Foundation finally in place for Islanders

The little things added up to wins, playoff appearance and second round advancement, and that built a foundation for the Islanders to succeed now and beyond..

When the Islanders said their goodbyes on Monday, Islanders players, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and Islanders team president Lou Lamoriello mentioned foundation as the buzzword to what was an overachieving season.

Foundation as in knowing how to win and creating a culture for success. To call year one of the Lamoriello/ Trotz era successful is an understatement. No one knew what to expect out of the Islanders this season, especially after John Tavares left to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. They did more than just win. They advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

The Islanders did the little things such as playing defense, blocking shots, making mess of the crease to score this season. It’s an accomplishment in itself since the Islanders played lazy hockey often under the Garth Snow era, and honestly for two decades. Watching them play hockey turned out to be night and day unlike decades’ past. Not only was it hard to believe the Islanders played a structured style of hockey, but the Islanders fan had to pinch himself or herself to make sure Lamoriello and Trotz ran the Islanders as paid professionals.

Fans would have settled for competent hockey and honest day’s work for an honest day pay from the Islanders players this season. They received more than what they bargained for.

Lamoriello and Trotz mapped out their expectations privately to the players that they expect to win starting in training camp even if they did not say so publicly. The players knew what to expect when the Islanders hired Lamoriello and Trotz. The days of accepting losing ended right there.

The presence of the new administration represented culture change, which Lamoriello and Trotz both know how to win and command respect of the players. The players worked hard to meet their expectations from the start of the offseason, and it paid off in the latter months of the season that helped them survive a grueling stretch that was good enough for the Islanders to make the playoffs. They embraced change of sacrificing their offensive game to play defense.

Here’s what was refreshing about the culture change: There was a sense of disappointment from players about not playing anymore this spring when the Islanders cleared out their lockers on Monday. In fact, players expressed disappointment on Friday when the Carolina Hurricanes swept the Islanders in four games. Sure they mentioned it was a fun season, but they wanted more. That’s in contrast to several years ago when the players congratulated themselves for getting to the second round and bowing down to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.

If there was something good about being swept, it was the players telling the media they are determined to work as hard as ever to be in the playoffs next season and do better in the second round.

Yes, foundation has been built in a sense complacency won’t be accepted.

There’s no reason to think this can’t be sustainable. The Islanders are not a Stanley Cup contending team, but they should be contending for the playoffs year in and year out now that foundation is in place.

It’s refreshing from a standpoint of the players, coaches and fans that the Islanders expect to win rather than hope for the win. It’s what this year was all about.

When the Islanders made the playoffs in the few opportunities they had in the last few decades, everyone looked at it as a fluke where everything aligned right. This year brings a different vibe.

For the Islanders’ next trick, it’s about meeting expectations and do even better next year. That means winning more than two games in the second round. No one expects them to win the Stanley Cup next season, but missing the playoffs may as well be a step back to this season.

This administration will see to it complacency won’t be around. The players seek more after this year’s experience that they want to do what it takes to get better. This is what we call a
foundation.

This season was more than just winning. It was about building sustainable success. The Islanders created that, and that’s why this year made it a successful one in a sense foundation has been created.

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