New York Islanders: Changing the Culture Means Changing the Image
The past few years have been years of frustration, rebuilding and more frustration for the New York Islanders.
But even before that, the Isles have looked ugly on the ice. They fielded mediocre teams in the '90s, led all the way up to 2009, when the team drafted John Tavares with the first pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Even after that, though, the Islanders' past seems to loom; their losing ways continue. But how can this be fixed?
It is simple, really. Go to any sporting equipment store that sells New York Islander gear. Look at the murals on the Nassau Coliseum. Look at the jerseys that people wear to Islander home games.
Everything is draped in No. 39—39 being the number of Rick DiPietro, the first overall pick of the Islanders in 2000.
It is sad to say but the culture won't change for the Islanders until, at the very least, DiPietro is no longer associated with the New York Islanders. DiPietro is a sign of failure and weakness to the franchise. The 15-year, $67.5 million contract DiPietro inked in 2006 remains one of the ugliest looking contracts in all of sports.
The Islanders have not made the playoffs since 2007. For some Islander fans, that feels even longer than the 54-year drought the Rangers went through before winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. Even in that '07 playoff appearance, the Islanders earned an eighth seed and were ousted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.
The 2011-12 season has been another year of frustration for the New York Islanders. After losing 19 games in a row last season, the Islanders finished the season hot, and many of us wondered if the Islanders could carry this momentum into this season.
Can this team actually make a playoff run? They were considered a dark horse candidate to contend for the playoffs coming into this season. In the end, they have disappointed again.
There is still more than enough hope for this franchise, but every time the team faces failure, the image of No. 39 comes to mind. The Islanders have had extraordinary injuries, are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season and lost the vote for a new arena. Whenever there is failure of some sort, the next image is of DiPietro.
Many will argue that John Tavares, given the stellar season he is having, is the face of the franchise. But until DiPietro is no longer associated with the Islanders, he will be the face of the Islanders franchise, no matter how well the talented center plays.
DiPietro continues to work hard and come back from every injury he faces. However, not many people see that; it gets completely overlooked. They see the product on the ice, they see the injuries and, most of all, they see failure—failure coming from the face of the franchise.
Changing the culture means changing the image. Until that happens, this is DiPietro's team—a team of failure.
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