For NHL-only fans, the long Olympic nightmare is over. For general hockey lovers, the letdown and hangover after a pretty riveting Olympic final now begins.
For Islanders fans, that means 20 more games in Rebuild: Year 2. It means hopes of some trade deadline resolution, some rebound in John Tavares's rookie season (including a second 20-goal scorer), and the healthy return of Jack Hillen and Josh Bailey, as well as Tim Jackman. The roster on the ice for practice Monday morning may be different from what we see later this week, and quite different from the one that finishes the season.
Despite the continued playoffs lip service that is a requirement of getting out of bed each day and doing your job as a competitive professional athlete, the Islanders basically made their bed with a 2-8-0 run before the break: They sit in 13th in the East, six points and five teams out of 8th. One saving grace they may have is a wealth of rested non-Olympians, and perhaps the easy pressure of low expectations. But the opponents who await them are substantial:
- Combined record of remaining Islanders opponents: 631-476-122, or a .563 points pct.
- Islanders record against those remaining opponents: 18-26-6, or a .420 points pct.
- Record needed to reach a modest playoff bubbly 88 points: 15-5-0
Maybe they can play a bit of spoiler; maybe they can get hot and reignite playoff dreaming one more time; maybe they can elicit a bit of "this team will be dangerous in a few years" buzz. However it goes, I'm way past ready for NHL games to resume.