I know they are not in the playoffs but I am very bullish on the New York Islanders.
John Tavares recorded 67 points as a 20-year-old. He looks to be a dominant or at least exceptional player for the next decade. It never hurts to have a stud centre to build around.
They went 7-8-4, the Islanders did, in March and April and that’s not bad.
PA Parenteau scored 20 goals and 25-30 doesn’t sound out of line for next season. Michael Grabner scored 34 goals in his rookie season and could win the Calder Trophy in a very competitive race.
Travis Hamonic raced up the team’s development ladder to secure a spot as a future shut down defender with a little offence on the side. First-rounder Kyle Okposo has the potential to be a significant scorer into the next decade.
For the future, look no further than Nino Niederreiter. El Nino will dramatically boost the Isles’ energy level and throw in solid scoring to boot.
I could go on. And I could do the same, with different names of course, for the St.Louis Blues, the Carolina Hurricanes or the Dallas Stars.
And that’s why I am here…to deliver a sobering message.
Like any management group, this one began with a solitary goal: to parade the big silver thing down Yonge Street. With a spirited second-half run that included fantastic play from James Reimer
, Dion Phaneuf
, Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn
, Joffrey Lupul
, the whole second line and with Phil Kessel
only a centre away from stardom, the Leafs seem ready to not just make the playoffs but to make some serious noise in the post season.
Coach Ron Wilson said the team was just two or three players away from competing for the Stanley Cup at his end-of-season press-conference.
Absolutely correct, except maybe for the math.
Consider the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup last season. They had Dustin Byfuglien, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane. That’s seven impact players.
The Pittsburgh Penguins of the year before? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Gonchar and Jordan Staal. Count along with me. That’s five.
Detroit in 2007-2008: Nik Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Dominik Hasek, Henrik Zetterberg and if you like, Chris Chelios and Brian Rafalski. Minimum, five.
Look at Brian Burke’s 06-07 Ducks. They had six stars, real stars: Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne are bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Jean-Sebastien Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were and are legitimate stars.
The 2006-2007 Hurricanes made do with Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Mark Recchi, Eric Staal, Doug Weight and Cam Ward.
Now consider some of the present day contenders. Tampa brings Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos to the party. The Flyers lineup includes the in-and-out Pronger, Danny Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Boston brings Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara.
Those are names, real names. Those players are not projected, not hopefuls. No one is basing their projections on half a season of excellent work.
That’s the difference, for the Islanders and yes, for the Maple Leafs.
It may be harder to deliver a Stanley Cup in the future than make the playoffs next season.
I tell you this not to discourage you. You are a Leafs fan, you cannot be discouraged. It’s in your DNA. Pay no heed to the liars who belittle you: unlimited faith comes from unyielding forgiveness and unrelenting optimism. Those are wonderful things.
But this is going to take a while. All you need to do is the math.