Dear New York Islanders Players, Organization and Fans-
First, I want to congratulate you on your victory against the Detroit Red Wings last night. A 5-1 score is very respectable against any team in today’s NHL. Also, it’s a great feeling to garner a solid victory at home after a disappointing road trip. Your goaltender seems to have shaken the cobwebs away. You had a great night and it showed in the result.
However, while the victory is sweet and you should toast your successes, I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Detroit Red Wings for not offering you to respect and challenge that you deserve. Last night’s Red Wings team was NOT the team you have seen in the highlight reels and in the top three of the Western Conference.
Though you have enjoyed a lengthy winning streak over the Winged Wheel, your recent position near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings has caused the loss of your recognition as a competitive hockey club by the Red Wings. The Red Wings see this as a “throw-away game.” We tend to give you our back-up goalie. We tend to favor the less experienced forwards and defense to give them ice time. We call a hangnail or dry elbow skin an “upper body injury” which allows us to rest a few of our key players.
At the end of the second period, when you were ahead 3-0, did the Red Wings make a goaltender change to try to spark the rest of the team? No they didn’t. They left Ty Conklin in net, so they could rest Jimmy Howard a bit more. Wouldn’t want to scuff up his freshly-buffed goalie pads, now would we?
When the offensive strategies we were using were turning up fruitless time and time again, did we revisit our approach? No we didn’t. Wouldn’t want to change anything now, because we’ll need those ideas the next time we play a “real” team.
When you scored first, and then second, did our defense step up their efforts to keep it from getting worse? No, we didn’t. We don’t want to hit you too hard. You’re just kids and you have your whole careers ahead of you. We wouldn’t want to jeopardize that.
Understandably, a game against the Islanders may not carry as much weight as a game against a Divisional opponent, so I can agree that this is the time to scrape the rust off your less-used players. However, this shouldn’t happen year after year. At some point, you should see the Varsity Team that Chicago or San Jose would see.
Detroit is used to hearing that they are the measuring stick by which other teams compare themselves. I only hope one day, you’ll get that chance as well. You have a young, vibrant team with a LOT of talent and I enjoy watching you play. Your speed and skill are unlike that of any team in the NHL, and I’m sorry that the Red Wings are the only team who refuse to give you the challenge you deserve. But take heart, Islanders! You are building a new team brick by brick, and while it will probably take a while, you’ll get out of the cellar someday and up in the playoffs where you belong!
And as long as the Detroit Red Wings refuse to honor you by giving you Team B to play against, I hope you win ‘em all!