UNIONDALE, NY – Buoyed by points in back-to-back wins over playoff-bound teams, Islanders coach Scott Gordon says his team is ready for the challenge of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite standing in last place in the 30-team NHL, Gordon said his team is preparing for the first round against likely top-seeded Boston.
“I know the league’s bylaws say the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs in the conference, but I mean, we shut-out the Red Wings in Detroit,” Gordon said. “Right there, that has to wipe up half of December’s games against mediocre opponents. Besides, the league could use the revenue of an extra round.”
Indeed the Islanders blanked the defending champion Red Wings on the road last week, following that up with a close shootout loss to the Flyers the following night. General manager Garth Snow said he would petition the league for inclusion in the playoffs because of the estimated 10,000 man games lost to injury and the fact the clubs plays in an arena twice condemned by the state health department as inhospitable.
“If our core players didn’t miss so much time, we’d be battling in our division right now,” Snow said. “I don’t want to overstate things, but if we had Rick DiPietro healthy for a full season, our personnel people estimate we’d have between 60-70 wins, easily.”
The Islanders will argue that since less than half the league qualifies for the postseason, it is a shame to suggest the regular season is a viable way to eliminate unqualified teams. Jim Jones, a member of the Isles booster club, echoed that sentiment.
“Come on, I’ve seen CYO leagues that eliminate more teams in the regular season than the NHL,” said Jones, who pushed for adding an extra round with byes worked in to accommodate all teams. “I mean, the team might not have a 20-goal scorer, but pure statistics or records or eyewitness accounts can’t measure how many good young players the Islanders have. I mean sure, our best offensive player is a defenseman, but come on, in any given three month periods, anybody can win five straight best-of-seven rounds. Think about it, we beat Detroit!”
Should the Isles prove successful in its request, they could have a late acquisition to help with the championship run. While refusing to criticize the Town of Hempstead for failing to move quickly on the Lighthouse Project, former Islander Alexei Yashin said he would consider a comeback and guaranteed a 50-goal season with 200 penalty minutes in what he called a special “hybrid” role as sniper/enforcer.
“If it wasn’t for the Town of Hempstead questioning the logic of a $4 billion project, there’s no doubt in my mind the Islanders scouting system would have had intelligent, well-thought out drafts and player development goals,” Yashin said. “I can personally attest to the fact that if they build it, I will come back.
“Like I said, people said I was too soft the first time I was on Long Island. I want to show I can score and fight, sometimes even in the same shift. With new facilities and a world class weight room and surrounding shopping centers and luxury apartments, it’ll be a no-brainer that we can finally win a division.”