The Isles played their 10th game of the 2008-2009 season on Saturday night, which means they've now completed about 1/8 of the regular season schedule (for those of you who didn't spend your youth at horse racing tracks, a furlong is 1/8 of a mile).
After dropping a three (3) goal lead in the third period to Montreal in said 10th game for a 5-4 loss, the Isles also dropped into their worst start in franchise history, at 2-7-1.
While 10 games is a small sample size, we've seen a lot of things this season that are trending very poorly for the remaining 7/8 of the season. While most of you are quite familiar with everything negative that has swirled around this club recently, we'll try to quickly highlight a few of the positives we've noticed so far.
First off, the play of Mark Streit has been as good as advertised. With 9 points (4 goals) and around 26 minutes of ice time per night, the Swiss d-man has held up his end of the bargain. Not too long ago we were ridiculed on the TSN forums for defending this signing as being affordable and sensible; so far we feel vindicated. Streit has brought a booming shot and a power play presence to the team not seen since the Aucoin/Hamrlik days. Worries about Streit's defensive inadequacies have been mostly quieted as well.
Secondly, the play of the veterans. We're thinking specifically of Bill Guerin and Doug Weight here, but you can throw Trent Hunter into the grouping as well. While the first two are 37 years old (Guerin will be 38 next week) and will be free agents next year, neither has mailed it in despite the team's dreadful start. Sitting atop the offensive leader boards, both Weight and the captain have led the way for the "kids" as designed by GM Garth Snow. Just because their leadership and scoring knowledge has not yet "trickled down" to the younger prospects is not their fault. As an added bonus, Mr. Guerin is always good for a post-game quote or two.
As for Hunter, with 7 points he has gotten off to a nice start, numbers reminiscent of his 2003-2004 campaign. If he can keep or accelerate this pace, his recent 5 year/$10 million deal will look brilliant.
Next, kudos to coach Scott Gordon for having the mettle to play Kyle Okposo on the top line recently. While Kyle's production has been somewhat lacking, one cannot question the aggressiveness and desire he brings to every shift. He has been physical and has had a multitude of scoring chances this season. He will just need repetition and the increased comfort level of more NHL experience before those chances are converted into points for himself and his teammates. But we applaud Gordon for seeing what we have seen from Kyle and rewarding him for it.
Lastly, the crowds have not abandoned this team (yet). This one comes with a few caveats, though. While the Isles have averaged over 13,500 fans per game so far that number still puts them dead last in league attendance. Also, as a few people have mentioned in various other places, a significant share of those in the building on some nights have come to root for the opposition (Rangers, Montreal, etc.). While we don't mind taking their money, let's also keep in mind that even if the Islanders sold out all 41 home dates in a season it would still only place them at 20th in league attendance (due to the Coliseum's 16,234 seating capacity). However, at times last season we recall paid attendances of 9,000 or fewer, so we'll see if the Isles can stave off that situation again. So far, so good.
There's also one other positive we're fond of mentioning around here, even if it runs counter to our principles of being Islanders fans. There is a pretty nice reward potentially waiting for us at the end of the season if things keep up. His name is John Tavares.
See you all (hopefully) at Monday's game versus Columbus!
(P.S. - Nice move on the "new" third jerseys. We haven't encountered a fan yet who doesn't like them).