For the past five years, Islanders fans have been clinging to the promise that the rebuild will soon come into fruition and provide the results we've all been waiting for since 1983.
It's been a long process with some serious growing pains for the young squad, and the fans have grown rather impatient with rebuilding a team from the ground up. So what makes next season so different from the last?
It has been five years since we have seen a complete Islanders squad. Since Rick DiPietro had his first injury, from which he has yet to recover, they hadn't had an NHL top-tier goalie until Al Montoya stepped up and then Nabokov joined the team. What did this do in terms of success, you may ask?
It's very hard to be consistent and play with confidence when your goalie every night has become rather porous, which DiPietro certainly has been the last few years. On top of that, two years ago saw the biggest goalie merry-go-round probably in NHL history, with six different goalies suiting up for multiple games.
Then we come to defense. While not the most horrendous of lineups, old age took its toll last season on the defensive group. Between injuries and a slow transition, on top of down-right poor play from a few players, we come to this conclusion: Without consistent goaltending and solid defense, scoring and playing with confidence becomes nearly impossible.
Next season is one to look forward to, and the avenue of success depends on two main things.
The Islanders must sign at least one top defenseman, and the non-producing members from last year shouldn't be re-signed so that the vast wealth of prospects can be worked into the system.
This year brings the promise of excellent goaltending, a young and rejuvenated group of excellent defensive players and a potent scoring ability lead by young players and John Tavares. It has been nearly six years since the Islanders had a somewhat complete team and earned a playoff run. It is near that time again.
Jack Capuano must now switch his game mode from that of a young, growing team who is not expected to be Stanley Cup champions, to that of a squad who is able to make a serious run at the playoffs. This change of attitude will certainly put the pressure on, but it is needed.
So much rests on next season. Without a future home, finding success will do nothing but help the Islanders gain the attention, revenue and following that will earn them a place to call their own. The pieces of the puzzle are present finally; nothing is left but earning the wins.
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