In recent years, the New York Islanders have not quite boasted a lineup that offers dominance from top to bottom like other teams in their very own division do. They go into every season with low expectations, with little to nothing to be excited for other than seeing Rick DiPietro try and pull one out while standing on his head.
However, as a "glass can be half full or half empty"—pending what you have in the glass—type of guy, I present this question to Islander fans. Other than last season (during which the Islanders were still in the hunt until late January), have the Islanders not been one of the "surprise teams?" Have they not made the playoffs in years where they had no business being there?
I am not writing in an attempt to get Islander fans believing that we are a shoo-in for the playoffs, but to say that there is finally a direction on this team. A direction that says if we do make the playoffs and get bounced in the first round, that it might just be okay. It might be a learning experience for a group of players that is intended to be together for a long period of time.
I mean, think about it: Other than guys like DiPietro, Trent Hunter, and Chris Campoli, the Islanders change up their roster more than many people change their underwear (the same could be said for head coaches).
This brings me to my next point:
Scott Gordon is going to be the coach the Islanders need. Why, you ask? Does anyone remember a coach by the name of Peter Laviolette? Much like Gordon, Laviolette was a very creative and intriguing AHL coach who was ready to take his brand of hockey to the NHL. It goes without say the success Laviolette has obtained at this level both with the Islanders, and then eventually the Carolina Hurricanes.
Gordon, whose last name is clearly funny to some of us fans who still choose to remember the fish stick gear that the Islanders once donned, brings a style that is fast moving, in your face, high tempo hockey.
Gone are the days of a trap style of play without the right personnel; long gone are the days of having no true identity as to what the forwards are trying to accomplish. What it all boils down to is whether or not Gordon has the right players to pull it off.
The Islanders' roster has been deemed a youthful movement, along with the "Father Times of hockey." To me, that is a blend of hockey that can breed success, especially when the "youth" does not consist of players such as Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Stall (any one of them), or even a Filatov for that matter.
However, with players such as Okposo, Comeau, Bergenheim, and this year's first rounder, Josh Bailey, you are going to need players like Guerin, Weight, and Witt to teach these guys what it is to play at this level.
Now on to things that might actually excite some fans, because the ideas of such things make me pumped for this season.
I, for one, was crushed about the Islanders passing on both Filatov and Boedker. However, Josh Bailey has grown on me more and more. That is not to say they are the same players, but Bailey's production coming into this draft, along with his vision and intelligence for the game, reminds me of Joe Thorton or even a Mike Ribeiro.
The Islanders have not had a true center since Peca was on the roster (pre Tucker hit), nor have they had a winger with as much promise as the Iginla-esque Okposo since Palffy.
Obviously it takes more than two young players, who by no means are blue-chippers to make a written off franchise a contender. But, for once, I have to admit that I like the direction and like the talent this team has in play under Gordon.