Division lead huge step for N.Y. Islanders

Winning hockey is back on Long Island and it’s bigger than ever. With the first half of the season complete, the New York Islanders find themselves in first place of the National Hockey League’s Metropolitan Division for the first time since 1990.

A once proud franchise that won four Stanley Cups in a row from 1980-1983, the Islanders have finished in the bottom tier of the standings for the majority of previous decades. Now, the team has reinvented itself through its high-octane and fast-paced offense.

With the poor records, however, came high draft picks. General Manager Garth Snow took office in 2006 and began to stockpile blue-chip prospects to form the current team. Homegrown players have become the core of the top-ranked team, including forwards John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and more.

The Islanders last clinched a playoff berth in 2013 during the strike-shortened season, ultimately losing in four games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. The team consistently had defensive and goaltender problems. After that, Snow made a series of key moves during the offseason to make them the complete team that they are today. He acquired all-star goaltender Jaroslav Halak for a fourth round draft pick, and defenders Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy––both Stanley Cup winners––for prospects. Snow’s management plays a key role in ensuring the success of a team currently ranked second in goals scored and in fewest shots surrendered.

This is a great year to be an Islanders fan. Pride and passion is at an all-time high–this coming from a fan base whose patience rivals that of Buffalo Bills fans. Fans that have stuck with the team through the ups and downs are finally being rewarded. Islanders fans are showing their dedication by traveling in bunches and making a strong presence at away games. Twitter has been buzzing with hashtags like “#IslesRoadWarriors.” The team’s “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chants can be heard all around opposing stadiums.

The Islanders are in their final season of play at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a place fans call the “Old Barn.” Next season, they will call the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York their home. With half the season remaining and the playoffs in sight, Islanders fans hope to rock this barn one last time.