We have reached the final part of our five part series in why the Islanders will make the playoffs in 2011-12.
So much has happened since this series began. The Islanders and Nassau County announced plans for a new arena and there will be a public vote for the project on August 1st. Public support would seem to be behind the project to a 65-70% positive range at the moment.
Once Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano's revenue sharing plan is announced it will go a long way into whether public support stays behind the project.
That brings us to the final piece of our five part series - intangibles.
So much of professional sports is not necessarily all having the most skilled players. We have seen time and time again that it is not the team with the biggest payroll or the biggest stars that wins every single Stanley Cup or any major championship for that matter.
Its the team that puts all of it together at the same time. You can see the similarities in the Islanders now that we saw in Chicago and Pittsburgh before they ascended to the top of the NHL. The talent is there. It is young but it is there.
All that remains for the Islanders to do is to put the pieces together mentally as a group.
Garth Snow and his staff have laid the foundation for a bright future and have built the team in a way that it will be possible to keep most of this same core group together assuming they take the next step. There are no seven, eight or nine million dollar per season players on this team to hamstring him from keeping his players should they blossom into full blown NHL stars.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a prime example of how signing guys like Brian Campbell to a ridiculous contract can hamstring you from keeping the goaltender who just won you a Stanley Cup and ushered guys like Dustin Byfuglien out of Chicago.
Some people would say it was worth it to win a Stanley Cup and they may be right, but that's not the way the Islanders are being built.
The Islanders are being structured as a team that is poised to stay together for the long haul. John Tavares will be the highest paid player on the team after his three year entry level contract expires and that's the way it should be. Michael Grabner just signed a five year contract. Matt Moulson signed a three year contract.
Its the perfect way to build an organization if you want to hold onto your players.
It will be no problem at all for the Islanders to keep what they have and if they so choose, add a mid level piece from outside the organization without breaking the bank.
Why is all this possible? Because of Garth Snow. He and his staff have put a group of guys in that Islander locker room that want to succeed on Long Island and recognize that they truly have a chance to be a part of something special.
Look at what happened to the team this season. After a brutal stretch of 21 games basically torpedoed any chance of the playoffs did the Islanders die on the vine and whine about how injuries killed the season?
No they turned the season around and made the rest of the NHL take notice and put together one of the top 3 records in the NHL after the all-star break.
Fans noticed also. The attendance at the coliseum rose in this period, yes buoyed by some outstanding ticket sales ideas but also by the Islanders solid play.
There was something even better brewing in the Islanders locker room.
Confidence and certainty.
Every Islanders season of the last lets say 15 years has begun and ended with uncertainty with the Islanders losing free agents to other teams or bringing in unproven guys to pick up the slack.
This season we know every major player on the roster will be back next year and beyond.
If you do not think that is a big deal to the guys in that locker room, your mistaken. Looking around the locker room at the end of the season seeing guys you know will be back and that you know you can be successful with means an awful lot.
That brings me to the fans. Everyone knows the Islanders rank near or at the bottom of the NHL in attendance. This past season the Islanders were dead last in overall attendance and percentage of capacity.
This fact is easily explained away for two reasons.
1) No one is coming out to see a bad team and let's face it, at one point this season the Islanders were dreadful. This is something that was easily remedied by one thing. Winning. No not the Charlie Sheen type of winning, the type the Islanders did in the last 30 games of the season.
Attendance rose at the end of the season because fans wanted to see first hand what this young group was up to that was winning so many games. Looking over the attendance numbers for the season, for the first 25 home games the Islanders had what in my mind is a "good crowd" of over 12,000 fans only FOUR times.
For the last 16 home games the numbers were way up overall and the Islanders had 11 games of 12,000 or more fans with four sell outs, the only four sell outs of the season.
As you can see if the Islanders play well people will come. This coming season if the Islanders can manage to stay in the top ten in the conference a heck of a lot more people will come to see them play.
You cannot imagine what that means to a young team to look up in the stands and see 3,500 fans in a 16,250 seat arena. That has to be disconcerting especially to young players.
At the same time, when you look up and see little or no empty seats that has to be like adrenaline again especially for young players.
Hopefully this season more Islander fans will come back to the Coliseum and see what Snow and company are building. The fans of the team are still there but they have had no confidence in what the Islanders were putting on the ice. Now that has changed. All that has to happen is for the team to take the next step and continue to build what they have started.
Secondly on top of the the strong player base the Islanders for once have great news brewing on an organizational level. Everyone knows the Islanders have a lease with Nassau County through the 2014-15 season. That date seemed so far away just a couple of seasons ago but guess what? It takes 2-3 years to physically build an arena. If your going to have plans to build one which can take up to 2 years you have to start the process well before the lease is due to end.
The powers that be for once have done it. Plans are laid down and the time frame is right for the Islanders to move into a new home arena on or about the 2014-15 season.
Players are already making note. Grabner stated on his Twitter page that he is excited about the news for the new arena. Now that plans are in place and the Islanders future would seem to be secure it can end almost two decades of uncertainty that surrounded the team on so many levels.
Soon we will be only worried about one thing. Hockey.
Thank You all for reading and please as always, place your comments below.