By now everyone knows the historic missteps of the New York Islanders. Sports Illustrated keeps a handy "Islanders Follies" slideshow updated at all times in case they need to fire it out at a moment's notice to remind everyone.
But this year's Islanders team was a different kind of weird. They were good! They had 100 points! For the second straight year! To do that, they had to win bunches of games. So many games that sometimes I want to travel back in time so that a younger version of myself can smack me upside the head for not enjoying it more, knowing that wins aren't always easy to come by.
The thing is, despite racking up those 100 points, the Islanders never really looked all that good. Maybe they would for a period or two or a game or two, and they put together a couple of nice streaks throughout the season. But their play wasn't nearly as consistently crisp or as propulsive as it was last season, when they spent five months or so in first place in their division.
I know all of this sounds like the rantings of a spoiled sports baby. Maybe that's on me for worrying too much about their underlying stats in the War-on-Ice Age. John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Nick Leddy and Brock Nelson all had what would be considered solid if unspectacular seasons. Ryan Strome regressed which happens to second year players. Anders Lee had a good season possession-wise, but his scoring was down. Travis Hamonic might have had the best year of his career, despite a respectful trade request that's lingered since November.
But just watching game after game, there was something off this season that was impossible to put a finger on. They'd go limp in huge games, or come out firing one night after getting blown out, or get their asses saved by a goalie or gut out an improbable comeback win with a surgical third period. Anything was possible.
Sounds like fun, right? Well, it hasn't been. I and a lot of other people have been living it since October and we're at the boiling point right now mainly because we have no idea which Islanders team is going to show up for Game 1 of their first round playoff series against Florida. Or Game 2. Or Game 3. You get the point.
And when you're going on 23 years without a playoff series victory - a period of time longer than some Islanders players have been alive - well, let's just say people are tense around here.
So if your team missed the playoffs and you're thinking about latching on to the Islanders for a few weeks, I'm here to warn you. This team isn't for everyone. I am an expert in this subject and right in my analysis.
The Panthers charged up the standings on the back of exciting young players and likable old dudes and the presence of Kevin Spacey. Meanwhile, the Islanders' season has crashed and rolled wildly like winter tide at Jones Beach. It's been an exhausting trial for Islanders fans while being almost completely ignored by everyone else.
An avalanche of predictions have the Islanders losing to Florida, despite the many parallels and slim differences between the two teams. You could argue against them, but most of the Yeah, Buts reside on the Islanders' side. The Panthers have the momentum and the cooler story and the attention of the hockey world. The Islanders have a back-up goalie having a career year, a top six forward out with a broken leg and a bunch of dudes who admit they could have been a lot better this season.
By all means, if you still want to cheer for the Islanders this post-season after knowing all of this, go right ahead. It's a free country. This isn't Russia (Is this Russia?). All I'm saying is, don't expect a smooth ride. This team never does anything easily.
If that still sounds okay for you, welcome aboard the bandwagon. No meals will not be served but drinks are complimentary.