For Part 3 of this five-part series, we will examine something that is not as black and white as scoring goals and stopping pucks.
It's called respect and perception.
How is this beginning to change? The Islanders still finished in the bottom five in the standings after all.
Well first things first; in order to change anyone else's perception that you're just not a bottom-feeding franchise any more, you have to first start believing it yourself.
It is not good enough to say it, but truly believing it.
As this season wore on and the Islanders were mired in one of the worst losing streaks in franchise history, it would have been so easy to say "well its the Islanders, they are supposed to suck."
Enter Jack Capuano. No one was impressed when the Islanders fired Scott Gordon and promoted Bridgeport Head Coach Jack Capuano, figuring he was just going to ride out the rest of the season and the Islanders would begin their search for the right guy to try and bring the Islanders out of the doldrums.
Then something happened. The Islanders started to take to Cappy's new system, which afforded the players the opportunity to go out and show their creativity and individual talents on the ice.
How long ago does it feel the Islanders replaced Gordon with Capuano? It seems like ages.
Instead of wondering where Scott Gordon wanted them to to be on the ice in any given situation the players were given an outline and were told, "use your instincts."
The Islanders managed to pull themselves up and be competitive. Not only that, bolstered by solid goaltending from Al Montoya and Kevin Poulin, the Islanders managed to have one of the best records in the NHL after the All-Star break and look really good doing it.
Players like Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic blossomed before our eyes.
Players like PA Parenteau, Matt Moulson and Al Montoya showed us that other teams were wrong for not promoting them to larger roles.
Players like Zenon Konopka, Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin and Michael Haley showed us that the Islanders were not going to allow other teams to take liberties with our players, despite some questionable methods.
John Tavares showed he is becoming the player the Islanders will be able to build around.
This group of Islanders players believes in themselves. They have a solid foundation for once that is yielding results on the ice, and it showed in the way they played the final 35 games of the season.
People noticed. It took the news-making Islanders' 9-3 victory over the Penguins to get people to notice, but it worked. Say what you want about that game but it got people talking. It got people interested. The Islanders said in that game we are not a team that is going to allow other teams to come in here and do what they want to us any more.
Other teams that saw the Islanders on their schedule the last 35 games of the season realized that they were not going to just walk all over the team and have an easy win.
That means a lot also. Perception. If a team does not respect you and knows it can beat you up easily, take cheap shots at your star players, can count on your goalie letting in softies and porous defense, then nine times out of 10 that is exactly what is going to happen.
All that changed this season.
Islanders fans always want to believe in the team. For the first time in a long time attendance increased at the end of the season as the team's performance improved.
Say what you want about Nassau Coliseum. Everyone knows it's a dump and the worst arena in the NHL. The bottom line is that if the Islanders manage to become a winning franchise the arena situation will not matter and people will come. People do not come to an arena to see the arena. They come to see their team win hockey games. Win enough of them and, a la Field of Dreams, people will come.
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