It was impossible not to hear Greg Cronin's voice echoing off the walls inside IceWorks earlier this week during a break in Islanders practice. Every player was focused on Cronin at the dry-erase board at center ice, but this was no pause to identify systems or hear what drill was coming next.
Cronin, the Isles' intense assistant coach, punctuated his short speech with expletives. The message was clear: This team, good as it was a season ago, hasn't accomplished anything yet.
"I've seen it happen a lot in this league," Cronin told the players. "You can't be happy with it."
The Islanders are back almost fully intact from the milestone 2014-15 season, their last in Nassau Coliseum. They posted 101 points, most since 1983-84, as well as 25 home wins, tied for most since 1984-85, and 21 division wins in 30 games, second only to the Rangers in the Metro.
After so many big changes preceding that 43rd and final season in the old Coliseum, there's only been minor tinkering by general manager Garth Snow heading into season No. 1 in Brooklyn.
"Experience -- having most of the young guys go through playoffs for the first time, situations they've never been through, it's huge," said Nick Leddy, who joined the Isles a year ago Sunday in a trade with Chicago. Snow hit a pair of grand slams last Oct. 4, also dealing draft picks to the Bruins for Johnny Boychuk.
Those two anchor defensemen jumped right in and became coach Jack Capuano's top pair, helping the Isles off to a 26-11-1 start through early January. Having a true No. 1 goaltender in Jaroslav Halak helped, too; having a fully healthy John Tavares wasn't too shabby either.
But the focus is now on Barclays Center and making the new arena in Brooklyn as tough a place for opposing teams as the Coliseum was.
"Play in the division, play on home ice was so big for us last year," Tavares said. "We have to try and get that going again right away this year."
Snow stayed patient while teams around the Isles in the Metro made waves this offseason. The Blue Jackets swung a big deal for young Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad; the Caps, now a true Isles rival after winning last spring's seven-game series, added T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams and the Penguins pulled off a blockbuster swap for Phil Kessel.
The Isles are banking on their young core continuing to improve, while the recent imports continue to provide stability.
Said Ryan Strome, who had 50 points in his first full NHL season and will ride shotgun with Tavares to start this year: "I think we all learned what we need to do to have some success last year and it's time to do that again right away this year."
Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, three of the longest-serving Islanders, are entering contract years. Okposo's name has been bandied about in trade rumors. So there are those outside factors to worry about.
If the Isles start slow -- they have 10 of their first 15 games at Barclays Center, including Friday's opener against Chicago -- there'll be plenty to point to as reasons why.
But if the goal is to prove that this team has to keep improving, then there can be no excuses once the puck drops against the defending Stanley Cup champions next week.
"I've only been to the playoffs two of my six years, so we haven't accomplished anything," Tavares said. "We know how hard it was just to do what we did last year. The goal is to go further in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup. [Cronin's speech was] the emphasis of how hard it is to get to where we want to get to, and I think we're all well aware of what we need to do."