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I get it.
I can’t say I fully understand, but I get it. Being a New York Islanders fan these days – or the last few decades, really – can’t be easy, considering the team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in 13 of the last 18 years and hasn’t advanced past the first round of the postseason since 1993. But it’s not just the statistical arithmetic that has caused Long Island’s Disgruntled Army to chronically curse the hockey gods.
It’s been the dead-end draft picks. The poor financial decisions. The endless DiPietro jokes (if he typed out this column, he would’ve torn a tendon in his index finger … sorry, I had to). The frustrating management issues. The Coliseum. Ugh, that building.
The Islanders, currently plopped in last place of the Metropolitan Division, are miraculously a mere seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, though it might as well be 77. Sure, pour yourself another Blue Point. You’ve earned it.
But guess what? It’s damn good to be an Islanders fan now.
While most teams have played into a serious playoff race, coach Jack Capuano’s bunch spent the last few weeks squandering any legitimate hopes to contend for a second-straight postseason berth, wrapping a nice blue and orange bow on the 2013-14 campaign that reads “Loveable Losers.” Again.
If you look closer, though, there are plenty of reasons to look beyond the franchise’s current state and become excited for the future possibilities. Here are the small things:
New York is currently riding a four-game win streak and is the only team in the East to have won eight of its last 10 games.
The Islanders are 5-1-0 in the New Year. Some resolutions can last longer than 72 hours …
John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have quietly emerged as arguably the best dynamic duo in the league outside of Crosby/Malkin, Ovechkin/Backstrom, Getzlaf/Perry and Kane/Sharp or Toews.
Tavares, a draft pick who has obviously more than panned out, has amassed eight goals and 10 assists in his last nine games, while Okposo has scored 11 of his 19 goals in the previous 15. Thanks to their contributions, the Islanders are on the cusp of extending a winning streak to five games for the first time in almost six years. In addition, they could win their eight straight on the road for the first time since 2008 when facing Florida on Tuesday night.
“We’re competing. We’re defending a little better,” Capuano told the team’s website. “Playing more within the team concept. I think when you can utilize your four lines that we do, a lot of guys the minutes are distributed.”
Is this spurt going to alter the landscape of the East? Probably not, but it’s offered a good enough sample for fans to recognize that maybe, just maybe, the core of this team can orchestrate something bigger in the near future.
The future … that’s the bigger point here.
The Islanders announced their move to Brooklyn last October after years of fruitless efforts to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum, where the team has played since 1972.
In August 2011, Nassau County voters defeated a proposal to spend $400 million to overhaul the Coliseum, triggering a much-anticipated move to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 campaign.
The Barclays Center — the home of the NBA’s Nets, which has a capacity of 15,813 for hockey, compared with the Coliseum’s 16,234 — should give the franchise a massive spike in revenue, especially merchandise sales, just as it did for the old, porous Nets.
The future home facility reportedly has some quirks when it comes to hosting hockey. Apparently the rink at Barclays doesn’t fit in the center of the arena, so the overhead video scoreboard isn’t centered on the ice. Apparently there aren’t standard seats behind one of the goals on the lowest level. Who cares.
Nevertheless, it signals a fresh, clean slate. Natives of the Island probably aren’t thrilled by the idea – just like the dozens, I mean, thousands of Nets fans from Jersey – but it will be a good thing. It’s a step forward.
Perhaps a change is good.
And maybe we’ve seen what the future holds during the last two weeks, thanks to Tavares and Okposo leading a strong supporting cast to some unexpected wins.
The key here, for Islanders fans, is more patience. Tavares and Okposo will eventually team up with more capable players. A glistening, new home is waiting. More money is coming.
Hope is here.
And sometimes that’s enough.
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