With the conclusion of the forty eight game cash-grab by the NHL/NHLPA for the New York Islanders the lockout of discussing the NHL team here is now officially over.
Charles Wang was in the front row cheering the NY Dragons in a playoff game, four days later the team was sold. Business decisions will be made from the head, not the heart.
Obviously many things happened during the forty eight game whatever you want to call it. Some will have great bearing on 2013-14, others no so much.
What Worked/What Failed/What Was An Illusion During Forty Eight Games?
* This team was 16-16-3 on March 30th. Despite the impressive stretch of losing only one regulation game, they still could not even win more than three games in a row over forty eight games. They were a great road team with the deck stacked against them with the opening/closing road trips.
* Chemistry sometimes happens out of nowhere, the first home Florida win where they finally held on in the third period seemed the beginning of the trends changing.
* The chemistry that produced many of those low shot against, low scoring wins broke for good during the final five game in eight day streak with this team having nothing by the time they reached Carolina, and were lucky to secure a point in that game or Buffalo.
That's understandable because no team plays at that high a level forever, and especially under such pressure/travel but what was disturbing was Hickey was not the same dominating player, and had to be pulled from playoff games.
Brian Strait was not the steady player he was earlier before his injury.
The defensive chemistry never really returned.
* This was a team that played forty eight games, who were tied or leading after all but seven games, and even came back in three of them to earn points which is how you make the playoffs. It's the best example of progression, but no guarantee moving forward as we saw with the second half Islanders under interim head coach Capuano. It also proves what any defense can do as long as it can skate, forcing play at the opposition which was impossible with 2011-12/prior defenders.
* A little healthy depth was also something not seen here in countless years.
The Big Decisions:
The New York Islanders are a team supposedly moving, but may be
returning to play six games in it's former home. That's an unheard of
set of circumstances that reflects it's binding lease is hardly
iron-clad, and it's business still very much unsettled.
The same can absolutely be said about Bridgeport with Ratner/Yormark offering an AHL team to their Coliseum bid.
Jack Capuano-I'm not sure Jack Capuano is a lock to be back with his contract up. That will likely be decided immediately if a change is made. He has to be judged on all 48 games, if that decision were made on March 30th, the call for his dismissal would be very loud because if his team was simply successful at home they are a top seed.
Fan Base: Another season 30th in attendance with only twenty four games to pay for hardly believed anything until it was time to start front-running for a few weeks. Even coming home to play the Flyers, the building was hardly filled, and that was with the usual strong Flyer turnout.
Are the New York Islander fans finally willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a weeknight ticket in November against the other conference that so many other markets do win or lose, or will it be 2002-03 where the fans expected ownership to keep the prices at 1980's levels, and stayed home when prices went up to support the players signed even with more playoff appearances?
If you considered the forty eight games a true sign the franchise is on the right track 15,000 plus have to be in the stands for weeknight home games in October 2013. The excuses since 1989 end now. If Florida can fill the seats, the same people coming for a few weeks can do it over six months for once like everyone else does around this league.
Rick DiPietro-The story changes because the CBA changed. Kevin Poulin sat on an NHL bench during his worst AHL season while DiPietro played eighteen games to expected results with rust a factor, but finally proving durable.
When the time came to select goaltenders for playoffs Poulin, and Anders Nilsson ill virtually all season off two games started the final weekend were both called up before DiPietro with Nabokov either exhausted, hurt, or struggling badly.
It's a terrible sign moving forward for DiPietro's future regardless of his health, he may well have been the best alternative.
Evgeny Nabokov-Will be a tough decision but given the NHL goaltending landscape he may not find a better situation. His play carried the club for most of the forty eight games. This is a goaltender who walked away from 24m in the KHL, was forced to play 82 games for 500k, and liked it so much he resigned.
Mark Streit-New York Statement On 1/16/13 For 2013-14 To Resign Mark Streit Now still applies. He should demand even more money for playing with a frequent healthy scratch in Ottawa, Matt Carker, or re-re cycled, Radek Martinek.
Someone's going to overpay, and give him a true top four defender as a partner.
Brad Boyes-Points not withstanding, and a few nice defensive back-checks, he's not the answer nor should he be anywhere near the first line. There are better prospects waiting/better free agents if necessary, he created virtually nothing besides a good shot in a 6-1 loss in Pittsburgh.
Matt Moulson-The bubble finally broke down the stretch, he had to be separated from Tavares. He'll be back but again can someone produce more to take focus off Tavares, and give him more room?
Okposo/Bailey-The production has to catch up to the hard work, we have all seen enough stretches of both.
Cizikas-Was a bigger overall factor than Nielsen.
The NHL Moving Forward:
* Under Bettman's new unbalanced conference division format the 48 game New York Islanders lose out to Columbus/Detroit this year.
* The disparity between teams only becomes worse as payrolls go down one year, then head toward 80m with usual front-loading advantages by corporate teams in a sport all top players have NT/NMC.
When you prove you can win over 82 games in six months, that's when things have changed. A five hundred club after thirty plus games in a forty eight game season has a long way to go.
There are a few signs this is now built to last, but until it happens it's nothing but words.
Yes, the Islanders played even or better against a top seed, sure another point or two and they likely beat Montreal. One high stick against Ottawa they are likely a sixth or seventh seed.
Just words, it did not happen. Too bad we did not get a full 82 game season to find out.
Now we will. the lockout here is over.