Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Flounder Earns Its Stripes

Or something less fishy.

In its preview of last night's game between the Islanders and Oilers, one of the Canadian news outlets referred to the 30th place Islanders as floundering. On the surface, it's hard to argue with that assessment given their record.

But floundering just doesn't seem like an accurate description for this group. The Senators, Penguins (recently), and Lightning are floundering. The Mets have floundered a good deal over the last two Septembers, as did the Jets this past December.

I guess, to me, floundering requires some expectation of a level of success. For the Islanders, this season, that expectation is gone. Their on-ice performance rarely causes me to think, "Wow, they are really floundering tonight." Most nights, they are what they are: competitive, but just not good enough.

To suggest that they are floundering implies that they are finding ways to underperform on a regular basis. While I do think they should have won several more games at this point, and have lost some due to misfortune or their own preventable mistakes, most of the time they are simply coming up short. They are not choking or wasting opportunities or talent like the other previously mentioned teams.

Perhaps that is why these long stretches of losing are not as disheartening as you would expect them to be.

Plus, there are moments like last night's first period when the future and its promise looks not so far away. Kyle Okposo cashes in on a turnover with a wicked shot, a goal-scorer's goal, that beats Dwayne Roloson clean to the upper-right corner (even if Okposo might have gotten some extra torque from the defenseman's stick). And then Josh Bailey makes a nifty touch dish to Blake Comeau who scores a clutch goal with just over two seconds left in the period to give the Isles a (surmountable) 2-0 lead.

Those are the moments we're rooting for now. The more of them we see, the sooner we'll have better things to root for.

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