Three positives from the 2018-19 Islanders season
It was very tough to pick just three positives considering the Islanders vastly exceeded expectations. They swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before being swept by Carolina in the second round. However this list is less about specific moments (which will be coming tomorrow) and more about long term positives that can carry over from season to season.
There were many this year but three stand out above the rest. These three positives have set up the Islanders for years to come and have given them a great foundation to build upon.
They learned the lessons of playing as a team and being a professional organization
Similar to the accountability I keep focusing on during these articles, the Islanders went from a gong show to a well-oiled machine in just a year. Co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky had enough of the Garth Snow show and immediately after their exit meetings fired Snow and Head Coach Doug Weight.
Brought in were Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Fame hockey executive and one of the most respected men in the business, and Barry Trotz fresh off his first Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. From the day they stepped onto the ice, the Islanders had a hundred times more respectability because of Trotz and Lamoriello.
Even though they’re still dealing with the two arena issue and there are still some smaller issues that hamper the team, the difference between this year and last year is night and day. They are no longer a Mickey Mouse organization and have accountability from the top down.
Their young defensemen have a very bright future
The emergence of the “Core Four” young D-men for the Islanders was surprising to say the least. Ryan Pulock became the de facto #1 while Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield took huge strides forward after both being healthy scratched early into the season. Enough cannot be said about how the Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock duo played against the Penguins in Round 1. They were excellent and showed their full potential right then and there.
Devon Toews stepped into his role after Thomas Hickey went down in December with a concussion. Toews looked like a natural all season, using his unique blend of speed and power to be the facilitator coming up the ice. The emergence of these four players also makes Nick Leddy dispensable, and with Leddy possibly on the market the Islanders could upgrade at forward because of that.
No one thought that this group of draft picks (Pelech, Mayfield and Pulock all came up together) would be this good this soon. They say that it takes a few years for defensemen to truly hone their craft, and Garth Snow deserves some credit for seeing in these four young men what not a lot of people saw. He signed them to multi year deals on team friendly contracts when people thought they were all expendable.
The kids got playoff experience and are hungry for more
Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock, the list goes on and on for the young kids on this team that got their feet wet in the playoffs for the first time. Although not satisfied with the result, the kids know that this experience was nothing but positive.
They’re hungry and they’re going to continue to fight to get back to this point. Nothing is ever guaranteed in hockey so having this to fall back on as they go season by season is important to have. No one is complacent in that Islanders’ locker room, and that taste of success will only fuel them to succeed even more.
The Islanders may have lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs but they did many good things this season. There were so many positives to come from what looked to be a lost season and these were three of the bigger ones. Whether it be building a successful foundation, growing a young D corp, or getting your feet wet in the playoffs, the Islanders are ready for the next step.
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