The New York Islanders have Fan Appreciation Day for their season finale today at Barclays Center against the Ottawa Senators, who already have their playoff spot and position finalized.
As it turns out, Game 82 is the first and only game of the Islanders’ 2016-17 season that means nothing. Most of us wouldn’t have expected that back in December or even November, when the season appeared well lost, the decisions of summer already haunting them, the reluctance to make other hard decisions already sealing their fate.
Instead, the team started to turn its play around (too late, but still) and then finally made a change behind the bench to complete the turnaround. What we saw under the second half of the season under interim coach Doug Weight was a fairer reflection of what this roster could be.
Of course, what that is still fell well short of what the roster should be, thanks to a management that became too enamored with slow and organic progress, only to realize — it’s realized now, right? -- that keeping a good roster on the path to improvement among the league’s best requires constant tinkering and retooling, constant tough decisions, and an acceleration away from the patience that was once necessary to accumulate assets to squander.
But we’ll get to all that -- we’ve already started -- in the post-mortems and report cards ahead during what is an uncharacteristically long offseason.
Thank You, Readers
For today, thanks to all our Lighthouse Hockey readers who have stuck with us game in and game out, through our silliness and our drudgery, joining us to follow a team that at turns delights and maddens us.
For every* confusing three-goalie circus there is a 30-plus goal season for Anders Lee, a player many here insisted would never become an Islander. For every Ryan Pulock purgatory there is a Joshua Ho-Sang, put through the paces to become a polished pro and then seemingly recalled at just the right time.
*Okay, no, I get it: There certainly is not an equally satisfying decision for “every” poor move. It’s not an equation or a judgment on management here. What I mean is, following the team with us at LHH carries thrills along with madness. And having passionate readers, commenters, and backchannel lurkers experiencing all of those with us somehow makes all of the extremes more enjoyable. And tolerable.
So it’s Fan Appreciation Day at the home rink. Call it Reader Appreciation Day here. We started this site with the idea of sharing insights and having an “Islanders bar” feel to ride the teams highs (those happen, honest!) and lows. The experience has exceeded our wildest expectations — and what might be best are the analyses and insights (and humor) that comes forth from our readers.
(Some of you, of course, drive us nuts with a refusal to let tired arguments die, or by acting wounded or ascribing conspiracy and cult army motives to what is mostly just a bunch of fans trying to run/read a site and keep conversation fresh and lively. But we love you too...sports gets boring quickly without passion.)
We’re glad you’ve been with us -- some of you going on 10 years(!) -- and hope you’ll stick around as we sift through the ashes, gawk at the playoffs from the outside, cover the draft, free agency and any management changes to come.
There’s myriad possibilities for what happens next with them franchise; I can believe any extreme from a sudden surge of discipline and brilliant decision-making to repeating the same mistakes of comfort that have kept them from advancing on the last few seasons’ forward steps. Somehow, either way we’ll keep watching and stoking a fire around which to chat about it all right here.
Weight announced that Thomas Greiss will start in goal, the defense will be the same (we assumes that means Thomas Hickey isn’t part of it, but could be at forward again), and the forwards will be determined during warmups.
The injured John Tavares already has the team scoring lead locked up, and Anders Lee can only add to a certain goal title that stands at 33 after yesterday’s two goals. But Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera can each attain 20-goal seasons with one more tally.
For Greiss it will be his 51st appearance and 49th start of the season, extending career highs in both categories.
Absolutely bizarre that my first season ends today. The quickest and longest, the most challenging and most rewarding season of my life. pic.twitter.com/4fg7eCXwsp— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) April 9, 2017
For one last time, Brendan Burke wraps up an outstanding debut season with the call on MSG+. Radio call is on AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU and 103.9FM - LI News.
For Sens coverage, check Silver Seven, where they are preparing for playoffs home ice advantage despite their team holding the sixth-best record in the conference.
Finally, leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here. The champion gets a cool virtual trophy. (And thanks there, too, for playing along on our little game, and poking us when we forgot to put the day’s FIG post up.)