A good meal generally begins with a strong appetizer.
For the Islanders and their fans, that appetizer was served up during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season when videos of Captain Anders Lee on the ice during the morning skates surfaced on social media. Lee was on the mend from a serious season ending knee injury that he suffered during the Isles’ 6-3 win over the Devils on March 11th at Nassau Coliseum. Without their Captain, the Islanders made a spirited run during the playoffs, a run that ended with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in game seven of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
If the Islanders’ post-season run and the evidence of their Captain showing progress in his return was the appetizer, then having Lee on the ice for day one of training camp at Northwell Health Ice Center on Thursday was start of what the organization and fans are hoping will be the main course.
“The restrictions are off,” said Lee during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Thursday. “Everything is good. It felt really good to be on the ice with the boys. A good day one of camp here. It was good to get out there and get that under our belts and start this thing off the right way.”
For Lee, getting back on the ice during the spring was one thing but finally reaching the day where all of his hard work had paid off was something special. It was hard for him to watch from the press box as his team made another deep playoff run, but now he is back and ready to lead the Islanders into a new season as the journey for the Stanley Cup continues.
Lee was excited about what his teammates accomplished without him but now he looks forward to helping them finish the job.
“It was really hard to not be on the with your team,” said Lee. “It was tough going through recovery at the same time. We all took on that challenge and the way that they played on the ice was extremely inspiring for me with what I was going through. Physically I feel great. The great thing in camp is you build yourself up to get ready to go. You want to be flying night one.”
If you think that Lee was on cloud nine being able to practice on day one of training camp, just imagine how pumped up his teammates were to see their captain back in action. They were withing one win of getting to a Stanley Cup Final and most of the roster that accomplished that feat is still intact. There were offseason acquisitions like Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise along with the re-signing of Kyle Palmieri, a trade deadline acquisition last season to help fill the void left by Lee’s injury.
And now the captain is back.
“It felt good,” said forward Mat Barzal. “It’s obviously just relieving having (Lee) back out there and seeing him buzz around and look faster than I would even say than last year. He’s obviously in great shape and looks great shooting the puck well. He looks right back to normal so it’s relieving for our group and our organization.”
The excitement around the Islanders heading into this season is through the roof, not the roof that the team blew off of the Nassau Coliseum during the playoffs, but rather the new roof that they will play under this season as they move into their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park. Over the last three seasons, the Islanders have made a steady progression under the leadership of President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz. They’ve won six playoff series and reached the NHL’s final four in consecutive seasons.
With Lee returning from injury, the Islanders are primed to take another step.
“We’ve continued to build each year and I think we’re going into this season looking to do the same,” said Lee.
For Anders Lee and the Islanders, that next step is getting to the Stanley Cup Final and ultimately hoisting Lord Stanley.
Welcome back Anders!