[Editor's Note: Islanders fans, we want to hear from you and share some of your viewpoints. Tweet @ChrisBottaNHL before 11:59 pm on Friday, Aug. 3 to share your prediction -- at this moment -- of where the Islanders will finish in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of 2018-19. We need the number (first? 6th? 12th?) and brief thought summarizing why. Your tweet may be used in a future Point Blank piece.]
You are Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Fame architect. You've taken over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons and won one playoff round since 1993. Then, through no fault of your own, you lose your most celebrated player to free agency.
Suddenly, the new job is eerily familiar to your previous one with the Maple Leafs. There, you started with a thin roster and a top coach, Mike Babcock. But in 2016, you had the first pick in the draft and were gifted Auston Matthews.
With the Islanders, the best piece you've added early on, and it's a massive one, is Barry Trotz. So now you've got your Cup-winning coach, instant credibility, a strong and respected voice.
After the star leaves for Toronto, there are two ways you can go in July: trade in some of the few assets you have to plug holes, or even reach for a star like Erik Karlsson in a desperate move for immediate relevance and a low playoff seed.
Or you can take your sweet-ass time, build a genuine Stanley Cup contender for your new arena in three or four years in Belmont Park, and play the Us Against the World card.
What do you do? What do you do?
Lamoriello did the right thing - -and now he has the unanimous support of Islanders Country, which is divided these days between "We Gonna Suck Again and That's Okay" and "We'll Show Them"!
Both sides are right.
Look, in the first week of August, you can't go wrong picking a poor hockey team to be much better than everyone else expects them to be.
For starters, we're in the middle of glorious Long Island summer, so go ahead and suck in that fresh air and those cold brews and feel free to be bold about your favorite sports team.
Also, let's face it: if you're wrong, few will remember and no one will hold it against you.
In reality, the Islanders are exactly where Lamoriello and Trotz want them: with no expectations, with no place to go from here but up. It's a place every hockey boss loves to be: us against them, everyone's picking us for 13th in the conference or worse.
Mike Milbury had his "Screw the Rangers, Screw the Devils." Ted Nolan had that playoff edition of The Hockey News in April of 2006 that didn't include the Islanders…as the Islanders were playing in the 2006 playoffs. Even John Tavares would get fired up when his Islanders were counted out, and the captain would receive fiery support from veterans like Cal Clutterbuck and Johnny Boychuk.
Lamoriello and Trotz won't be as flashy or provocative. They'll continue to do as they already have - tell everyone they're here to win, that these players are better than you think, that Josh Ho-Sang is a rare young talent and they can't wait to work with him. It's called marketing, building value. When passionate guys John Tortorella criticize their own players, it never increases their trade value, that's for sure.
In all likelihood, the Islanders won't be very good this season. But one thing they have going for them is they're not alone. All they have to do is look at the Rangers, who may fight just to be near NHL .500.
The Atlantic Division has four teams that are either a mess, rebuilding, or both: Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa and Buffalo (the Sabres have entered the category of "One of these years…").
As for the Metropolitan?
An Aug. 2 snapshot of the Metropolitan Division
Washington: Champions kept the core, but change to associate coach and a Cup hangover could present challenges
Columbus: Too much talent to not be at least a playoff lock
Pittsburgh: Penguins usually take a while to get into gear and find the right balance of grinders and dmen, but have the big stars and a strong goaltender
Philadelphia: Getting a little better every year, and James van Riemsdyk will help
New Jersey: GM Ray Shero didn't make a major move this offseason, which certainly shows confidence
Islanders: Hall of Fame GM, Cup-winning head coach, thin at forward, average (if they overachieve) at D, fascinating but suspect goaltending
Carolina: It's always strange when an Islanders person looks at another team and thinks, "Man, that ownership situation is wacky"!
Rangers: In a way, it's the same story as when they were contenders. If they are to surprise this season, it comes down to Hank.
The view in early August - more than a month before Camp Trotz opens and the optimism really ramps up - is that the Islanders will battle, won't suck, will hang around the wild card longer than expected, but just don't have the horses for the 82-game race. In the best-case scenario, they fall late in the hunt for the next Tavares, Matthews.
What do you think?