You may or may not be aware of this by now, but the Flyers got eliminated from the #yoffs last week.
Yet another year of Flyers hockey has gone by, and yet another year of heart break.
This is something that you obviously already know. You also obviously have been reading ALL of the ‘ways to fix the Flyers,’ ‘who to point the finger at,’ and ‘house money’ articles out there with each hot take being hotter and takier than the previous.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some takes to hot myself, but there is an entire summer to worry about that. Our season may be over but the hockey season is not!
Sadly, just as wearing my Hextall jersey on opening night has become a tradition, so has picking a new team to root for (with the exception of 1997 and 2010). This is the time of the year where I get to pick which bandwagon to hitch my wagon to!
So – unlike when I was single – there are 8 different options for me to choose who to swear my allegiance to. Do I go fins up for the Sharks? Go Blue for the Blues? Pred-a-tate for the Preds? Bunch mox for the Stars? Pengu…(JUST NO!) Capitalize on the Caps? Bolt for the Lighting? Or do I go long for the Isles?
The obvious choice is to root for the same team that Kevin Connelly roots for, the Islanders!
I’m serious! I really, truly, and genuinely want the Islanders to win for these reasons 3:
Reason 1) The Islanders and their fans deserve it!
How could a team that won 4 Stanley Cups in a row in their history deserve another? Because they have been eating buckets of crap ever since the last Cup they won in 1983.
Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘The Flyers own all things miserable and how dare anyone even fain cynicism?’
Sure, it’s been a rough couple (or four) decades since the Flyers won the big one, but with the exception of a handful of years, The Orange and Black have always been competitive, if not legitimate contenders.
The Islanders however, have had Mike Milbury as a coach and GM. They traded away Zdeno Chara just as he was hitting his prime for Alexi Yashon who (I think) they just stopped paying. Tommy Salo was their last “legit” number one goalie before Rick DiPietro. They drafted DiPietro first overall and traded away Roberto Luongo right before he hit his prime to make room for Ricky D – whom they are still paying to not play hockey for them.
And this is just on the hockey ops side!
There is a literal documentary that the aforementioned, Kevin Connolly made about the criminally disastrous ownership of John Spano. Then there was the well intended, but differently disastrous ownership of Charles Wang. Which then immediately brings to mind how Nassua County ostensibly voting for the team off the island..
As if all of these reasons aren’t bad enough, there’s this eyesore:
(For the record, I loved the Gorton’s Fisherman jersey)
The point being is that, yes, things been tough here in Philly, but if you’re an Islanders fan….whoa boy you deserve to be rewarded for your perseverance.
Unless you’re a hispter Brooklynyte who just started following the team. Don’t love the Islanders because of the irony that it’s “not cool” to love them. Love them because just about every situation like this would have resulted with the team moving far far away.
The resolve of the current management, team, and fan base is commendable.
Reason 2) Thomas Greiss
I picked the Panthers to beat the Islanders in 3 games because I thought that there was no possible way that a team with Greiss in goal was never going to beat anybody over a seven game series.
In this regard, I feel it is worth mentioning that I was planning on epitaph reading, “Oh Man Was I Wrong.”
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, Greiss is not Tim Thomas circa 2011, but he is far and away exceeding expectations. Grant Fuhr used to say that ‘you don’t have to be good enough to win the game, you just have to be good enough to not lose.’
Again, Greiss isn’t changing the position as we know visa vie Jonathan Quick in 2012, but he is battling his ass off and it is super fun to watch him and this team survive and claw their out victories!
The playoffs in hockey are particularly enthralling because there are always players like Greiss who find a superhero-esque level of performance that writes a narrative that we cannot turn away from.
Which brings me to…
Reason 3) John Tavares!
John Tavares is literally the original Exceptional hockey player because he was so good as a teenager, they created a rule to let him play Junior a year early. Despite this, he does not get the attention that Crosby, Ovechkin, Lunqvist, Giroux, or even Bergeron gets. It is therefore, very easy to not notice how great a hockey player he is.
This playoff season however, it is impossible to take your eyes off of him especially when essentially ties and wins games by himself:
Right now, Tavares is playing with such sheer will, and determination that if he and the Isles are able to continue, we will remember this performance for decades to come just as we remember Keith Primeau in 2004, John Druce in 1989, Brian Leetch in 1994, or Lemieux in 1991.
Number 91 for Brooklyn right now is in complete control when he’s on the ice. I don’t care how old you are or how long you’ve been a fan – we watch this game to witness masterpiece performances like the one Tavares is putting together right now.
Will Johnny T be able to continue to ride (and in this case, defeat) the Lighting? Perhaps. But the fact of the matter is that there are no accidental Stanley Cup winners. If the Islanders wagon is going to continue on, they’re going to need whatever is inflating their bubble to keep pumping them up without bursting it.
Regardless of who wins and no matter the circumstances, each season is a story in it of itself. We find the playoffs so compelling because they are the climax and conclusion to that story.
So, even though I’m rooting for the Islanders to continue on their improbable journey, I really don’t care who wins because the 2015-16 tale has been yet another great one…
…just as long the Penguins don’t end as the victors.