Hey, NY sports fans, Islanders offer a winning alternative
OTTAWA, Ontario — It has been a tough week for New York-area sports fans.
The Yankees lost the ALCS, completing their first pennant-less decade since the 1910s.
The Giants’ and Jets’ young quarterbacks both looked very young in dispiriting home losses.
Top-seeded NYCFC got bounced early from the MLS playoffs.
Kyrie Irving missed a shot at the buzzer in overtime in his Nets debut.
Joe Girardi signed to manage the Phillies. It’s not what you want.
All this as the 2010s head into the home stretch as the worst decade in New York sports (in championship terms, at least) in a hundred years.
So, allow me to offer a suggestion as the holiday season approaches: Adopt the Islanders.
Avid Rangers fans are excused, obviously. But many among you are not big hockey fans and thus can be considered free agents. This is your chance. What have you got to lose, with all the losing going on around you?
Friday night’s 4-2 victory over the Senators, the Isles’ sixth in a row, was a reminder of a few things about them, notably that they are the best hope for a metropolitan-area championship before this time next year.
The only plausible alternative is the Nets, their sometimes Barclays Center arena-mates, but no matter how dynamic Irving has been in two games, he is unlikely to win it all until Kevin Durant joins him in 2020-21.
The NHL playoffs are far less predictable than the NBA’s, so while the Islanders presumably will not be a favorite come spring in the absence of more elite scoring punch, they do have the look of a legitimate contender.
But wait, there’s more! This team is . . . interesting.
The boss is the inscrutable Yoda and three-time Stanley Cup winner Lou Lamoriello, and his trusted lieutenant is the voluble Barry Trotz, who has won a Stanley Cup as a coach.
The roster returned almost intact from last season’s surprise, providing continuity, personality and grit that was in evidence against the Sens, when Trotz briefly had only seven forwards available.
Nick Leddy made like Bobby Orr on an end-to-end rush, added a goal on a penalty shot, then came within a barely detectable Matt Martin deflection of the first hat trick by an Islanders defenseman since Denis Potvin. (Again, Rangers fans are excused from reading any of this, lest they post mean things about me on Twitter.)
“He’s underappreciated around the league,” Trotz said of Leddy. “He’s such a great skater. He’s the fastest guy we have.”
Perhaps, but he is not their most dynamic player. That would be Mathew Barzal, whose style and attitude are a hockey equivalent to Irving.
Even when the Islanders were unwise on Friday, they were spunky. Cal Clutterbuck took 12 minutes in penalties for a fight in the second period when his team was short of forwards, which annoyed Trotz.
Then in the third, when Tyler Ennis tried to poke the puck out of goalie Thomas Greiss’ glove and Greiss shoved him in response, Clutterbuck arrived to tackle Ennis.
Has the fact there were so few changes in the offseason helped fuel the fast start?:
“Two weeks ago when we were 1-3, you (reporters) were probably talking about how it wasn’t the right thing,” Martin said. “Now we’ve won six in a row.
“So at the end of the day we believe in ourselves and we believe in the guys we have in this locker room and the structure and the detail that we play with and we’ve been able to string some wins together and that’s what this league is all about.
“When you’re going well you just want to keep it going. There will come a time where we’ll have to battle through some adversity, but if we build ourselves a cushion now, build ourselves enough wins, we’ll be OK.”
Then Martin limped off to the showers. His father-in-law, WFAN host Boomer Esiason, is an outspoken Rangers fan, so he is exempt from formal adoption beyond his basic family obligations.
As for the rest of you: Yes! Yes! Yes! Why not?