One of the best parts about SB Nation is that we have easy access to hockey fans from all other teams. Another one of the best parts is that none of us really take ourselves too seriously. This week we are taking a look at how the other members of the new MassMutual NHL East Division feel about the season and the specific situation on their team.
The New York Islanders with Dominik Jansky from Lighthouse Hockey
How strong do you think this year’s Islanders team is?
About as strong as last season. Which is to say, they could just as easily Trotz their way to another another playoff run as they could be on the outside looking in when the whatever natural disaster 2021 is cooking interrupts the season. Last season they were flawed, and some key (but likely overlooked by outsiders) injuries to Adam Pelech and Casey Cizikas exposed their weaknesses, but the addition of J-G Pageau made a difference that became clearer once Pelech and Cizikas returned for the bubble. They are still built like a team that can frustrate anyone on any night but also be undone for several weeks by one wrong injury.
They lost Devon Toews, who was quietly important, but they also gained...well I’ll get to that part later.
How do you think the new division will shake out?
I honestly have no idea, other than the Bank With Patrick Metro Atlantic East Division looks like absolute murder. Even Buffalo (finally? surely?) should be better now. I think the way Trotz builds a metronomic, go-to-work mentality and tight-knit community should help the Islanders be contender for a playoff spot though.
As for where I see each team in this division? I prefer to view the world as if the last 10 months were just a nightmare (I sure hope I wake up soon!), with a brief fun interruption for the playoff bubble, so any new information about other teams is purely hypothetical.
Are we in for any surprises with the 2020-21 Islanders? Any new names we should look out for?
Yes! Noah Dobson isn’t technically a “new” name, but he was kept in the gentle, nurturing womb of “prospect development” last year. One of those kids who was “too good to go back to juniors” but also “too young to replace a Grizzled Veteran without catastrophic injury.” He can skate like Coffey (hey, Flyers era Coffey) and reads the play very well. The loss of Toews hurts, and the Isles bottom two pairings are getting a reset, but Dobson should be a keeper.
Also: Ilya Sorokin, the “Best Goalie Outside the NHL” for several years, at least as far as many could tell while controlling for the uncertainty of a stacked KHL team. He looks really good. At times last season, Thomas Greiss and Ilya Samsanov looked really good. Sometimes prospects go weeks looking really good! But Sorokin appears to have adjusted well, checking all the boxes since making the jump. He even says he prefers the quiet of the Island to the madness of the city.
Otherwise, no. There are no surprises in Lou and Barry’s world. Only things you didn’t know about because you don’t have the right to know.
Do Islanders fans hate the Flyers as much as Flyers fans hate the Islanders?
I would LOVE to see an age map that lines up the Hatred Metrics for our respective fanbases over time. As you can imagine, we have some who still hate the Broad Street Bullies, but all of those fans can die (some already have) in blissful peace because the dynasty soon erased all those bad feelings. We have fans who loathe the Flyers #becausephilly, or because of that long 2009-era streak of futility whenever the Isles faced the Other Orange. I personally still hate Daniel Briere and his cowardly attacks, even though in my head Briere is still an underused Coyote. I’ve long had an irrational appreciation for Scott Mellenby that makes me nostalgic for the ‘80s era orange arms with black outlines. Ron Hextall did a lot of naughty on-ice things, but some of his victims had it coming. (We won’t discuss his worst acts, which occurred every time he suited up as an Islander.)
But do Islanders fans hate the Flyers now? After last year’s playoff dispatch, I think it’s more of an afterthought than at any time in history. The Rangers, even when they stink, will always be the most hated. The Penguins probably run second for a variety of understandable reasons. The Flyers feel more like a brotherly rivalry at this point. But our readers and this season will surely prove me wrong.
Where will you be in your life when Matt Martin’s contract runs out?
I hope I’m still alive! And interacting with the general public.
You know, it’s been six years since Yashin Independence Day, and it feels like we’re a couple of pandemics before the parties for Rick DiPietro (and Bryzgalov’s?) respective parties, so it only feels right to live under the specter of a new oddly long-term commitment. At least they will get more value from this than the Ladd deal...which feels like an appropriate “It could be worse!” measure for pandemic times.
Are you still mad at Pajama Boy?
New arena, who dis?
Oh wait, you mean that guy who kept Butch Goring’s number warm? He was nice! A little stoic. It was a pleasure to watch him blossom, graduate to first-round playoff hero, and grow up to make
Pat Brisson’s his own choices.
I’ll never be upset that he signed with his hometown team, as I can imagine the lure is strong to try to be one of the $10 million fellows who finally ends a championship drought that was already a historical epoch on the day you were born — which itself was like one world wide web ago. The chance to show the Leafs really can win a Cup in a league with more than six teams must be...attractive?
As always, it wasn’t that he changed pajamas (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the outrated Toronto pedants are right, THEY WERE ONLY BED SHEETS); it was how he went about it with an ownership that tried to give him (and his agent, which was stupid, never trust an agent) everything. I will be more bemused than mad...as long as he never wins a Cup with the Leafs.