I began to follow the Islanders when Frans Nielsen came to town -- I was really following him, as I had in Denmark through his junior years. I, and everyone else, could see he was something special, and my desire to follow him in NY outweighed my lifelong affiliation with a certain other team (my family is from Mass, and you know what that means). So I made the switch, which wasn't easy. Reading through the game threads at LHH I felt like an imposter, an interloper, who might at any moment be found out and banished to some lesser NYI fan site.
Let's face it, it has been a frustrating few years, and never more so than at the start of the '12 season. I was certain that last year would be the year, as I'd been certain that the year before that would also be the year. But last season I thought the young guys would be ready. I thought that finally, the Islanders would be the NHL's version of the Tampa Bay Rays, which I'd counted on for some time. I was certain that NYI leadership would embrace the youth of their squad, and that the team would excel as did the Rays, and that I would be able to sit back and enjoy the ride along with Fransie (after following him for so long I kind of feel I have a little skin in the game), and all of you, and that my conversion to Islanders fandom -- a move that caused my father great distress -- would finally be justified. And I would no longer be an interloper.
So I was pretty horrified when Leadership decided that, instead of embracing the team's youth, they would attempt to counter it by hiring a contingency of maybes from the NHL Arthritic Ward, thereby arriving at an aggregate player age consistent with the league average.
Instead of becoming a team with a youthful identity, perhaps wearing team cardigans, like Maddon provided to the Rays (to embrace their youthful identity), they ended up becoming a team without any real identity at all -- youthful forwards slowed down by ageing defensemen, creating a massive gap in between where the opposing players could stick handle with impunity.
I must admit, my frustration was such that, for a few moments last season, I even considered backing out, maybe giving up on Frans altogether in favor of any other distraction currently available via my Danish cable provider -- perhaps even snooker on Eurosport.
I stuck it out, encouraged by the shift towards the younger guys, but I jstill didn't feel good about it. And it didn't help when the Islanders started the '13 campaign by finding ways to lose late leads. It's tough going when the prospect of a win, even with a 4-1 lead and only five minutes remaining in the third period, still seems like a bridge too far.
No doubt, things have been much better and more entertaining in '13, but I still needed something to keep me going, and I got it with last night's win -- over Tampa Bay, ironically. For me, last night was it. I think it was clearly the best win of the season up to now, and it put all my doubts to rest. No down period, no coughing up the game late in the third, no tragic giveaways... Last night was everything I've wanted to see from the Islanders -- the zip they had, the forechecking, the determination! What a game!
So I'm all in. I pledge my allegiance to Fransie, and apologize for doubting. For the rest of the season, I'm just killing time between games. The Long, Dark Winter is over, and deliverance will soon be upon us!
Now if I could only get Gamecenter Live to offer their service in Scandinavia so I didn't have to watch the games at one in the friggin' morning...