Friday, October 5, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Used with permission from Peter Flynn - - U.S. Navy (1999-2005)

"Islanders start season today."

I can't think of four better words to put together other than "Islanders win fifth Cup."

As I watch the glory days of Bossy, Nystrom, Smith, etc. rebroadcast on FSN today, I remember my father telling me that even in those times, the Islanders didn't get the respect they deserved. Reading through the articles written by people that are paid good money to write about hockey, it becomes apparent that we still do not get any respect. Since the cup years, there is good reason for people to doubt this organization. Mad Mike, John Spano, the Rags sweep in 1994, the Fisherman fiasco - pick your reason.

The truth is that the Islanders have slowly built an environment from which a Stanley Cup run can emerge. When we brought in Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, the message was clear. We're going to try and compete. When neither signing worked out the way it was intended to, the team was once again laughed at.

However, a corner has been turned. It began last year, with the hiring of a real, bona-fide NHL coach for the first time in recent memory. Everyone mocked the Islanders when they announced that Garth Snow was being named General Manager, but with the possible exception of the Ryan Smyth trade deadline deal, he has consistently made solid decision after solid decision. Given Charles Wang's loyalty towards Alexei Yashin, it is obvious that Garth Snow and Ted Nolan must have been very convincing in lobbying Wang to open his wallet and pay a player money to do nothing, a concept alien to many business professionals. The truth is that we are better off paying Yashin not to be here than we were paying him to be in the lineup.

In a pre-season game, new captain Bill Guerin dropped the gloves and fought an opposing player. When was the last time you could say that about an Islanders Captain? During another pre-season game, newly acquired European player Ruslan Fedetenko was the first person to come to the aid of a teammate when they were roughed up behind the play. And who came to the defense of Chris Simon, who at the time was taking on two Rangers at one time? None other than franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro. This team is built out of hard work, camaraderie, and determination. We don't have a Kovalchuk, Crosby, or St. Louis. We do, however, have four offensive lines and six defensemen that will be in your face, working hard sixty minutes every night.

This same coach took a team that was composed of similar players to a Conference Final on the back of a goaltender and a group of 20 players that played as a team. This team may not make the Conference Finals this year, it would be an absolute shocker in fact. But the prognosticators that have picked our team to finish last in the (admittedly tough) Atlantic Division and close to the Eastern Conference basement are in for a surprise. You most likely won't see a parade down Hempstead Turnpike this spring. But for the first time in recent memory, the Islanders have a long term plan. The free agents we signed this year are hard-nosed, hard working veterans that will help to bring back a winning attitude. Last season, it was disappointing to see that other than Rick DiPietro, the player that seemed most upset to lose to a more talented Buffalo squad was Ryan Smyth, a player who had been with the team for la total of 18 games. That will not be the case come playoff time this year.

I believe, do you?

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