Gone are the penny-pinching days of old, where Islanders fans chanted "Save Us, Spano" or "Sell Our Team!" The New York Islanders are no longer the laughing stock of the league. That is not to say they are suddenly the number one contender. But they have caught the eye of the NHL and have the unique opportunity to capture the hearts of hockey fans across the globe.
When the Islanders acquired Roman Hamrlik, the young defenseman was noticibly disturbed. Concerned about playing for a team with no desire to win, Hamrlik was unsure about his future with the team and even considered asking for a trade. He had not yet heard that the Islanders were under new ownership and had committed to making a run at the playoffs.
Once again, the Islanders have developed a reputation. Unlike the reputation they had built in the 70s and 80s, a reputation of dedication, domination and victory, the Islanders of the 90s were tight-fisted and dedicated only to the bottom line. That image will be much harder to shake. Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar have the Islanders finally moving on the right track.
Joining Hamrlik and John Vanbiesbrouck, unrestricted free agents Mike Stapleton and Kevin Haller have become the most recent addition to the Islanders.
Mike Stapleton is a checking center in the mold of Claude Lapointe. The kind of player who gives it his all every shift, and a great locker room guy. His presence and experience should help bring the young Islanders along and help them fill their potential that much quicker.
Kevin Haller is the tough-as-nails, stay at home defenseman the Islanders sought over the past several seasons. The Islanders believe he and Hamrlik will ease the strain on Captain Kenny Jonsson, allowing him to return to form.
With the recent moves, the Islanders have sped up their development, they believe, without jeopardizing the nucleus that will be the nucleus of the Islanders over the next several years. They hope they have found the right blend of veteran leadership along with young, up and coming talent to take them to the playoffs for the first time in 7 years.
Islanders fans everywhere have dreamed of the post-season for way too long. Should the Islanders be able to fight their way there in the 00-01 season, Mr. Wang and Mr. Kumar deserve to be forever immortalized in the Islanders Hall of Fame. Look for the Islanders to be playing hockey in mid-April. That is not as far fetched as it once seemed.