Much of the hockey world is counting out the 2023-24 New York Islanders.
Looking at the sportsbooks, the Isles are listed at 45-1 odds to win it all. But if you ask the team, there is a strong belief in the clubhouse that they can win a Stanley Cup this season.
“Absolutely,” veteran Islanders forward Matt Martin told Greater Long Island. “We believe that we’re a playoff team. We have 82 games to get ourselves in and prepare for the dance.”
Most of this year’s Islanders group is playoff-tested.
In 2019, the Islanders made the playoffs and advanced to the second round. Then, the Islanders fell just short of the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive seasons advancing to the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 and the Stanley Cup Semifinals in 2021. After failing to qualify for the playoffs in 2022, the Islanders returned to the postseason in 2023 and lost a heartbreaking six-game opening-round series to the Carolina Hurricanes.
With the start of the 2023-24 regular season less than two weeks away, the Islanders are ready to turn the page and continue their quest for the fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
“It’s a new year,” said Martin, part of the Islanders veteran “Identity Line” with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.
“Obviously, we fell short last year and we had a long summer to train, get right and prepare for the season. It’s a clean slate for every team in the league. We’re excited and eager to get started and get off to a good start.”
For the most part, the Islanders will bring back the same group that came within a couple of shots of advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
Bo Horvat was immediately signed to an eight-year contract extension when he was acquired at the trade deadline last season. Pierre Engvall, also an addition at the deadline, was re-signed to a new seven-year deal during the off-season.
It’s basically the same group, but there is still a fresh feeling around this year’s team.
“(Horvat) and (Engvall) were two huge additions for us at the deadline last year,” said Martin. “They could have just been rentals and we were able to lock them up. They are two huge pieces of this franchise. When they were healthy and together, they were producing at a pretty high clip for us. We’re excited and we’re confident in our group and excited to get started.”
Martin was selected by the Islanders in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Draft and is getting ready for his 15th NHL season and 13th with the Islanders. Martin signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the 2016-17 season. The Maple Leafs general manager at the time was current Islanders President/GM Lou Lamoriello who brought Martin back to Long Island in a trade prior to the 2018-19 season.
“It certainly means a lot to me to represent this franchise”
For Martin, wearing an Islanders jersey is special. It was on Long Island where he met his wife Sydney, the daughter of former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason, the co-host of the “Boomer and Gio” morning show on WFAN. Matt and Sydney, along with their daughters Windsor and Alice, are proud to call Long Island home.
“It certainly means a lot to me to represent this franchise,” said Martin. “I’ve made Long Island my home. I have a great appreciation for this place, the fan base and the organization for the love and support that they’ve given me over the years. I’m very honored to still be wearing this uniform.”
Martin has accomplished a lot during his Islanders career but the one box that has yet been checked is hoisting the Stanley Cup. There is still a belief that the window remains open with this group for that to happen.
“We’re very excited and still believe we have a great chance to win,” said Martin. “We have to prepare ourselves the best we can to get ready for an important season.”
A season that commences on Saturday, Oct. 14 against the Buffalo Sabres home at UBS Arena.
Top: New York Islanders’ Matt Martin, right, hugs goalie Ilya Sorokin (30) after defeating the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 7, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)