Spoiler: This is going to be the worst and most self-conscious Islanders "preview" you'll read this year.
The 2015-16 season is here and I'm still not prepared to read things like this and this and this and this, in which groups of people got together and after careful deliberation decided to print their belief that the Islanders will be among the very best teams in the NHL this season.
As an Islanders fan for more than half my life, I have trouble shifting into whatever gear I need to be in to believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my team will win in a given situation.
The current roster, good as they were in last season's 101-point campaign, isn't quite there for me yet. I like and appreciate most of the individual parts, but I still spend most games terrified that a mistake or decision or missed opportunity will cost the team dearly.
Many, especially at this site, will blame coaching for fostering this idea. Jack Capuano's "system," including the powerplay strategies devised and run by assistant coach Doug Weight, are still very much a mystery to my eye and don't seem nearly as crisp as those used by other teams. The Islanders also have a group of young players who haven't yet established long bodies of work that can be averaged and expected from year-to-year.
Part of the problem is the amount of time I spend on the internet, where everything is either the worst thing ever or the greatest thing ever because being in the middle means not being noticed. The living, eternally enraged entity known as #IslesTwitter is best avoided at all costs.
But the biggest hurdle is simply the amount of baggage and bad memories I've accrued with this team over the decades.
One example: last season was the first in about four years in which the Islanders didn't go into a crippling tailspin during the month of November. So not only was I on pins on needles for that entire month, but when the calendar changed to December and no scheduled slump materialized, I expected it to simply relocate itself to a different month because that's just the way it is. This was in a season in which the Islanders led their division for basically the first five months. (For the record, they went 7-13 in February, which, while bad, is still a far cry from the Woe-vembers of the past.)
The doubts are real and ever-present. I'm as worried about the two games against the defending Stanley Cup champs to open the season as I am about a winnable but potential letdown game against Winnipeg on Monday afternoon. I'm terrified of every game against the Rangers, Penguins or Capitals. I hate those late season games against teams out of the playoffs that you know are going to end with points left on the table.
I'm not sure what it will take to get me to the next step. A Stanley Cup, I guess, but that sounds like a pretty strict criteria to set that will only end in disappointment.
Whatever issues I have with Capuano, I do agree with him about one thing: the Islanders are at their best when they play with a certain swagger (or, "swahgah" as a coach says). It might come across as arrogance or delusion, but when a team believes it can win, and plays like it can regardless of the score or circumstances, it makes you believe in them, even when they lose. For the Islanders, that "swagger" doesn't always make its way into the games.
It's a hard thing to quantify or analyze. I just know I see some teams play that way and some don't.
So maybe that's the answer. I'll know it when I see it.
More than anything, I want this to be the season in which I see it.
(Damn. Forgot to add the video. I published early by mistake.)