After 29 games this season, the New York Islanders are just a game above .500, the sheer definition of mediocrity.
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What's that sound you hear coming from Uniondale, you ask? That collective groan that echoes throughout Islander Nation?
It's the big, fat, "Uggggggghhhhhh!" of being a fan of a perpetually mediocre hockey team. It's what we've come to expect from this team and it's time that mediocrity becomes, once and for all, absolutely unacceptable!
After finishing 5th in the conference (and just a hair out of 1st in the Atlantic Division) and getting back on the hockey map in the magical 2001-02 season, the Isles have finished 8th, 8th, out of the playoffs and, you guessed it, 8th in the four seasons since. Right now, a little over a quarter of the way into the 2007-08 campaign, there are the same old Islanders sniffing around a playoff spot, currently ranked 11th in the East just two points behind 8th place Pittsburgh, no major threat to anyone.
What exactly is the goal for this franchise year-to-year?
Is it to finish 8th and bow out in the first round of the playoffs (in recent years without even so much as a good fighting effort)?
Or is it, as it should be, to build the makings of a Stanley Cup caliber team that actually progresses year to year and avoids getting stagnant at all costs?
Could anyone in the Islander organization convince you that that is what this current bunch is?
Yes, it's early. Yes, I am being a bit harsh. But, you know what? It's the same old story we've seen year in, year out. And, what's worse? This year's team is drab, bland, flat-out boring! Last night's game was all of that in a nutshell!
Let's face it, the Sabres were ripe to be had last night. They turned the puck over well over 10 times (often in their own zone), Ryan Miller looked atrocious, and scoring opportunities were abundant. Sadly, the Islanders come out of the game looking on the bright side, as Newsday's Greg Logan writes, because they scored three goals for the third time in their past four games??? This is what we're celebrating?
This team needs a complete rejuvenation. New spirit, new enthusiasm, new attitude ('We're All Islanders' is cute and all, but come on. Ra ra ra ... eh ... ho hum ...)
Guys like Sean Bergenheim and Richard Park bring it all to the table every night and, surely, that's been a positive for much of the season - lunchpail guys going to work and working hard at it. But there's certainly something to be said when on far too many game nights you're having to say that ... well ... GUYS LIKE RICHARD PARK WERE YOUR BEST PLAYER!!!
Rick DiPietro, the team's best and most valuable player by leaps and bounds, is excepted here. Without him, quite frankly, I'm not quite sure the Isles would have one single win this season.
Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie have to do more. Bryan Berard has to do more. Miroslav Satan, who has played far better than his statistics show and his detractors will claim so far this season, still has to do more. There aren't many names on this roster but those that are there are depended on to do big things, to carry the team more often than not and to lead by example. (If Guerin were leading by example last night, what with that behind-the-back cupcake attempt of a pass to Andy Sutton that was easily picked off and led directly to a goal and all, then perhaps we need to revisit exactly what leading by example means.)
They are certainly not the most talented bunch. But all that means, as we've seen time and again, is that the effort cannot ever, ever, EVER be questioned.
Far too often already this season, we've clearly been able to question the effort. Ted Nolan said just that after the game last night:
"We just need more and have to have a better effort."
The head coach of a professional hockey team, particularly one with a slew of veterans on the roster, should never have to say that.
It's more than this season though, obviously, that has me frustrated as an Isles fan right now. It's season after season after season of the same old BLAH.
I hate BLAH.
It's a waste of time.
It's mediocrity, is what it is.
And, you know what? I've had about enough of it.
Mediocrity just plain sucks.
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