The Islanders season is just 125 minutes old, and a ton has already happened. Three points out of four? Not bad. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Let's review this young season after two games...
- Injuries: They happen. Do they knock out your three best players before the end of the first period of your first game? Not really. But the Islanders should be used to fighting back from injuries. These Islanders cannot use the injuries to Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares as an excuse. I don't care what the front office says about rebuilding; this year has to be the year the Islanders go to the playoffs.
(Just a quick note about Tavares... I've suffered from four concussions that I know about. The most recent was in 2007 in a car accident; it was also the only one that prompted me to see a doctor or even stop what I was doing. As it happens, I can't recall a week over the past two years when I haven't had a migraine. Coincidence? I think not. After watching the Mets nearly kill Ryan Church and Jason Bay in recent years, please Islanders, I beg of you, do not rush John Tavares back.)
- Rick DiPietro: Couldn't be happier that Ricky is back among the active and healthy. His first two games have been a bit spotty, but this is what happens when you've played roughly a dozen games in the past two years. It takes a while to play the game in an ultra-competitive setting. I'm willing to spot him the occasional bad goal, especially as he gets his bearings back.
Of course, his rust hasn't stopped people on the comment boards and forums from proclaiming DP as the Antichrist. Do you people even realize how easy it would have been for Rick DiPietro to quit? How can you not admire someone who fights back like that? Nevermind that DP signed his future to this team at a time when they had just brought Garth Snow in as GM and nobody wanted anything to do with the Islanders. Me, I gladly welcome DiPietro back, and I look forward to seeing him return to form.
- Offense: Love it. In fact, from now on, when I do my online betting, I'm taking the over in every Islanders game. This team can score, and the power play is red-hot. Let's not forget this outburst has come without the Islanders' top three point scorers from last year. The big stories are the emergence of Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey as big-game players. While the odds of Comeau and Bailey producing at this level for the duration of the season are long indeed, both players should be counted on for at least 20 goals each in 2010-11.
- The Wisniewski Incident: This is one of those stories, that quite frankly, wouldn't even be an issue if the Internet didn't exist. An isolated incident becomes a huge story because YouTube can quickly spread around the "offensive" action, and the blogosphere, talking heads and Twitter people can debate the issue ad nauseum. The other side of the issue, of course, is that people wouldn't feel the need to debate the possible consequences so fervently if the NHL actually used consistency when disciplining wrongdoers, but that's a different story altogether.
What does Wisniewski deserve? One game. Let's face it, the incident was hardly incendiary, but the NHL has to establish a precedent when it comes to on-ice conduct that doesn't involve maiming someone. The whole "first-time offender" argument won't save Wisniewski, as the NHL simply must make him a sacrificial lamb so that players won't think they can get away with these actions. You could argue that Sean Avery is implicit in this incident, but you have to know he's going to try to get under your skin, so you shouldn't do anything stupid. Like, you know, simulating a BJ right in front of a referee.
- New Goal Song: For those who haven't heard, the Islanders players have requested a change to their goal song. The request was made at the behest of Zenon Konopka, who chose a song called "Live is Life" by Opus. While I enjoy the irony of a player with six career goals spurring the charge to change the team goal song, and I don't particularly care for the new song - I'm also a huge Pennywise fan - at least the Islanders are trying to do something different. That's always a good thing as you try to establish your own identity. The subtext to all of this is that these Islanders are a unified team. They're on the same page, both on and off the ice. You can't ask for more than that.
- Low Attendance: I'm not surprised. Before the season started, I wrote that the Islanders were drastically increasing expectations when they drastically increased their ticket prices. Right now, Long Island sees the Islanders as the sad-sack team they've always been. The only thing that can change this perception is by winning. A lot.
One thing we can't forget is that virtually all of Long Island - and everywhere else, for that matter - is broke. Zach is fond of saying that Long Island is a great place to live if you have money. For those of us who don't, though, it's not so easy. Personally, I can't see myself getting to the Coliseum even once this year, and that's with two jobs. I'm far from the only one in this predicament. Dee Karl echoed many of these sentiments earlier today. The Islanders are going to have to do something about these ticket prices or else face seeing many, many empty seats.
One last thing about attendance. Whose bright idea was it to schedule a rivalry game on Columbus Day?!? This is a day that's usually targeted towards families, who generally don't want to buy tickets to what may be a fight-filled game. It's also not really ideal for working adults, many of whom didn't have today off, myself included. Just a disaster all-around. When the fans of two teams can't fill up your arena, somebody screwed up big-time.