We've returned from Minnesota, however during our absence the Islanders still did not break into the win column. While their record is 0-3-3, we've always fashioned ourselves as optimists, and prefer to highlight the good things about this team that we see rather than dwelling on the negatives, as some fans are doing.
First off, let us just say that the rumors of Coach Scott Gordon's possible dismissal are absurd. Everyone knew back in September that the Islanders were going to have another tough season ahead of them. What good would changing coaches possibly do right now other than appease a few fans with excessively high expectations? Does anyone think a new voice would suddenly increase the team's scoring or shore up their shaky defense? Preposterous.
Without further ado, here a a few early things we've been pleased with so far (in no particular order):
- The Islanders, while winless, have outplayed their opponents in the majority of their games. Opening night's effort was strong enough to garner a victory over Pittsburgh, for example. The Isles should have had a win in Boston. In fact, in every game other than the afternoon tilt against Los Angeles the Isles have been the better team on the ice for at least one period, and in many cases much longer.
- The production of John Tavares. At 4 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 games, fears of a slow start or a tough transition to the NHL have been assuaged.
- Kyle Okposo's steady production. You can't knock a point-per-game pace.
- The nice find that is Matt Moulson. He has matched Tavares' point total so far. Keeping up the pace will be a challenge, but if he keeps getting to the net, screening goalies, and knocking in rebounds he'll be just fine. Kudos to management for taking a chance on him.
- Mark Streit. The steadiest of the defensemen. A wonderful addition to any team's power play. He's always firing shots from the point. His production remains constant. We loved this signing before last season. We like it even more now.
- The return of Frans Nielsen. While he's not quite back yet, when he comes back from his knee injury he'll likely be paired with Kyle on the second line because the two work well together. Plus, after last season, anyone returning from an injury is good news!
- Marty Biron's play. While an 0-2 record with a 3.16 Goals Against Average is normally nothing to gush about, it was unclear exactly what his role would be when he signed, and what it will be in the future. But paired right now in goal with Dwayne Roloson, Biron has clearly been the better of the two netminders to this point. Plus, on a selfish level, Marty always provides a great quote. His next win will be his 200th in the NHL, FYI.
- Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project is not quite dead. Despite a published report stating the contrary, Mr. Wang issued a Monty Python-esque "we're not dead yet" statement regarding the Isles' arena development project. As far as we know, the town and the project leaders are still talking.
- Honorable mention to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. We know we're stepping on The Tiger Track's toes a bit here, but the AHL squad opened their season with 4 wins. While they have lost their two most recent games, we are looking for any and all positives right now. We'll be watching (and perhaps reporting on) some of their promising players this year, including 2009 draft pick Mikko Koskinen.
While we're hoping that the underperforming Isles not on this list step up their play soon, we have realistic expectations about what this season means. We hope you do too, and aren't so quick to heap criticism on this team in transition.