It’s been a long and winding road for the New York Islanders as they enter their last year in the 516 area code.
Will they go out with a bang or just slink to Brooklyn without giving their loyal fans a proper goodbye.
“There are a lot of loyal fans here, and we want to make it special for them, though obviously it’s not something we’re going to think about every day,” said coach Jack Capuano as camp opened on Friday to reporters. “We have to have that singular focus; we want to get the feeling back we had against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. That will motivate us.”
There’s a different feeling coming into 2014-15. The Islanders are expected to be at least competitive if not be playoff team with ambitions in April. Happy being there won’t cut it, rather the team needs to take it to another level and make some noise as it closes out the old barn.
First things first, though. The Islanders need to make sure everything is ok at home and that includes their captain John Tavares, who is coming back a knee injury sustain in the Olympics, ended his season.
“I’m really anxious to dive right back into it,” he said. “The nerves and energy getting ready for the season were there. If I ever lose that feeling, I shouldn’t be playing. This is what I love to do. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Ultimately, the Islanders season will come down to how quickly the team jells together. A new goalie in Jaroslav Halak gives the Islanders more stability in the net, while Russian forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin, give the Islanders a veteran presence on the ice to go with the strength of Tavares’s top line.
It’s how those pieces fit together that will dictate how the Islander season will progress. With new ownership coming in and Brooklyn bound, the Islanders want and maybe even need to make some noise this year, so there will be excitement for them in Kings County.
And that may mean Capuano may be on the hot seat if he doesn’t produce quickly.
The coach, though, is looking forward to the challenge.
“We had a long summer — too long — so we’re all happy to be back,” Capuano said. “I like the fact that we push one another. We’re going to maximize that. And it’s really good to see Johnny back out there. He wants to get back to leading this hockey club.”
The last season in Nassau will be an interesting on to say the least.