The disappointment of playoff elimination still lingers for the Islanders. But there seems to be an overriding optimism for the organization’s long-term success.
Co-owner Jon Ledecky, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke and Hall of Famer Clark Gillies participated in one of their regularly scheduled Zoom conference calls with Islanders’ season-ticket holders on Tuesday. These events are typically held every three to four weeks.
The usual ground was covered, particularly how the opening of under-construction UBS Arena at Belmont Park will provide stability and benefit both the team and its fans. But fresh off a six-game loss to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, which represents the Islanders’ deepest playoff run since 1993, management is matching the players’ belief the team can be a perennial contender.
Ledecky said on Tuesday’s call he believes the Islanders will become a desired destination for NHL free agents. President and general manager Lou Lamoriello re-signed three key unrestricted free agents last offseason in captain Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson while signing goalie Semyon Varlamov to replace Robin Lehner. But the Islanders did lose former captain and No. 1 overall pick John Tavares to the Maple Leafs in 2018.
Lee was asked immediately after Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Lightning that ended their season in Edmonton whether he believed the Islanders were positioned to be perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
“I don’t see why not,” Lee said. “I can’t speak volumes more about this group.”
Ledecky added he wanted to be with the fans when UBS Arena opens, which is scheduled for the 2021-22 season. The NHL is currently playing without fans in the arena because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gillies said the sting of losing to the Lightning would linger for the players. But he thinks it will ultimately provide a good lesson and he sees this group as a special one.