My perspectives on the Islanders and the direction of the franchise has changed over the last few months. When the free agency signing period began, I was hoping for a "big-ticket" item, shopping for some scoring and some defense. Once again, as in past summers, the Islanders disappointed. Yes, they brought in Mark Streit, who is coming off a very successful campaign with Montreal and who is bringing with him the power play acumen without the defensive incompetence of Marc-Andre Bergeron. But, the Islanders needed more than a booming shot from the blueline. They needed at least one scoring forward and they needed toughness.
Going through the preseason, the expectations of the Islanders by the experts this season have been very low. The Hockey News pegged the Isles for 13th in the Eastern Conference and Sports Illustrated picked them to finish dead last in the East. That has happened before and the Isles have beaten those prognostications.
Before the season, I have heard opinions ranging from "maybe we can sneak into the playoffs" to "if we play really bad, we can get the first pick and take John Tavares in the draft".
Now, I will never root for our team to play badly and earn a top draft pick. And, I am realistic enough to think we will not make a serious drive to try to make the playoffs this year. But, rarely in professional sports do you see a team whose season does NOT come down to wins and losses. This is what the 2008-09 New York Islanders will be about: limited expectations and the hope the players will learn from their losses now so they can win later.
The Islanders finished 4-3 in the preseason, but the last loss, 6-0, was the only game where franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro made an appearance. No matter what happens this season, you hope for good health. The Islanders lost Chris Campoli and Andy Sutton during the preseason to the injured list and Mike Sillinger has not been able to come back to active duty. Add to that, Rick DiPietro's singular preseason effort and no amount of solace in the learning of losses can substitute for learning on the ice.