|They helped create what we have already started to see.|
Well, all of that seems to have changed for the better on Long Island. For the first time in a long time, I would say that a majority of New York Islanders fans seem hopeful, preparing themselves for brighter days ahead. The team finally has a place they can call home. The Barclays Center may not be located in Nassau County, but home is where the heart is after all, right? And along with the new home, the Islanders accumulated a wealth of home-grown talent. More importantly, said home-grown talent is here to stay.
For years, the Islanders have struggled with holding on to their own. One after another, Islanders fans watched potential studs move on to greener pastures, only to blossom into valuable assets on separate rosters. It's different now. The Islanders have a core group of young players, and they're locked up for the present and beyond.
Islanders' fans, tip your hats and tap your sticks. It's time to give a proper salute to the players who helped change the culture on Long Island when the rest of the world was down on us. While the Islanders continue to grow, don't forget the Pioneers of Change.
There really wasn't much to look forward to when the Islanders were heading into the 2010-11 season. With about one week to go before the season began, the Islanders had superstar-to-be John Tavares, and two nice surprises from the previous season in Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau. Blake Comeau and Rob Schremp figured to be contributors on an offense that lost Kyle Okposo to a shoulder injury, and the defensive unit was one of the weakest in years, missing Mark Streit, also to a shoulder injury. Garth Snow managed to snag Michael Grabner off of the waivers right before the season started, but nobody really expected the world from Grabner, who was dropped by the Panthers after another lackluster training camp.
Well, by the end of the season, the Islanders had replaced Scott Gordon as their head coach, started six different goalies, and claimed Evgeni Nabokov only to be shunned by the goalie and ridiculed by the rest of the NHL. Despite a very strong finish to the season, the Islanders finished 14th in the East, extremely disappointing considering some felt the Islanders had the talent to make a push for the postseason.
Despite all of the ridiculousness surrounding the season - the jokes, Rick DiPietro, etc. - two players stood up and found a reason to continue their careers on Long Island. Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner both did the unimaginable as they "committed career suicide" by signing with the
Well, the summer came and went. The New York Islanders were gearing up for the 2011-12 season, and of course, the rumor mill continued to spin. This time, there was speculation that John Tavares would never want to remain on Long Island past the 2011-12 season. There were rumors that his agent had planned his exit, and JT was prepared to do anything to remove himself from the drama-filled Nassau Coliseum. John Tavares shut everybody up on September 15, 2011, however, signing a six-year extension, also at a below-market value price.
Like Okposo and Grabner, Tavares' head was put into question. Why would he choose to stay on Long Island, a place where a back-up goalie ran the joint, a place where there was no place to call home past 2015?
Isles fans, we have been spoiled. In the summer of 2011, three key Islanders pieces stepped up and did what every other team wishes their pieces would do: Okposo, Grabner, and Tavares took long-term, cap-friendly deals to assist in building a winner the way the salary cap was designed. Money isn't everything, but winning is, and the Islanders are building a team with players that want to win.
More players followed suit. Matt Martin, the NHL's leading hitter of the past two seasons, signed a four-year extension at $1M per year. Travis Hamonic opted to stay on Long Island for another seven seasons at just under $4M per season. Josh Bailey extended his stay with the Islanders for five more seasons at a little more than $3M per season. All took deals for less money than they would have made on the open market, but all realized they had something special being built right in front of them.
And here we are. The Islanders, a playoff team in 2013, are set for the 2013-14 season, with more than $15M in cap space left to maneuver. Because of the cost-effective deals signed on Long Island, the Islanders have a core group of young players set up in a position to do damage in the NHL for years to come.
Thank you, Kyle Okposo. Thank you, Michael Grabner. Thank you, John Tavares. Thank you, all, for helping us turn the page on one of the darkest times in Islanders history.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!