The Islanders finished the month of November with a 6-6-2 record, bringing them to an overall record of 10-10-7 with 27 points at 11th place, just one point out of the final playoff spot. I’m sure many fans would agree that if anyone said over the summer that the Islanders would be a .500 team on the cusp of a playoff berth by the start of December that they would have to be crazy. But believe it or not, that’s exactly where the Islanders stand.
That has been attributed to the goaltending of Dwayne Roloson, the surprise of Matt Moulson, the consistent play of John Tavares, leadership of Kyle Okposo, emergence of Jack Hillen and the strong play of Andy Sutton. This team is just a few pieces away from making the jump to the next level as a unit, but it will probably not occur until at least next season.
It’s also important to give credit where credit is due. Scott Gordon has shown that he is a good NHL coach. Last year we saw the start of a brand new system with a group of young players with a coach that lacked NHL experience. The team, as expected, fell to last place with terrible losses and several headaches. This year the team knows how to execute Scott Gordon’s overspeed attack and play their own brand of hockey. The key factor is that this roster is almost identical to last year’s. They were able to learn and improve under a coach that was hired for his ability to develop young talent. That says a lot about Gordon.
Although they are far from perfect, significant signs of improvement after a month of November that could have crushed them are strong reasons for optimism. The 11th month of the year usually isn’t too friendly to the Islanders since the road-trips are usually the focus. Coming away at .500 for this month is a big positive.
It’s also a positive that knowing the majority of the remaining games of the season will be at home, where the Islanders are currently 6-3-2. They have played 16 games on the road so far, leaving 25 remaining. Fans have only been treated to 11 home games, leaving 30 left at the barn on the Meadowbrook. In December, the Isles leave the nest 7 more times with the other 8 in their own building. That should definitely work to the Islanders advantage.
Keep in mind that Rick DiPietro has been practicing to more of a regular routine as he gradually makes his comeback. Although a date hasn’t been circled for his NHL return, it can be assumed that he will soon start a few games in Bridgeport. My guess is that if all continues to go well, a start for Gordon’s squad before the new year may not be out of the question.
Despite a recent loss that was due to another third period collapse, this team has shown significant signs of improvement after a month that could have determined the rest of the season, and there is plenty of hockey left in the schedule. If they continue as they have, all signs point to forward progress.