How the Islanders current success could help the Rangers

Getty Images

Admit it! You’re concerned! Not quite worried, but concerned. Each time you look at the NHL Eastern Conference standings, specifically, the Metropolitan Division, you see the name of a hockey team that, over the last 30 years, is more suited to be towards the bottom half with the also-rans instead of being among the big boys.

After all, if you’re under the age of 40, you’ve probably never been subjected to an Islander victory parade down that crowded thoroughfare on Long Island called Hempstead Turnpike. No, the motorcades back then did not have to stop at red lights, although, with all the red light cameras inundating Long Island roads and streets, that may have to change.

Red-hot Isles

The New York Islanders, that vagabond franchise that has not finished atop of any NHL division since 1988, is now the hottest team in all of sports. So hot that they are on a points streak the likes of which hearkens back to their Stanley Cup-winning glory days of the early 1980s. Void of any real superstars and currently without a permanent home arena, the Islanders are proving that old sports adage, “you don’t need great players to have a great team. “

The Islanders are fully committed to head coach Barry Trotz’s team-first mantra and defense-first system. The Islanders are fully committed to playing the game the “right way.” The Islanders are fully committed to the stated sports fact of winning by having more goals, runs, or points than the opposition. Folks, television announcers during the various pregame shows give keys to victory. The only key is to simply have one more (fill in the appropriate scoring term) than your opponent. The Islanders are the embodiment of that time-tested simplistic sports fact.

Looking At Their Success

Why am I waxing poetic about the New York Rangers’ not-so-friendly neighbors to the east? Why am I showering the team’s biggest rival with praise and admiration? Well, as each member of the Garden Faithful can attest to, the early season problems that have been plaguing the Blueshirts are poor defensive zone coverage, individual players not adhering to the team concept, and most egregiously, failing to clear the crease in front of the constantly-under-siege Ranger goalies.

The Rangers need only to take a gander out across the East River on to the borough of Brooklyn or the town of Uniondale to see how it’s done as far as D-zone coverage, patrolling the crease and five-man units acting as one are concerned.

Yes, the Rangers are young. The youngest team in the NHL. Yes, assistant coach Lindy Ruff seems to have had the game pass him by as his coverage schemes appear to lack in creativity and cohesion. But, if the Rangers are ever going to become a consistently winning team, the aforementioned systemic blemishes need to be addressed and fixed sooner rather than later.

They’d never admit this publicly, but I believe that all players on the three local teams, privately, follow the other two very carefully. The Rangers are far below the Islanders in the standings, and that gap in points keeps widening as the Islanders refuse to lose in regulation time.

Copying Success

Could the meteoric success of the Islanders help to propel the Rangers to loftier heights? Could the example the Islanders are setting of team+scheme=green help the Baby Blueshirts understand what it takes to be consistent and win on the NHL level? It has been a long time since the Islanders were the darlings of the NHL. It has been a long time since the Islanders franchise made the New York tabloids with positive headlines and affirmative news stories.

The New York Rangers are used to being the Big Brothers of New York hockey. Right now, they are nothing more than a plebe at the very start of the rebuilding process. Ranger fans are concerned all right: Concerned the Islanders will reach the promised land before the Rangers rebuild is complete and accept that beautiful silver chalice from Commissioner Bettman at their home arena du jour.

Editor’s Note: I’ve seen this Islanders story before. All I‘ll say is they don’t award the Stanley Cup in December. -Anthony