He may also find next year that making plays, rather than finishing htem is just all he needs to do. A 20 goal 40 assist Kyle Okposo will something the rest of the Eastern conference had better take notice of.... especially if he has Cy Young (Michael Grabner) on his LW.
8. UBER FRANS… What can’t Frans do… well… he doesn’t fight… and he doesn’t deliver bone crushing hits… but he overcompensates with REAL HOCKEY SKILLS. He is like a 26 year old player-coach. This should turn out to be a career high 40+ point season for him in spite of missing ~7 games due to injury. Frans is signed for next year, and hopefully will be here for years and years… He’s already chased one silly skills guy out of the organization... and nurtured a possible ROOKIE OF THE YEAR candidate in Grabner. We're hoping he can do the same for Nino next year.
9. Nino… yeah… behind all of this is a kid with size, speed and tenacity ready to fight for an NHL spot next year….WOW.
10. YOU… nobody rocks the NVMC LIKE YOU DO. Next year we need to do it from September through whenever it’s over… maybe JUNE. All the ingredients are there. There is obviously still love for this team as it doesn’t have a snowballs chance in Philly of making the playoffs… but HERE WE ARE! I dread paying top dollar for seats again… but it will be well worth it to sit with my friends to cheer on this team. But this is an excellent time to see great hockey, familiarize yourselves with the boys... and do it for DISCOUNTED PRICES.