Looking Back and Looking Forward

“We’ll get ’em next year!”

I heard a few fans shout that after the end of the Isles vs. Senators game on Sunday. It was the final regular season game and the end of the road for the blue-and-orange this season. It doesn’t matter when the season ends, I still feel sad the following few days.

This year, the Isles dug themselves a serious hole in the fall. By the time January came around and changes were made, the climb up the standings looked almost impossible. Yet, in the final weeks of the regular season, the Isles made one last serious push. After the game in Nashville, I really felt in my gut that they were going to make it. That was in the middle of the six-game winning streak they put together to cap off the year.

The team finished off their regular season as best they could on Sunday.

Brock Nelson scored his 20th goal of the season making it three straight seasons to accomplish that milestone. Jason Chimera also netted number 20. But when the team looks back on the season, I don’t think it’s that final game or the heartbreak of Toronto’s win over Pittsburgh on Saturday that will stick with them. I hope they will try to build on the run they made. I hope they remember the positives from the season and try to learn from the mistakes.

Here are my Hogan’s Highlights for the 2016-17 season.

Doug Weight

[Editor’s Note: Doug Weight was named head coach of the Islanders on Wednesday, April 12, 2017]

Doug Weight took over as interim head coach when the Isles were nowhere near the playoff picture on Jan. 19. By the time Sunday’s game was over, the Isles had picked up 52 points. That is second most in the NHL during that span, just two behind the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. But Weight’s success with the team was more than the numbers can show. From the beginning, he had their respect. He was able to connect with the young players as well as the veterans. Heck, he won a cup with Andrew Ladd in 2006!

Talking with Weight before the game on Sunday, he shared more about the challenges of being a head coach and what he learned along the way. It’s worth a watch if you missed it during our pre-game show.

It’s still unclear if Weight will be the head coach come next October but in my opinion, if he wants the job, it’s his. The players like playing for him. Weight holds them accountable and is not afraid to confront a player about a good or bad game. Open communication worked for him the second half of this season and I believe that style suits the Islanders.

The Kids

Islanders Joshua Ho-Sang Anthony Beauvillier GettyImages 041117

There was a time when I first started covering this team that Butch Goring would jokingly call the line with Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome “The Kid Line.” Several seasons later they are no longer kids and the expectations for those three has increased each year since.

Islanders Strome Lee Nelson Away 111414

This season, we really got to see “the kids” in action. Many people were surprised when Anthony Beauvillier made the team out of training camp. He didn’t wow fans in every game, but he had his moments. The 19-year-old finished the season with 9 goals and 15 assists for 24 points through 66 games.

There’s no denying he’s a talented player and I’m really excited to see what next year brings for Beau. When I think back on big moments that made me smile this season, his first NHL game in his hometown of Montreal is right there on the top of my list. I promised him an interview in French sometime soon. That will be part of my offseason training. I’m really going to have to brush up on that high school

I’m really going to have to brush up on that high school francais.

Josh Ho-Sang burst onto the NHL scene attracting attention around the league for wearing No. 66. Just like everyone else, I heard the stories about Ho-Sang before ever meeting him. But I’ll tell you what, he was one of the best surprises of the year. I was expecting a talented young forward when he made his debut, but I was not expecting him to be one of the best interviews in the league. Yes, I said the league.

Ho-Sang blew me away with how he handled himself every time a reporter or fan asked why he was wearing No. 66, the same jersey number that Penguins legend Mario Lemieux wore.

He’s smart, articulate and marches to his own beat. He’s willing to learn and spent countless hours working with Weight going over game film. When Ho-Sang is on the ice, I can’t take my eyes off of him. He’s an electric player with a great future. Ho-Sang and Beauvillier are the real deal. Those kids made quite the impression on me this season.

Anders Lee

Islanders Lee Home Goal

I’ve written about Lee several times this season, so I will keep this brief. It was a career year for him on and off the ice. He scored 34 goals, surpassing his career-high from his 2014-15 total of 25 goals. He thrived on the top line with John Tavares and showed he could do more than deflect goals into the net while parked in front. Lee also embraced a larger leadership role and hosted his first major charity event called the “Anders Lee Kancer Jam.” His teammates all came out to support him and the event, a testament to how they feel about No. 27.

On top of all this, Lee also got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Grace. The two are a lovely couple and Lee was smiling bigger than ever when he returned after the Christmas break.

I’m happy for Anders that he had a great season on and off the ice. He’s polite, hard working and funny. Lee is not satisfied with his personal success or the Isles falling short of the postseason. He’s a team player and won’t be happy until the blue-and-orange are back in the playoffs, something he missed last time around.

So, there you have it, my Hogan’s Highlights for the Isles this past season. As for our crew, we had two new additions this season. Brendan Burke stepped in after Howie Rose retired from hockey and had big shoes to fill. Brendan was fantastic this season. He’s awesome to work with, prepares like crazy and knows the game inside and out. I’ve learned a lot from him this season, and I’m excited for many more years of Isles hockey together.

The other newbie on our show was Sarah Servetnick. You don’t get a chance to see her on the telecasts, but she took over as our graphics coordinator this season and did an amazing job. She’s worked for several other teams around the league and was always on top of it this year.

Both Sarah and Brendan were welcome additions to our Isles MSG Networks crew. Dave, Jim, Charlie, Butch, Stan, Glenn, Bobby, Paul, JT, Al, Melnick, Ack, Eric, and Bob also make coming to work a pleasure. On top of that, we have the best editors, audio engineers and photographers in the business (way too many to name.) All of us at MSG Networks are looking forward to next season already.

Until then, GO ISLES!