Thrashers: ‘Islanders! You Don’t Have to Live Like This!’

UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 18:  Alexei Yashin #79 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck during Game 4 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against  the Buffalo Sabres on April 18, 2007 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The New York Times took a look at the recent misfortunes of the Islanders.

And, as you might guess, there’s a lot of stuff to look at.

There’s the horrible losing streak this season.

There’s the lack of a new arena.

And there’s the lack of fan attendance. The Islanders average 10,773 fans per game. If you think that sounds low, it is NHL low. But it would actually be great for the AHL. And it would be amazing for the ECHL.

On the flip side of the Isles, you have the Thrashers.

I don’t think the Thrashers have ever touched the Islanders in terms of dysfunction, but Atlanta has certainly had its share of struggles.

But right now the Thrashers are mired in a six-game winning streak. If the season ended today, Atlanta would be in the playoffs.

Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay attributes his team’s success to leadership. Earlier this season, Andrew Ladd was named captain and Dustin Byfuglien was named alternate.

The Thrashers haven’t lost since the vacant captain’s position was filled by Ladd and Byfuglien (and Tobias Enstrom) were given the A.

It’s not a coincidence that both Ladd and Byfuglien played for the Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks. GM Rick Dudley and team president Don Waddell seem to have realized the Thrashers had a team leadership void.

Last year, they tried to bring in Chris Chelios to fill that void, but Chelios was probably too old to have that much of an impact. I can’t imagine anyone responded to Chelios’ constant declarations that the forward pass ruined the purity of hockey.

But guys like Ladd and Byfuglien who won a Cup last year are certainly going to have the ears of guys in the room (along with Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, who were also on that same Cup-winning team).

So by importing some Blackhawks, and hiring a new coach, the Thrashers have managed to make some great strides this year. And they’re not spending a ton of money on it, either.

Of course, it’s still early in the season, so perhaps it’s a bit soon to use the Thrashers as an example of a struggling team that’s figured out how to turn around its fortunes. But they certainly seem to be moving in a positive direction.

For the Islanders, the turnaround probably isn’t as simple as importing players from the next Cup-winning team. But the Thrashers template might prove helpful to the Islanders, in terms of process.

The Thrashers identified a weakness in the organization and then addressed it. And by fixing that one thing, a lot of other things seems to have come together (aided by some solid drafting, too — I love Evander Kane’s game).

The Islanders have a lot of problems that need fixing, but if they tried and fix at least one, the domino effect might translate into victories.

And whatever they do, at this point, it really can’t translate into more losses.

The Islanders have made some appallingly bad decisions over the past decade. The law of averages says they’ll eventually be due for a good decision.

At this point, it just seems a question of when that good decision will finally arrive. This season? Next season? At the end of Rick DiPietro’s contract?