As Good As The 2014-15 Season Was, It Was Also A Letdown On Numerous Levels

By Daniel Friedman
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It’s the end of an era for the New York Islanders.

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Faced with the task of beating Washington in a do-or-die Game 7, the Isles came out flat and paid the price. As a result, their season – as well as their time on Long Island – has come to a tragic end.

It shouldn’t have been this way. There should’ve been more hockey to be played. The Islanders had the momentum going into the decisive game and simply didn’t show up for 40 minutes. If that isn’t an accurate depiction of their season in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

And let’s talk about that season, because it was still a special one by many accounts, as there were plenty of positives, plenty of great moments.

However, there were also some glaring negatives. The team did not win consecutive games between Feb. 27 and the end of the first round. They began blowing leads and not playing a consistent 60 minutes, particularly late in the season in the two games against Columbus and the one against Philadelphia.

They came into the playoffs on that note, and though there was an improvement, they lost some of the games in this series in similar fashion, blowing two separate leads in Game 2, not showing up for Game 5 and doing the same for much of Game 7.

One thing I will say is for someone who had been cast as a supposed liability for the Islanders, Jaroslav Halak was fantastic in this series. He stole Game 6, as far as I’m concerned, and made so many key saves in key moments. He was very good. He was anything but a liability.

It’s very easy to look at the standings and say that this team isn’t really deserving of criticism. After all, the Isles finished with 101 points, were fourth in the NHL in goals per game and were among the top 10 in power play percentage for much of the 2014-15 season.

But in doing so, you mask the issues this team — good as it may be — still has. The fact is, the Islanders were not particularly good down the stretch, their offense stopped clicking because it could not adjust to the “playoff” brand of hockey that was being played as we got closer to (and into) the postseason, and their power play turned sour.

So, given these two vastly different perspectives to view the Islanders from, which one do we choose?

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The answer to that is, we have to look at this team through both lenses.

The Islanders are very talented and capable of great things, as we saw in the first half of the season and at times during the playoffs. That having been said, they are also very much a work in progress. This is a team that’s still missing a few key pieces and, in this writer’s opinion, a more seasoned and decorated head coach.

We can talk about individual mistakes and coaching decisions (which, don’t get me wrong, should still be talked about), but the bottom line is, you can’t wait until late in the second period to wake up in a Game 7 and expect to win. The Isles learned that the hard way on Monday night, and it’s something that will fuel them going forward.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the loss is an invaluable lesson for the younger players in that locker room. They underachieved, and they should know that. They should remember that stinging feeling and never want to experience it again.

As for Garth Snow and the front office, perhaps that same sting motivates him to make some moves between now and next season, so that this already-talented hockey club is even more prepared going forward.

The Islanders should be proud of the season they had, on the one hand. On the other, they shouldn’t let it mask the reality of the situation, which is that they need to improve in multiple areas. Maybe you trade someone like Griffin Reinhart in a package for a veteran scoring winger. Perhaps you go out and hire a Ken Hitchcock or Claude Julien (should either or both become available).

Get the phone lines working and make this team better.

It’s incredibly hard to seem them leave, but even if it was too short, they put on quite the final performance at the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike. I know I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the 2014-15 edition of this hockey team.

The torch will be passed on from the Coliseum to Barclays Center. Some things will never be the same, but for the Islanders, hopefully, they build upon the successes they did have this season.

No sleep till Brooklyn.

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Follow Daniel Friedman on Twitter at @DFriedmanOnNYI