What would they do with their abundant amount of Unrestricted Free Agents, including 40 goal scorer Jason Blake and trade deadline acquisition Ryan Smyth?
It appeared from the very beginning that Blake would be packing his bags and it came to fruition when he signed a mega 5-year, $20 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Garth Snow was hesitant to sign the vet to a long term deal based on one outstanding season. Smyth decided to move to Denver, and that was pretty much how the Summer went for the Isles, who lost half of their team to free agency.
With the team basically gutted from inside out, the media scrutiny was at its peak. The organization was in so much disarray that Snow was prompted to tell fans that they needed to show patience and trust in the team. Mike Bossy did his part by posting on the team site that he had a lot of faith in what the organization was doing.
Things quieted down, and the Islanders made a few under-the-radar signings, bringing in Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Andy Sutton, and Jozef Vasicek, in addition to the July 1 signing of Jonathan Sim and bringing back gritty winger Sean Bergenheim from Europe. Bryan Berard even made the team following his tryout, and is slowly coming into his own as the team's powerplay quarterback.
On paper, the team looked as if it would be battling for last place the entire season. The media once again showed no respect for Long Island's lone professional sports franchise. Hockey "experts" predicted the Islanders to finish in last place. Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah. It happened last year.
Wasn't that the year that the Isles made big strides, pulled off a completely unforeseen and unexpected trade for winger Ryan Smyth, and went into the playoffs coming off of an incredible run with 13 points in their last ten games and playing their best hockey of the year?
But it seems as though the analysts have learned absolutely nothing. That doesn't bother the Isles the least bit, as they enjoy being the underdogs. With no expectations at all, the team is getting it together and playing much better than anticipated, going 9-5 to begin the season, and the expectations are rising. The signings of Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and co. are revitalizing the team that wants to finally show its fans that they are serious about winning NOW.
Things are looking up on the Island.
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