Pseudo Lame Ducks New York Islanders the Feel Good Story of the NHL


With everything to lose and nothing to gain, the 2014-15  New York Islanders could have easily mailed it in this season. They are playing their last campaign at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the oldest and most criticized arena in the league, before moving to Brooklyn. The team’s public relations staff put together a number of nights remembering the dynasty teams of the early 1980s, with visits from the players and all of hoopla surrounding them as a reason to come to the decrepit ‘Mausoleum’ in preparation for another losing season with no hope for a playoff berth.

But apparently no one told the current players and coaching staff, which merely has made up the most surprising team in the NHL and are in first place in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

The last time that the Islanders finished in first place was in 1987-88 and it was the 2001-02 season when they last placed second. They have missed the playoffs six out of the last seven seasons and finished in last place a year ago (34-37-11, 79 points).

Nov 22, 2014; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) celebrates with right wing Kyle Okposo (21) after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

At the All-Star break, the Islanders have already amassed 64 points with a 31-14-1 mark and hold a three-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins and are five points better than their cross-town rival New York Rangers, who represented the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals a year ago. The Isles are a mere point behind the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning for the top seed in the East.

The likelihood of this team not only making the playoffs, but also being one of the top teams in the NHL, was not even worthy of a conversation a few months ago. The Islanders had become a punch line and quite the drop from when they won four consecutive Stanley Cups.

To make matters worse, the Metropolitan area’s other two teams (Rangers, New Jersey Devils) both won Cups in the 1990s, while the Islanders were unable to replace the immense talent that eventually retired year after year, leaving their roster a shell of its former self.

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Besides not being very good on the ice, the franchise went through more embarrassing moments with an owner (John Spano) who bought the team on credit when he was really broke, and goalie Rick DiPietro’s 15-year contract that he was unable to complete most of due to various injuries.

It is an understatement to say that this team needed a big season more than anyone else. They had been hurting at the gate for the longest time and even their most loyal fans could have stayed away, knowing the inevitable move to the Barclay’s Center. But neither side – the team nor its fans – refused to give in and brought their respective ‘best games’ this season.

Next: New York Islanders Head Into All-Star Break as Division Leader