We are in the midst of the NHL Conference Finals with New York Rangers fans forced to watch the hated Islanders one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
Admit it New York Rangers fans, you are watching. As much as you really don’t want to watch the New York Islanders play hockey, you are watching. And honestly, the hockey that has originated out of the two NHL bubbles this summer has been really good hockey to watch. But did it have to be the Islanders?
This very unique Stanley Cup tournament has been a godsend, not only for true hockey fans, but for any sports fan. It came when the need for a sports fix was at its peak. It came when there was a complete lack of entertainment options on television. It continues now as the weather in the northeast begins to chill and the kids are figuring out how to navigate the new school year.
The NHL is providing a thoroughly entertaining distraction. But did it have to be the Islanders?
Should Rangers fans envy the Islanders at this point? Are fans watching the Fishsticks play the Tampa Bay Lighting and wishing it was the Rangers?
Yes, there are things to admire about the Islanders. They play a brand of hockey that is similar to how the Rangers played under John Tortorella. Hard working, shot blocking, team first attitude.
But also like the Rangers under Tortorella, they really do lack a superstar. Matt Barzal is a talented and fun player to watch with plenty of potential but not yet a superstar by any stretch. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is very good but more likely he will just always haunt the Rangers fan base for his performance in the 2017 playoffs rather than inspire envy.
Anders Lee is a throwback to days of Tim Kerr, don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing honestly, and neither of their goalies would be on the top on anyone’s trade target list. Nothing to envy there either.
So what is there to envy about the Islanders?
They have a hell of coach. Barry Trotz has proven time and again that he is one of the best coaches in the game right now, just ask the Washington Capitals.
The Islanders have one of the best general managers/team presidents in Lou Lamoriello. Rangers fans are only too familiar with the torment he caused the Blueshirts while leading the New Jersey Devils.
Would you trade John Davidson for Lou Lamoriello? A true Ranger fan would never. JD is Ranger royalty. Would you want Barry Trotz behind the Rangers bench in place of David Quinn? That may be a better discussion after next season.
Yes, envy of anything the Islanders have is just something Rangers fans will fight with every fiber in their being, but honestly there isn’t much there to envy.
You can envy the playoff success over the past two years, but let’s remember they were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes last year, much like the Rangers this year.
They really got a sweet draw in this year’s tournament, playing the Florida Panthers in the Q-round and then matching up against the uninspired and poorly coached Washington Capitals in First Round.
Next up was Alain Vigneault and the Philadelphia Flyers. While the Flyers grabbed the top seed in the Eastern Conference for this tournament, and were playing pretty well, any Rangers fan knows that when the chips are down, Vigneault led teams are giving up late leads in playoff games. That’s a bad trait when you are playing a hard working team like the Islanders.
While we are here, can we take a quick look at the Flyers? After watching the series between the Flyers and Islanders, is there one player on the Flyers who the Rangers would trade contract for contract right now? Not a chance.
Claude Giroux was a no show and Kevin Hayes proved the Rangers did the right thing by not making him their number two center for seven years at $7 mil per. Sean Couturier was hurt for most of the series, but he may be the most appealing candidate with his $4.3 million deal, especially when the only Ranger player with a similar salary is Brendan Smith.
So hurray for the Islanders for beating the Flyers to advance to the Conference Finals, but excuse me if I don’t think winning that series put the Islanders at a whole new level.
So the question again. Should Ranger fans envy the Islanders team that is facing the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Conference Finals?
Of course not!
The Islanders are good team, but they certainly shouldn’t inspire envy in Rangers fans. This Islander team has a ceiling, and after the first game on the series against the Lightning, it appears they are already banging their heads against said ceiling.
The Rangers are in the process of building a team that has no ceiling….or at least if there is one it is way higher than the one the Islanders have right now.
Fans should take the promise of the Rangers future over the current success of the Islanders.