|Compare your Islanders.|
As a hockey fan, this series was awesome. Chicago-Boston had everything that makes the sport of hockey the best sport in the world. The drama. The intensity. The series was unbelievable, and capped off a remarkable season that was, in my eyes, perfect enough to make us all forget about the NHL lockout that was.
As an Islanders fan, this series was sobering. Chicago-Boston reminded us that the Islanders have a ton of work to do before they go on to bring us fans the same excitement that presented itself in the Windy City and Beantown.
No, I'm not stepping on the Islanders season. The New York Islanders were a huge success in 2013, but remember when everyone was crying about missing out on a series against the Bruins back in May? Because we were scared of Pittsburgh, and not at all scared of Boston? The Islanders played their hearts out against the Penguins and earned the respect they lost over the past six years, but the Islanders aren't there yet.
This is still a rebuild. One piece isn't going to fix it. It's why trading our prospects for Jonathan Bernier wouldn't have made sense, or trading for Jarome Iginla at the deadline as a rental wasn't going to happen. As the Stanley Cup Finals proved, the New York Islanders have a ton of work to do, and we can learn a lot from this season's Stanley Cup Champions.
If it wasn't apparent while watching the series, it should have been clear when watching the Chicago Blackhawks pass the Stanley Cup around the TD Garden. Every single player that touched the Cup last night spurred me to say, "I would love to have that guy on the Islanders."
First there was Jonathan Toews, the captain and 2013 Selke Trophy winner. Then, the Cup was handed to Michael Handzus, the Blackhawks second-line addition at the trade deadline. Next was Jamal Mayers, the Blackhawks enforcer who only played 19 games in 2013, but averaged 13:01 of ice time and added a +2 rating on the season. The list goes on.
That's not to say the Islanders don't have their next captain. John Tavares will, most likely, take over the 'C' in 2013, and there isn't another player in the world that I would rather have represent the Islanders. But a Selke winner? Tavares did receive one vote for the award in 2013, but when you think Selke and Islanders, you think Frans Nielsen. Sorry, Frans, but you're no Jonathan Toews, although we hope you can become the first New York Islanders forward to win the Selke trophy since Michael Peca did it in 2002.
When Jamal Mayers, the enforcer who rarely plays held the Cup, I thought how he would be an improvement over Boulton. Again, that's not to say Mayers is a world-beater - he didn't play at all in the playoffs - but he was able to log quality enough minutes to keep four lines moving when he did play.
There was Patrick Kane, the Conn-Smythe winner and top-line winger to Jonathan Toews. The Islanders could use one of those to play alongside John Tavares.
There was also the touch of scoring depth (just a touch) with Marian Hossa, he of 7 goals this postseason, playing on the Hawks' second-line. The Islanders will eventually get that, but the rebuild pieces (i.e. Strome, Niederreiter, etc.) have to pan out first.
Corey Crawford is the young, talented goalie that all Islanders' fans salivate at. Ray Emery is the experienced and productive backup goaltender that all Islanders' fans wish Kevin Poulin was last season (he even received more votes than Crawford for the Vezina).
Meanwhile, Duncan Keith is the stud, homegrown defenseman that we all hope Travis Hamonic, or one of the many defensive prospects, will become. Bryan Bickell, who can be had at a steep price this offseason, is the productive third-line winger that could boost your team's secondary scoring in a heartbeat, and Brandon Saad is Chicago's Nino Niederreiter, but without the crying.
Even Nick Leddy, in the Coach Q's doghouse for the Finals, is the player that Islanders' fans would covet. Why couldn't it be Leddy in the doghouse, and not Marty Reasoner?
This isn't to crush all of our hopes, Isles' fans. This is just to say we aren't there yet. The Islanders have several of the right pieces, but few playing in their correct roles. The Islanders are on the right track, but have a ways to go before we can happily say that the gamble on Jonathan Bernier is worth the risk of some of our prospects that may complete the Islanders like the players that now complete the Blackhawks.
The hope on Long Island should be alive. The players will continue to grow, continue to find what works, and continue to find what doesn't. Additions will be made, some by subtraction, until the Islanders get it right. Like the Blackhawks, who have won two of the last four Stanley Cups, the Islanders have to find the right pieces from within first. Only then, can the Islanders take the next step: gambling.
We have some work to do.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!