New York Islanders: The Gift that Just Keeps on Givingby Dom Lunardo August 29, 2020 0 comments
On July 1, 2018, the New York Islanders lost their captain, best player, and face of the franchise, John Tavares, who signed a lucrative $77M/7-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. More than two years later, and the Maple Leafs have failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders, on the other hand, have won three playoff series, and find themselves just three wins away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
To add insult to injury, long-time NHL executive, and current president of hockey operations and general manager of the Islanders, Lou Lamoriello, previously served as GM of the Maple Leafs. When the president and alternate governor of the Leafs, Brendan Shanahan opted for Kyle Dubas as the team’s GM, “Uncle Lou” was brushed aside and joined the Isles as the teams’ president before naming himself as GM. The Islanders haven’t looked back ever since. There are many reasons for their successes as a franchise, but playing as a team stands high above the rest.
Off-Ice Duo: Trotz and Lamoriello
As head coach and general manager respectively, Barry Trotz and Lamoriello have pushed all the right buttons on Long Island. Each possesses a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree. Trotz previously won in 2018 with the Washington Capitals. Lamoriello is a three-time winner with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, 2000, and 2003.
In addition to their professionalism, experience, and businesslike approach to the game, Trotz and Lamoriello agree on one fundamental aspect; their unwavering dedication to winning. Prior to the arrival of both Trotz and Lamoriello, the Islanders were a team mired in mediocrity and lacked a true identity. In the two years under their tutelage, the Isles have amassed an 83-50-17 record (.553 winning percentage). They have back-to-back playoff appearances and three playoff series victories. When you talk about the Islanders, the conversation starts with the culture change that’s been brought about at the front-office level and behind the bench.
Meet the Islanders
At the trade deadline, Lamoriello further bolstered his lineup with the acquisitions of veteran defenseman Andy Greene, who played under him in New Jersey, and talented, two-way centerman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau. An already competitive roster became even more dynamic with two real, solid additions.
In a league with multiple real, good players on each and every team, the Islanders approach is one that solely focuses on the team. You can make the argument that aside from centerman Matt Barzal, the Isles possesses no real superstar on their roster. Instead, Lamoriello’s vision is one that centers around the team. The sum of its parts heavily outweighs any individual.
From a coaching perspective, Trotz has four real good centermen at his disposal in the form of Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, and Casey Cizikas that “fit the bill” against opposing match-ups. On defense, the Isles possess a formidable blue-line with players such as Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Greene, Scott Mayfield, Devon Toews, and Noah Dobson rounding into form. Backstopping one of the league’s best defensive teams, is none other than Semyon Varlamov who has posted an impressive 8-2 record this postseason to go along with a 1.76 goals-against-average (GAA), .932 save percentage, and two shutouts. Let those numbers sink in.
A Pleasure to Watch
As an avid hockey fan myself, it has been a sincere pleasure watching the Islanders perform this postseason. Right from the get-go the Isles have looked prepared, focused, fully engaged, and ready to go inside the NHL’s Eastern Conference “bubble” at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario. Their strong play proves a superior level of focus and preparation. These Islanders are a hockey club that you can certainly root for. They have redefined the term “team” in so many different facets throughout these playoffs.
These Isles are a breath of fresh air. They consistently roll four lines, work hard (and play) for one another, and are strong on special teams. They are 100% team-oriented, excellent in goal, and readily stick to the game-plan. In a league that can be so individualistic at times, the Islanders are anything but. They are fast, well-disciplined, deep, physical, balanced, well-coached, versatile, and really good in close games. Yes, that’s a pretty vast list of adjectives, but nevertheless, they’re all typical of the team from Long Island. Simply put, and like the title would suggest, the New York Islanders are the gift that just keeps on giving.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images