For years it has been the trend around the NHL and media outlets to designate the New York Islanders as the punching-bag franchise. Whether it be their overall record, the odd management decisions, the John Spano's of the world, being voted the least desirable team to play for among current NHL players, and more recently the voting down of the referendum for the $400 million loan for a new arena, the Islanders have been an easy target for wannabe future comedians around the league.
This past May, ESPN's Barry Melrose made the following comment when asked which team in the NHL should be moved, "The Islanders should be the team to move, but nobody else wants them."
This is just one example, and although one that is coming from a person known more for his hairstyle than his coaching or analyst abilities, it is just a sample of how the Islanders are perceived in the hockey community.
Those type of comments and views may very well be changing and in the very near future at that.
While the Islanders have to take the blame for a lot of the perception, most of it comes from "experts" who haven't followed the team or any outside political battles that the organization has had to go through for at least the last decade.
That's fine though, perception doesn't win or lose games, talent does, and the Islanders finally have a lot of that.
It goes a long way in making a statement about loyalty and belief in a team, when your core players decide to sign long term deals to stay with a hockey club. Those statements were made during the offseason. Matt Moulson (three years), Michael Grabner (five years), Kyle Okposo (five years), and the face of the franchise John Tavares (six years), all showed their desire to remain with the team.
Those long term commitments not only show the faith those players have in the team, but it speaks loud and clear to players and everybody around the NHL, that this once punching bag of a organization is ready to punch right back.
This may very well be the year that the New York Islanders send a very loud message to the rest of the league that they are back, and all jokes will have to be put on hold. Let the so called "experts" keep joking, it's a good bet the Islanders will keep winning.
The old saying goes, "Who's got the last laugh now?" My bet will be on the hockey team from a place called Long Island.