The Islanders culture of losing is hindering the franchise
As I paced around my room watching the New York Islanders blow yet another two goal lead, I couldn’t help but notice that for almost my entire life I have been doing this during Islander games.
It’s just a habit at this point, but even when the Islanders are up by four goals I nervously pace around the house hoping nothing goes wrong. I may be crazy but being an Islanders fan has conditioned me to always think the worst.
It’s really disheartening because I try so hard to be optimistic but I always find myself falling back into my own ways. I even tried writing a piece about how new owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin are turning the culture around.
The other shoe is always going to drop. The lead will always be blown. The refs are always against us. It’s a never ending cycle of cynicism that has plagued the franchise for 20 years. Islanders fans are this way because the team has embraced a culture of losing, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
This latest loss to the Flames is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to brutal defeats. You don’t even need to go a week back to show another example of the “here we go again” attitude the Islanders have embraced. The Predators took advantage of a team that is afraid to lose, and they are just one of many teams that have done that. There comes a time and place where the Islanders need to grow up and learn to play to win, not to not lose.
You can throw whatever advanced statistics at me you want to show why the Islanders aren’t a perennial playoff contender and I’ll agree but counterpoint with the fact that it’s been the same issues for 20 years. It’s not a structural thing it’s a cultural thing. It’s the breakdowns in the defensive zone, the inability to finish and the never-ending bad puck luck.
The faces may change but the problems stay the same. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the Islanders haven’t been a successful franchise in decades.
Accountability is the main reason why the Islanders have won one playoff series in 24 seasons. There has been zero accountability from Mike Milbury to Garth Snow and everyone in between. The fact that Garth Snow is in his twelfth season and has delivered exactly one playoff series win is remarkable.
John Spano, a man with zero money and more fraudulent than a Chinatown Gucci bag was able to buy the Islanders no questions asked. Mike Milbury was able to gut the team year in and out. Mind you the fact that he also fired Stanley Cup winning coach Peter Laviolette.
Garth Snow was brought in weeks after he retired as a backup goaltender to become the GENERAL MANAGER of the New York Islanders. Not a consultant, not a junior executive position, the GENERAL MANAGER.
There has been a revolving door of over the hill players (hello Alexei Yashin), underperformaning draft picks and uninspiring trades that have helped this downward spiral of a once proud franchise.
Jack Capuano benched rookies for no good reason and threw Nino Neiderreiter on the 4th line with Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner. Doug Weight claims to hold his players “accountable” but refuses to scratch Jason Chimera. If the Islanders are ever going to get out of this rut, accountability plays a huge factor in sustained success.
Little brother syndrome
The culture of losing doesn’t just stem from the lack of accountability throughout the entire organization. This lack of a winning culture is partially to blame on the team that plays across the bridge, the New York Rangers.
It shouldn’t be their fault that the Islanders were only the “marquee” franchise of New York for a handful of years while on the Cup run. Even then the Coliseum seemed outdated and the Isles seemed to play second fiddle.
Things have gotten worse over the past decade. While Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers have gone on to Conference and Stanley Cup Finals, the Islanders have been complacent with making the playoffs once every four years and winning ONE playoff series since 1993.
The Islanders will always be in the shadow of the Rangers but they shouldn’t play like it. In all honesty, the Islanders play like they are a Mickey Mouse franchise. The Islanders have problems like that of a Mickey Mouse franchise. They are a small market team in the biggest sports market in the world.
They are living in the shadow of their big brother. No matter how many times they beat the Rangers or how many more Cups they have in the past 50 years they will still be the “Islanders”. There’s a reason why it took the Islanders 10 years to finally get a legitimate arena. There’s a reason why the Rangers play at The Mecca and the Islanders play at a basketball arena that isn’t built for hockey.