Islanders Season Ends, Nets Welcome Atkinson As New Head Coach

Brooklyn Nets

On the Ice

The New York Islanders season went up in smoke on Sunday after getting bounced from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Losing 4-0 at Amalie Arena, the Lightning finished off the Isles to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season. 

After winning the first game of the series, there was no question that the Islanders had a great chance to go ahead and make a strong push in the second round.  However, Tampa Bay was just too much to handle and the Isles find themselves thinking about what could have been.  Losing two overtime games on their home ice in games 3 and 4 will certainly carry some weight as the Isles head into the off-season.

Experience definitely played a key role in this second match-up.  It seemed like the Lightning were battle tested and ready to scrap when the chips were down.  This was a team that had made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season and they played with a ferocious intensity that the Isles could not meet. 

In no way at all was this season a failure for the Isles. In fact, it was actually a monumental success.  In their first season in Kings County they made a lot of headway towards chasing the Cup and they made vast improvement from last season.  People have questioned if Barclays Center is a good fit for this franchise, but the arena had a profound impact on the Isles’ success this season. Despite having a losing record at home in the playoffs, Barclays Center was not the responsible party. Instead, it was the Isles’ inability to close out games.

This is a good time to be a New York Islander fan.  While they have a lot of questions to ponder regarding free agency, now that their season is completed, they have some great things in place for the future.  Captain John Tavares is one of the five best players in the NHL and he is a leader that certainly has the capability to lead this franchise to a Cup.  Also, this team has not one but two certified goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss.  And head coach Jack Capuano is the leader that this team personifies. In six seasons, the coach has done a spectacular job with this hockey club.

When next season finally begins in over five months, there is no doubt that the Isles will be one of the top contenders in the east. While this loss to Tampa Bay could sting for some time, there is no reason for this franchise to put their head down. As the questions arise in terms of what players to keep and who to let go, the New York Islanders will be back next season and they will be ready to make a push for the Stanley Cup trophy.

On the Court

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, sweeping them out of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.  This is actually good news for the Brooklyn Nets, since their head coach, Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant with the Hawks, can now focus on his duties in Brooklyn.

This will certainly be a challenging transition for the Long Island native, who takes over a franchise coming off one of their worst seasons in history.  This is Atkinson’s first head coaching gig, and it will be interesting to see how he creates the identity for this team.

Without a draft pick, the Nets can only upgrade their roster by making trades and through free agency.  The biggest move of all that they will make though is by picking up a point guard.  There is no doubt that this team needs one.  And while rumors will continue to circulate about this team squiring Jeremy Lin, only time will tell as to how this team will remodel the roster for this offseason.

Last week brought some great news to Brooklyn, as guard Wayne Ellington earned the J. Walter Kennedy citizenship award. Selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, the award is given to the player that shows outstanding service and dedication to their community. The award is named after the league’s second commissioner. Ellington has been vital in reaching out the community. 

It was in 2014 when Ellington’s father was shot to death in Wynnewood, Pa. Since that tragedy, Ellington has become a major advocate for gun violence prevention.