New York Islanders Still Lacking Identity as Stretch Run Begins

Carl StoffersCorrespondent IIMarch 6, 2012

Fans on Long Island were happy to see Brian Rolston go
Fans on Long Island were happy to see Brian Rolston goJim McIsaac/Getty Images

As they enjoy a few well deserved days off before resuming their trilogy against the New Jersey Devils, the Islanders sit in 13th position in the Eastern Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot. The team has played a schizophrenic brand of hockey this season, showing signs of hope (wins against playoff teams New Jersey and Boston last weekend) and despondency (the collapse against Washington and subsequent beating in Philadelphia last week). So, with the trade deadline having passed, and the Isles still proving to be one of the most difficult teams in the NHL to define, the burning question is: Where do the Islanders go from here?

Certainly, a playoff berth is numerically still a possibility, but with the “one step forward, two steps back” pattern that the Isles have followed this season, does anyone really believe they can string together enough wins to claw their way into the top eight?

The trade deadline brought about the welcome departure of Brian Rolston, the 39-year-old forward who registered a meager nine points in 49 games, along with journeyman defenseman Mike Mottau. The two veterans were dealt to the Boston Bruins for minor league players in what can only be described as “addition by subtraction”.

The two major moves General Manager Garth Snow was rumored to have been considering—trading goalie Evgeni Nabokov and forward P.A. Parenteau—never happened. With both players eligible to become unrestricted free agents after this season, the lack of movement suggests that Snow feels the team has a chance to make a run at the postseason.

The Islanders will play the second of three straight games against the Devils on Thursday, and it doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way. Their schedule in March is peppered with some of the Eastern Conference’s best, including the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins and Bruins. It will be an uphill battle, but the next several games will play a big part in defining the seemingly undefinable New York Islanders.