There have been a lot of people talking about the end of the Islanders season. People upset they let the 6 seed slip out of their hands. People not happy about Evgeni Nabokov's less than stellar showing in the series during the Penguins. With the Isles departing the playoffs on Saturday night in a game that was so close, that if not for a couple of relatively easy saves or defensive miscues that could have been prevented, they would have forced game 7.
There were a lot of disappointed fans.
But I am not one of them.
I refuse to be disappointed by the 2012-2013 Islanders season.
There was playoff hockey at the Coliseum! The Isles made the playoffs! Not only that, they at times made the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference look vulnerable, look human. Being an Islanders fan was no longer being the fan on the outside looking in as the other teams vied for Lord Stanley.
There's also this: We're not talking about ping pong balls and odds at winning the lottery. We're not talking about Jones vs. MacKinnon vs. Drouin like we were Tavares vs. Hedman vs. Duchene this time four years ago. (Also, Colorado, can you please get over the fact you in fact did not get the better player? Thank you.) By this time the past four seasons I would have set up my top 25ish and started to dig deeper into the European based prospects. Instead I was watching Islanders playoff hockey. I'll take that trade-off any day.
I came into this season honestly very down, as I'm sure most Islanders fans were too. Who could blame you? Between the lockout, an uninspired offseason, and a a draft of just blueliners, I was not that hopeful that anything other than fighting for draft position would be the immediate future of this season. Ryan Strome stayed with Niagara. Nino, Nelson and the enigma that is Kirill Kabanov stayed in Bridgeport.
Then the Isles got off to a not-so-great start on top of that. This led to dreams of Nathan MacKinnon dancing in my head. There was talk of Jack Capuano's job security, which led me to pen an article about possible replacements. It wasn't looking too good for this year. In fact it was looking like just another in a long line of disappointing seasons that would continue the playoff drought to six years.
Then something happened. The team began winning. I didn't believe it could last at first but it continued. NVMC began to get fuller, the crowds louder. Then came the "We want Playoffs!" chants.
The excitement watching Islanders games the last month and a half of the season was palpable even to an exile some 1,200 miles away from Nassau County. (I actually did a google maps search to see if I could pull a road trip to game 4. 1168 miles door to door from my apartment to NVMC, 18 hours with no traffic. Yeah, wasn't happening.)
Hope was returning.
More than anything it is that excitement that gave me, and gives me, the most hope going forward. The idea from national coverage that this is a dead fan base or a fan base that doesn't exist is wrong. The Coliseum was rocking and reverberating with an enthusiasm I have not seen in a decade.
I love draft talk. I love prospect talk.I love digging around and finding a Dane or Swede or Finn who might be a steal in round 4 or 5. I love debating who has a brighter future to be worth a top pick, the anchor blue liner or scoring center.
But you know what? I was sick and tired of that basically being all there was to do in the spring. I missed playoff hockey. I missed seeing the Coliseum rocking like it was in games 3, 4 and 6.
And I enjoyed watching the Isles play. I enjoyed watching some of the prospects I've followed over the years become a part of the team. Brock Nelson making his NHL debut in Game 6. Casey Cizikas being a ball of energy. Matt Martin being, well, Matt Martin.
Here's the thing about the playoffs: You don't know when you'll be back. It could be next year, but it also could be another couple of years. The Isles were beneficiaries of the shortened season, being able to ride an incredibly hot six-week streak into the playoffs. Next year with a full year the Isles might not be that lucky. I'm not going to trade those six games, and pushing the Pens to the brink, for a few ping pong balls and another chance at a Top 5 pick.
So we're back to the off season, and talk about the draft and free agency and whether (Insert Prospect Name) is a part of the core of the future. I'm getting ready to pack away my Isles sweaters for the fall (In part because I'm moving in two months too), but doing it about three weeks later than I normally would. My MacDonald, Webb and Peca sweaters got to see a bit more sunshine this year than the past couple. Hopefully this will become an annual thing. Hopefully those sweaters will stay out even later and later.
We're back to the offseason routine now. It's a little bit later than usual though. And man, I could really get used to this.