The New York Islanders played another "encouraging loss" in Boston on Wednesday (4/6) evening. Rookie phenom Michael Grabner scored a power play goal and a short handed goal in the losing effort. Grabner has lit the lamp 33 times this season and has now surpassed the 50 point threshold.
For a team playing so undermanned that they had to sign a defenseman to a tryout contract before the game, the Islanders put up a spirited effort. Additionally, the loss temporarily improved their potential NHL entry draft standing. If the season ended today and the lottery odds came out as expected, the Isles would select 4th overall in June.
The time for encouraging losses, however, is over. As I've said many times before, the pieces are in place for a winning team. Not just for next season, but for many more after that.
The Islanders are on the verge of something special. For you New York area baseball fans out there, this team feels similar to the way the Mets did in 1984 or the Yankees felt a decade later, in 1994. Both teams were two years away from greatness. And both had very good seasons marred by disappointing endings the following season. That is, before they both won the championship the following year.
So that's where we are. Next year, if the team performs as I expect them to, there won't be talk of the number of man-games lost, draft positioning, attendance, arena shortcomings, or disputes over media credentials.
Because winning takes the headlines away from that nonsense. It cures all.
There has been some debate about what is "wrong" with Kyle Okposo. People have asked me if he's hurt, unlucky, or something else.
Honestly, when I see him charging hard to the net but not scoring I am willing to chalk it up to bad luck. I don't know of a health issue and I don't see evidence of a lingering one. I know in the past he has been a very streaky scorer. I think the points will be there for him next season. Michael Grabner told me last week that the linemates have a good relationship and work well together, though Grabner seems to be the big beneficiary on the scoresheet right now.
Lastly, while Grabner will likely be nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy (league rookie of the year), he won't win. Not because of any behind the scenes voting shenanigans, but because Carolina's Jeff Skinner had a slightly better season.
If I had a vote, I'd vote for Skinner, even though Grabner has surprised and amazed me at times this season. It's just my opinion, folks; yours may differ. Kudos to Garth Snow, yet again, for finding a player that was on nobody's radar and hitting the jackpot.