Maybe it's because the Islanders are a relatively young and inexperienced team. Maybe it's because the team is amidst a rebuilding period. Or, maybe it's because the veteran leadership doesn't know how to cope with a rebuild situation of this length or magnitude. Whatever the case, the struggling Islanders lack accountability where it matters most, as a team.
Times are tough in Islanders country these days, there is no getting around that fact. But as someone who follows the team on a media level, and pays for full season tickets, I often find myself scratching my head or biting my tongue when I hear what comes out of some players' mouths, or well you know—anonymously in print.
Just one week ago, as the Islanders were returning from their Olympic break—the team played a gem of a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was such a good game that players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews payed the organization great compliments noting their youth and the core group of talent growing together. The pair of Chicago players knows all too well what the Islanders are going through, the Blackhawks weren't always chock full of talent and firepower and endured countless losing seasons to get where they are.
Two days later, on the heels of a less than active trade deadline for the Islanders anonymous sources (players) were quoted in New York's Newsday in an article by Katie Strang, citing unrest in the locker room due to a three goalie rotation:
"It doesn't play out well at all for anybody," a source said. "It's not in the best interest of anyone on the team, whether it be the players involved, other players or the coaching staff. It's a tough situation for everyone."
The source then goes onto say (with another chiming in):
"Look at where we were at, we had a playoff spot," said a player who requested anonymity. "Then we went on a losing streak and now we're on the outside looking in."
"You just can't have three goaltenders," another player said. "It's not great for anyone."
It's understandable for a goaltender to be somewhat frustrated by this situation, it's hard to get on a good roll when you're not getting a regular spot—or you're not getting consecutive starts. But for anyone to use it as an excuse for vast periods of ineptitude is just unacceptable.
The Islanders are consistently out-played, out-muscled, out-shot, out-scored and often appear lethargic and tired. Are these same anonymous players blaming all of the above on a three goalie rotation, where their hot goaltender played MOST of the games during the streak?
I don't buy it and that's where my call for accountability comes into play.
If you're not playing well, own up to it. Don't hide and cower behind anonymous words—use that energy to rally your team and work with the players that need to be worked with. I guess that is what separates the leaders from the rest of the team, and there are leaders on the Islanders.
In what appears to be a direct response to the quotes above, Islanders alternate captain Mark Streit moves to the front lines and takes ACCOUNTABILITY for his team's actions in a conversation with Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank following a 6-3 loss in Atlanta last week:
“I don’t know if a lot of guys understand what kind of situation we are in,” he said. “We were six points out of the playoffs before tonight, playing Atlanta, which is just ahead of us. The effort was not there. We had shots on net but we had a lot of turnovers and they took advantage of it. We just didn’t play our game.”
Botta then asked how the team can rebound after those types of losses:
“You go home, you check your computer and you check the Eastern Conference standings,” said Streit. “If you don’t realize it, then I can’t understand it and you shouldn’t be here. That’s all I can say."
And there you have it, ACCOUNTABILITY.
It's tough to be a fan during situations and seasons such as these; you never really see a team's leaders leading all of the time. I am sure that Weight, Okposo, Park, and Streit have all stood in front of the room and been vocal when the time called for it. I am not calling for soap opera drama to reach the media on a daily basis by any stretch, that stuff belongs with the team. However, when it does come out like it sometimes does, it's good to see a leader come out and make a statement for his teammates.
To me, that's reality and a sign the team is in good hands.
Here is to hoping that the younger players are being taught to own up to their mistakes and not place blame on something else that is going on. Without accountability, a team will have a problem finding success in the future.