Former New York Islanders captain Mark Streit has high expectations for his former team after it began its 2023 campaign with a win at home over the Buffalo Sabres.
But the one-time Stanley Cup champion cautioned that, in the NHL, anything is possible.
Streit, who played four seasons with the Islanders and became the first Swiss-born team captain in league history, spoke to Fox News Digital recently about his expectations for the Islanders after a disappointing first-round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year.
“To be honest, the east, especially the [Metropolitan] division, it’s strong. There’s a lot of good teams,” Streit said.
“It’s just having a good start. You know, so many seasons, I was on teams where the start wasn’t that great, and you just try to catch up throughout the year. And that’s usually really tough. So, it’s a very tough division the Islanders are in, but they have a really good team.”
The Islanders have made playoff appearances in four of the last five seasons. In the 2020-2021 season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup semifinals. The previous year, they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals.
“It’s tough to predict,” Streit said of the Islanders’ chances of hoisting the Cup this season.
“Last year, they didn’t have the year they wanted to. But sometimes you think you’re far away, but you’re not. I think it’s just letting the people work, be a little bit patient and build. You have to. I mean, a Stanley Cup champion is not built overnight, and you have to do that over the years.”
Streit said he believes the “strong base” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello has built will propel the team forward.
“It’s a different league than when I played. It’s faster, it’s quicker, it’s more skilled, and it’s a lot younger,” Streit said. “That’s why I think the Islanders are doing well because they have the [Matthew] Barzals — they’re a little bit older, they have more experience — you still have the Anders Lees, the Matt Martins, the [Cal] Clutterbucks that have the experience from former years. And you have that really good mix.
“That’s what I like about the team. They have a really good mix about the experience and young hungry guys that don’t overthink things. They go out and play. And I think you need that. You need to have that balance.”
If 12 years in the NHL taught Streit anything, it’s that regular-season records mean nothing once the playoffs begin.
“The most important thing is getting into the playoffs. After that, you know anything can happen,” Streit said.
“I think we saw that last year with the Boston Bruins. They had a great year, and the Florida Panthers — they [were] just one of those [teams] that got hot at the right time. And they almost won the Stanley Cup. And they were on this crazy run. And I think that the Islanders, they have definitely the players, the team and the management to do the same thing. But, you know, so [do] a lot of other teams in the league.”
Streit, 45, retired from the NHL in 2017 after winning a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. During his career, he also played with the Montreal Canadiens and became one of the top two-way defenseman in the league.