It’s been six days since the Islanders left the Amalie Arena ice after a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss in game seven. While the sting of the season ending is still relatively fresh, exit interviews have been completed so it’s time to take a look back at the season as a whole.
Obviously, winning the Stanley Cup was the ultimate goal, as it is for all teams, but only one team and one fan base can be happy after the final game of the season. The Isles got one step closer to the ultimate prize and did so by once again, proving almost everybody wrong. Underdogs in each series, the Isles consistently showed they belong with the league’s elite.
“It sucks how it finished, but at the end of the day, we had a great run again,” Jean-Gabriel Pageau said during his exit interview. “We were able to create an identity or culture to make the Islanders a tough team to play against. It you’re going to play us; it’s going to hurt. It’s going to be tough to beat us.”
That is certainly something to take pride in and is something the rest of the league took note of. When Lou Lamoriello came here just over three years ago, he was tasked with reviving a once proud franchise and restoring the identity of the Islanders to where it was during the dynasty years. The results have spoken for themselves: playoff berths each year, advancing past the first round in each year, back-to-back conference final/semi-final berths.
“You have to keep going back,” head coach Barry Trotz said in his presser following Game 7. “The future looks really bright; we’re starting to have a constant effect at being a threat and that’s all we want to be. In this business, that’s all you can be is a consistent threat to winning the Stanley Cup year-in and year-out.”
For the first time in almost 40 years, the Islanders are truly a consistent threat to win a Stanley Cup and have established a hardworking, hard to beat identity throughout the league. Since Trotz and Lamoriello arrived, no team has played more playoff games than the Isles’ 49. Even more impressive was the fact they went on these two deep runs during a global pandemic one year, and without their captain the next. Resiliency is this group’s calling card and is certainly an important trait for any team to have if they want to win the whole thing.
Mat Barzal after being named First Star in Game 4: "Let's Go. Our house" pic.twitter.com/IZSZ4dkWZA
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) June 6, 2021
Perhaps the best part of this year’s run was the impact it had on the fans and the community. Last year, the Isles had their deepest postseason run in decades but played those games thousands of miles away in empty buildings. This season — the final year at Nassau Coliseum — provided the Islander faithful an opportunity to send their historic barn out the right way. Two series clinchers on home ice and of course the memorable game six last week with Anthony Beauvillier blowing the roof of the building with his OT winner.
The national spotlight was on the Islanders, and they showed out along with the fans. The organization and fanbase did an incredible job showing the rest of the world how important this team is to the community and how incredible of a building the Coli is. The organization finally has stability and respect, and most importantly, a bright future as they move into a gorgeous new building at Belmont Park.
GAME. WINNER. pic.twitter.com/0GRNcOrHIw
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 24, 2021
There is a lot of roster work to be done in the offseason, but the Islanders have laid the foundation and there should be hope amongst Isles fans that this team can get over the hump.
“A lot of teams that win, they’ve been in spots like that,” Adam Pelech said. “They’ve gone to conference finals and lost in Game 7. It’s not always the first time or the second time, that you’re going to win. You need to go through that and grow as a group, you need to be ready for the next time and take that opportunity.”
This is a special group of players that will have an even greater chip on their shoulder going into next year. They will be overlooked and doubted once again that’s for sure, but the players in that room believe they can achieve greatness, and I can’t wait to see them prove the world wrong once again.
Follow Ethan on Twitter @egreenberg99