Remember that local New York team, wearing blue and orange, that’s been a disaster for years? Fudging the numbers on how much they’re spending and making trades that seem ill-advised? That team with one of the best players in the league that has only won a handful of playoff games over the last decade or so? The one whose move to a new building has been met with a mixed bag of tepid enthusiasm and downright scorn?
The one that suddenly looks like a championship contender?
That’s right, we’re talking about the New York Islanders. As of this moment, with a dozen or so games left to go, the Islanders are among the top teams in their division and conference. They’ve player quality hockey and beaten many of the other top teams in the league. Simply put, they are a very good hockey team and have led their division for long stretches of the season.
The Mets are right there where the Islanders were last year. Some young promise and some quality stars. Did you know John Tavares finished out last season injured just like David Wright? The Islanders have Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo joining John Tavares on the top line forming a three-headed monster that most teams can’t handle. The Mets have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and, elbow health permitting, Zack Wheeler heading up their rotation to strike fear into opponents.
The Islanders made a few moves in the offseason, though nothing that anyone felt was a lock to make them the best team in the league. The biggest move was signing goalie Jaroslav Halak, who’s having a great year, keeping them in games so their goal scorers can do their thing.
The Mets have made a few moves, and could potentially make one or two more before the season begins. It’s unknown whether those moves will result in the same sort of success the Islanders are enjoying, but the expectations are definitely there. Could Michael Cuddyer bring a few homers to boost an offense that was sorely lacking last year? The Mets' bench was pretty bad last year. Can John Mayberry Jr. provide some firepower off of it this year? Obviously the parallels don’t line up perfectly, but the recent progressions of both franchises are vry similar.
It’s refreshing to watch the Islanders succeed in the National Hockey League. It’s fun to watch games that matter unfold with drama and intrigue, to be truly invested in the outcome. It’s a nice change to scoreboard watch during a battle for first place with the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers rather than looking for scenarios and openings where the Islanders can climb back into a race.
It’s a great time to be an Islanders fan. Hopefully when the smoke clears from an exciting fight deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Mets are ready to make the summer just as exciting as this winter has been.