This Post Originally Appeared on The Hockey Writers
With the Islanders having not experienced much success the last 20+ years, it isn't surprising that they aren't often given any respect in the media and are sometimes viewed unfavorably by other teams. However, with the team having gotten off to their best start in franchise history with last nights victory over the Flyers, that is beginning to change. With that victory, the Islanders sit at 15-6, tied for first place in their division with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the media as well as other teams are starting to take notice.
We're Number One
Yesterday, news outlets including ESPN and THN released their updated NHL power rankings. With their home and home sweep of the Penguins over the weekend, the Islanders were slotted in first place in both rankings. Pierre LeBrun from ESPN concluded his blurb on the Islanders by stating, "And man they are fun to watch." Given where the Islanders were as recently as last season when they were referred to as a "tire fire" among other things on TSN, this is almost like living in a twilight zone. The key for the Islanders though is to be able to sustain this success and not just have this be a temporary streak.
Kevin Weekes was an NHL goalie for 10 years playing for 6 different NHL teams including the Islanders. Weekes currently works as an analyst for the NHL Network. Weekes was ahead of the curve on giving the Islanders credit as he has been on top of them since the Islanders made their run to the playoffs two seasons ago. His praise continued for the team after their home and home sweep of the Penguins. If the Islanders continue to play at this level, it won't be long before all of Weekes colleagues join him in praise for the Islanders.
Lozo is the lead NHL beat writer for the Bleacher Report and became a popular person in Islanders Country on Monday as he joined the train of media members beginning to believe in the Islanders. Lozo joins Weekes and LeBrun as media members beginning to publicly acknowledge the Islanders impressive play. After years of making jokes about the Islanders, it might take certain members of the media longer than others to acknowledge the Islanders. It can't be denied though that the Islanders finally have seemed to find the formula for earning the respect that they have desired.
Where They Were
As recently as last season, the Islanders were being called a "tire fire" on the national TSN coverage of the trade deadline. A couple years ago, Islanders forward Zenon Konopka made some headlines after objecting to the media referring to the Islanders as doormats. These were only the latest examples of the Islanders not receiving respect from the media elite. It all started to go down hill for the Islanders in the mid 90's with the introduction of the fisherman jersey and the ownership carousel that ensued when John Picket sold the team. While things got better initially under Charles Wang, it wasn't very long until they were right back where they were and if not for new league rules, they probably would've been worse. With the team preparing to move to Brooklyn, beginning to alter the teams image in the media and in the NHL were key and they seemed to have done that.
Coaches Giving the Islanders Respect
While media members have began to show the Islanders some respect, their impressive play hasn't gone unnoticed by NHL coaches either. Following the Islanders shootout victory against the Kings earlier this month, Kings coach Darryl Sutter told media members, "...we came and got a point against a really good team tonight." Coming from a coach who has won two Stanley Cups in three years, this is some bulletin board material for an emerging team like the Islanders. Additionally, prior to the home and home series with the Penguins last weekend, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said of the series, "I look forward to these two-game series we have. It gives us a chance to simulate playoff action."
The day things like this aren't newsworthy items anymore will be a great day because that will mean the Islanders have taken a huge step in re-establishing themselves in the NHL and that is what we all want and deserve.