Four months ago, the Islanders were the NHL's version of a trainwreck. There was serious talk of relocation due to a financial mess. They had a new head coach after firing Scott Gordon on Nov. 15th following a 10-game losing streak. Jack Capuano took over the reins, and it looked like he would not do much better; fast forward a month and the franchise was arguably the lowest it has ever been after losing 20 out of 21 games.
Then just when Islanders fans were about to burn their merchandise in empathy, the team turned the corner to start one of the most improbable runs that will go down in Islander lore. At the All-Star break they were making up ground fast, a month later the NHL was buzzing about them. In mid-March they looked as though might make the playoffs, and they still can, but in all likelihood they will come up just short.
What makes the Islanders run even more improbable is the number of games players have lost to injury. To date the Islanders have lost more then 300 man games to injury, including their star defenseman Mark Streit for the whole season. There have also been six goalies in net for them during the season, but the Islanders keep at it and are now challenging to get back to .500. For a team that was 16-27-7 at the end of January that would be amazing.
Through all the mess that surrounds the team, the Islander fanbase remains loyal, akin to Brooklyn Dodger fans with the feeling that "it will happen this year." No doubt the "homegrown" talent that is put on the ice is the main reason. Out of the 27-man roster, 16 players are homegrown. That accounts for nearly 60 percent of the roster, and when you factor in all the players that have been called up to the NHL during the season, that number grows even larger. Compare the above number to the Isles crosstown rivals the Rangers, who boast a 37 percent homegrown roster, which is about the league average.
The Islanders run at the playoffs may or may not influence other general manager's around the league. It may lessen the influence of trades and free agency and shift the focus to player development. The one thing that is known is the Islanders turn-around proves the old adage: hard work does wonders.
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