This past weekend, I was up in Boston for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. I went to a bunch of different seminars related to hockey, but the one that stuck out to me most was “Intangibles: Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry” by Joan Ryan. At this presentation, I kept thinking back to the New York Islanders and trying to relate what I had learned to what made my team so successful, even though they are struggling right now.
Considering I was in Boston, it made sense that the presentation related to the Boston Red Sox and their 2013 World Series championship. Ryan believed that team chemistry was key to the Red Sox magical run, and Jonny Gomes was the player most responsible for starting that winning culture. He was not the best player on any of his teams, yet he was always in the playoffs.
The reason for his team’s success: Gomes was a supercarrier. A supercarrier for team chemistry is a player that has such a profound effect on a franchise that they can completely change the environment in the locker room. The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and 2013 Red Sox were some of the most likable teams of the past era, and they experienced major success because of Gomes’ impact.
Relation to the Islanders
While the New York Islanders have lost their last six games, they have one of the more tight-knit locker rooms. Every player is willing to step up for one another, and when times get tough, they can pick themselves up.
If you watch a Toronto Maple Leafs game after a big hit, their players tend to stand around and allow their teammate to get pummeled. The Islanders always rush to the defense of their teammate and never let someone get in a cheap shot without retribution.
Willingness to Fight for One Another
Jean-Gabriel Pageau had been playing with the Islanders for a little more than two periods, but he was already prepared to step up for his teammates. When Jacob Trouba put a dangerous hit on Michael Dal Colle, he didn’t waste a second getting his gloves off. In this moment, Pageau proved to the fans and organization that he bought into “the Islander way.” He was ready to lay his body on the line for Dal Colle, even if it meant fighting a much bigger opponent.
The Islanders have shown time and time again that they are willing to defend their own. Against the Vegas Golden Knights, Anders Lee fought Nick Holden after he crosschecked Mat Barzal headfirst into the boards. Good teammates bring a little extra out of you as they become your purpose. In war, soldiers can withstand such stressful situations because of their camaraderie and need to fight for one another. When Lee saw Barzal under attack, he took matters into his own hands and wouldn’t let the crime go unpunished.
Building a Culture
When Lou Lamoriello was named general manager and president of the Islanders, there was a trend with the moves he made. By signing Valterri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Tom Kuhnhackl, and trading for Matt Martin, he was looking to change the culture by acquiring supercarriers. The organization did not have a sense of togetherness during the Garth Snow era, and Lamoriello wanted to change the vibes surrounding the locker room. All four of those players knew what it took to win and would change team chemistry. The acquisitions seemed suspect when they were announced, but there was meaning off-ice.
Joan Ryan believed that complainers and malingerers are the worst people to have in a locker room. They bother the rest of the team and bring down what everyone else is trying to do. No one’s making excuses for the Islanders’ recent fall. This is the time that the players should come together and get themselves out of this hole. If your locker room is damaged, a five-game slide could ruin your entire season; however, a tight group could turn the lackluster play into a hard-earned two points.
Fans believe that the Islanders have one of the most robust locker rooms in the NHL. They’ve shown a willingness to fight for one another and don’t let a couple of losses affect them. With their last win coming on Feb. 23, they have a chance to prove us right.
“My teammates summon something from me I cannot summon”Jake Peavy- 2007 NL Cy Young Winner, 2x World Series Champion