Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Can it get any worse?

If there was ever a team that needed to avoid the injury bug, it was the Islanders.

With a new coach, a new system and young players being plugged into the lineup, having the team stay healthy is all the fans really could have asked for. Expectations were low, but if the team was healthy we could have had a better idea of what the Islanders have to work with and see if they could begin building something.

Alas, life is not fair. The Isles have been hammered by injuries all season, the latest casualties being Andy Sutton (broken foot) and leading scorer Doug Weight (groin). Trent Hunter is back, but Mike Sillinger is still out, as is Rick DiPietro, who is being given plenty of time to come back from his knee surgery.

After all , what's the rush?

The Islanders saw a rally go for naught in a 4-2 loss to the awful Thrashers Tuesday night, and head into the Christmas break on a 10-game winless streak. Ten games! I feel privileged to have been there in person to see the only point gained in that stretch, the overtime loss to the Caps.

So that's a winless December for the Islanders, who are the only team in the area playing worse than the Jets, the other team I root for. Have I mentioned I'm a Mets fan, too? Bad times, people. Bad times.

We'd like to imagine what the Islanders' record would be had players like Martinek and Gervais and Comrie and Nielsen and Okposo not missed so much time, or if DiPietro had been able to start the season and stay here. But injuries are part of the game and no one has any sympathy.

Would the Isles be in first place? No. In contention for the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not. But we'd have a better read on Gordon and his system and whether it can work in the NHL or not.

We know it's an offense-first system that puts pressure on the defense, and Brendan Witt was right when pointed out the obvious. Gordon needs to figure out what works and what doesn't, and it would be a lot easier had he had a full deck to deal with. But he doesn't, and this team was talent-challenged to begin with.

Here's hoping the new year brings with it better health and at least gives this team the chance to play together for a while and make some progress.

Is that too much to ask for, Santa?

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