Over the last week, emotions in Islanders Country have began to run high as the team has lost two in a row and played pretty poor in each loss. With the two loses, the team is now 2-4 in their last six games after starting the season 4-0. The teams recent struggle has caused some to wonder if these are the same old Islanders? Or have they as their roster suggests turned a corner to respectability?
While I am normally a pessimist when it comes to the team who always has a I'll believe it when I see it attitude with them, I think this team is more option two mentioned above rather than option one, right now at least.
While the goalies have struggled in the first month of the season, they have a history of being effective in the NHL, not the AHL which has usually been the case for the Islanders in recent years. As the season wears on, the stabilizing presence they will provide between the pipes will be invaluable.
With Travis Hamonic returning tonight, and the defense being 100% healthy for the first time this year, this gives them potentially the best defense the team has had in over a decade. The defense is led by Travis Hamonic, and more importantly, Johnny Boychuk who is the veteran top-4 dman that fans have been begging for, for years now. After being mostly by himself for a long time, Hamonic finally has other capable players back there to take stress off of him.
Although the offense has been hit by injuries which has tested its depth, it is still one of the better offenses the team has had in a long time. Where in previous years the team would go as John Tavares line went, the team proved last week in their win over Dallas that they are capable of doing damage on the scoreboard even if the captain has an off night. For the first time in a long time, the Islanders have proven players with track records playing key spots on their team which is something fans aren't used to.
The big concern for fans shouldn't be the players because as stated above the team has proven players playing the key spots on the team for the first time in a long time. Fans should be most concerned with the coaching staff, specifically head coach Jack Capuano and to a lesser extent assistant coach Greg Cronin. First off, Capuano is in a spot he has never been before. He has the most competitive team any Islanders coach has had in a decade and for the first time in his NHL coaching career he has expectations of reaching the playoffs and potentially doing something once they get their. Will Capuano be able to reach or even exceed these expectations? Or will they over come him and leave him looking for a job midway through the season or sooner?
Regarding Mr. Cronin who is in his second go around with the Islanders, his primary job with the team is the penalty kill which has been among the worst in the NHL in the first month of the season. For the last few seasons, Cronin had been in charge of the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill and last season the Leafs penalty kill finished just one spot ahead of the Islanders. He may be able to turn it around, but for the first month Cronin has failed to impress.
Today begins November, which for the Islanders of the last half dozen years has been the code word for the end of their season. If the team wants a majority of fans to join me in thinking these aren't the same old Islanders, then get out of the month with a winning record. If they are able to do that, Islanders Country may begin to beLIeve again.