Why have we gathered today, around his nondescript, unpainted pine casket in an empty parking lot? To say goodbye to the 2013 edition of the New York Islanders, who were laid to rest last weekend surrounded by the people who loved them best: their opponents. No doubt the rest of the NHL will dearly miss the easy victories that so often happen when facing the Islanders.
Yes, the Islanders earned an ounce of respect for playing six more games this season than they were expected to play. That those meaningless extra games were played against the villainous and ruthless Pittsburgh Penguins was a cruel twist of fate that no team deserved. But the stubborn young Islanders did make it a series mainly because Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury played so poorly that security guards were scoring goals on him from the Nassau Coliseum concourse.
What can be said about the Islanders' venerable home arena that the Board of Health hasn't said already? Yes, using asbestos in construction was standard practice for decades up to the mid-1970s, but surely no building has caused more health problems than Nassau Mausoleum. Between the asbestos, the falling ceiling, the peeling paint, the chronic clinical depression, the high blood pressure and the stale hot dogs, it's a miracle anybody has ever left it alive, especially the players that somehow work there everyday.
Their demise is all the more sad because their time in Uniondale is running out. Soon, they'll be playing in Brooklyn, where they'll be popular for about 15 minutes before they're shunned and mocked as being "too mainstream" and "overplayed." In time, the Barclays Center will be such an empty shell that even the Russian mobsters from Brighton Beach won't want to dump their bodies there.
The Islanders, of course, were led this year by their homegrown superstar John Tavares, an exciting player on the ice and a boring cliche-machine everywhere else. John Tavares is so boring, his own mother probably fell asleep while birthing him. Whether on skates or in street clothes, Tavares is capable of dropping jaws, although during the latter, it's usually because people are yawning. It's sad to see someone leave us so young, but then again, Tavares acts like a man five times his age, so in the end it all works out.
Speaking of age, wizened goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had a rough time at the end. Although he fought desperately to stop pucks, Nabokov simply couldn't hang on, primarily because he had more openings than an empty Hempstead strip mall. So many pucks flew over his shoulders that his neck is now two inches thinner than it was at the start of the season. Nabokov will be missed, most notably at the Siberian gulag he planned on retiring to after the 2017 season.
Their teammates were a combination of has-beens, never-weres and "who is he?" They were a team of the people in that, if you saw an Islander on the street, you'd probably mistake him for a UPS driver or an aluminum siding salesman (or, in the case of Michael Grabner's playoff beard, Green Arrow). The Islanders definitely showed the rest of the NHL the meaning of true teamwork. For long stretches of the season, they were a great example of how not to play hockey.
Finally, we need to pay tribute to the legions of Islanders fans, who jumped out of their gas-guzzling SUV's and muffler-less muscle cars to leap headfirst onto the bandwagon like it was the last one leaving the station. After decades of slagging every player, criticizing every move with crystal clear hindsight, booing after 10 seconds without a shot on a power play and staying away in droves unless SpongeBob Squarepants was in the building, Islanders fans finally had something to cheer about.
They clamored for the post-season like a desperate drunk lapping up a drop of whiskey spilled onto a bathroom floor. No doubt the fans will be back in force next year, as long as the game isn't on a weeknight. Or it's too cold outside. Or it's raining. Or they've lost a couple of games in a row. Or...meh, forget it.
So fare thee well, Islanders. We'll see you on the other side of the summer. And probably without any marquee free agents, a goalie who can play 60 games or a hope in hell of repeating this last half season.
Puck Daddy's original Islanders eulogy is here. Obviously, this is written in jest, so please take no offense (especially if your name is John Tavares or Evgeni Nabokov).
Ya know what, let's turn to the master to see how it's really done.