Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finding Ways to Lose - The Story of the Islanders Young Season

I grew up an Islander fan and have been a fan of the team from the earliest point I can remember which was the 1975-76 season. My father, who became an Islander fan when the team was granted entry into the NHL in 1972, told me all about that season when the Islanders started dominating the NHL in the late 1970's. He tole me the team was so bad that it just found ways to lose. He said one game they would look better, then lose 2-1. Then they would look even better, score a couple of goals and lose 3-2. Sometimes they would get their doors blown off and lose 9-1. Then they would be up 4-1 and blow that lead and lose 5-4. See any parallels here?

Maybe the Islanders picked the wrong season to introduce throwback jerseys to their first season in the NHL. It took the Montreal Canadiens 7:31 to score 4 goals on the Islanders sending the thousands of Montreal fans who were in attendance on their 350 mile trek home extremely happy. I expected the Islanders to at the very least compete on their route to another losing season and this has the makings to get ugly, and ugly very quickly. This team, unless it starts to gel VERY quickly will be out of any possible playoff hunt by Thanksgiving, already last in the NHL with 5 points and a 2-7-1 record.

The Nassau Coliseum isn't the Islander home arena this season. Let me explain this one. Usually, an NHL franchise can count on 41 games per season to have their home faithful, no matter how many actually show up cheer them on. Something disturbing is happening this season. Ranger fans are outnumbering Islander fans in the old barn. Montreal fans numbered probably somewhere near 4,000 tonight. Devils fans, Flyer fans, Penguin fans, Buffalo fans Toronto fans are making the trek to Nassau Coliseum because they cant get tickets in their own home arenas and they KNOW they can get tickets at the Coliseum very easily or cheaper. Think of the message it sends to the players when they hear chants of GO HABS GO, or GO LEAFS GO, or LETS GO RANGERS, or LETS GO FLYERS at every home game. Think of how it feels when the opposition is to far away for their fans to take a bus ride to the Island, there are 8,000 empty seats glaring at them. It has got to wear on a player, on a team, on a coach, and on an owner. I know it has gotten REALLY old for me. The Islanders are playing what amounts to 65 road games per season now and a lot of them in their own arena.

All this being said with all of the negatives around the team right now there are a few glimmers of hope. the younger players save Jeff Tambelini are playing better. Doug Weight is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, and Mark Streit is more than earning his pay check. Most importantly if this trend of futility continues there is John Tavares looming as this years number one overall pick. At the very least we will have a shot at him. THAT is something to look forward to.


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