Friday, November 21, 2008

Wins and Losses, What Will it matter?

I am quite surprised at the lack of response and interest from the fans that I speak to as well as my readers on this site as well as my fellow NYI Blog Boxers to the very possible issue that It is a very good possibility that the Islanders days on Long Island are numbered.

Let go back in time to the other areas around the NHL who thought they could get away without building or renovating a new arena, or having a putrid on ice product for extended periods, or asking the fans to swallow major league ticket prices for what amounts to an overall minor league product from top to bottom.

The Winnipeg Jets move to Phoenix... Phoenix? That hockey hotbed. The Winnipeg Jets franchise had a huge following in Winnipeg but wound up being the victim of the NHL playoff structure of the time, and that being in the same division as the Powerhouse Edmonton Oilers franchise in their heyday, and the Calgary Flames meaning that if the Jets were going to make it to the semifinals, they had to go through BOTH of them to do so and my friends, that's simply not going to happen and certainly didn't as Edmonton dispatched Winnipeg 6 times int he playoffs. Winnipeg has since built a new arena for hockey, seating just over 15 thousand fans and are hoping to try and lure an NHL franchise back to Winnipeg. The Jets ownership ran to Phoenix with the promise of American dollars and I think we have all seen that the Coyotes have not exactly lit the world on fire, in the ice or off it.

The Quebec Nordiques go to Colorado. I'm sure all of the fans of the Nords in Quebec, who tried until the last minute to save the franchises move to Denver, all had a collective heart attack when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their FIRST season after leaving Quebec City. Here was a team that had a huge rivalry with its richer larger brothers in Montreal - you may know them as the Canadiens. So why would a team with a built in blood rivalry, immense young talent, coming off their best season in years and the biggest improvement in points in the history of the NHL move AFTER their team announced new uniforms and logos to the press? Money and arena. Quebec refused to build a new arena for their beloved franchise, and the Canadian dollar at the time was so weak that it left team ownership with no other choice but to sell.

The Hartford Whalers become the Hurricanes - The Whalers troubles were simple. They needed a new arena. Then Owner Peter Karamnos engaged in a game of chicken with then Connecticut Governor John Rowland demanding the 45 million in losses he incurred over the time of his ownership. A most puzzling move being that the deal for the new arena was imminent. the deal falls through and the Whalers announce they are moving. The Whalers had other problems also in horrendous trades, Larger market fans swamping their arena for when their teams came to Hartford and the arena issue. Sound familiar Islander fans?

This is just 3 examples of teams fleeing for greener pastures and please for one second do not think the Islanders are exempt from this. The only reason the team is still here is because of its very lucrative cable contract. The Lighthouse project is an over bloated project everyone knows that. But its not our money and if Charles Wang wants to use the Islanders as a pawn in his chess game to get his legacy project built then so be it. The area is dilapidated. The Coliseum is a joke. The area does nothing but enhance the notion that the Islanders are a second rate franchise in the shadows of the Rangers. No one of any marketability wants to play here, and no one is showing up to the games.

It all sounds like a swan song to me. for the first time I actually believe that moving the team could be a reality. Gary Bettman has even spoken in favor of getting the deal for the arena in place. All we hear from The town of Hempstead is... nothing. The ball is in their court and it is their turn. The fans have spoken. Can someone please give the Town of Hempstead a swift kick in the ass because quite frankly if this deal does not go by this summer we can all start looking for a new NHL franchise to root for. How does the Kansas City Scouts sound? The Seattle Storm? The Winnipeg Jets? Or you can go root for the Devils or Rangers... hows that for a thought.

Don't think for a second that it cannot happen because there are some people in Winnipeg, Hartford and Quebec that can tell you what its like to lose your franchise after mismanagement, horrid trades, expensive games of chicken and poor facilities.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Islanders to Move? The Threat is REAL.

Plans for the approval of the Lighthouse project sit in the Town of Hempstead's office waiting for review. Why is this? Why isn't Charles Wang screaming at the top of his lungs and using every weapon in his arsenal to basically tell the people this. If Mr. Wang does not get this project off the ground then two things will happen. He will sell and the team will move.

He will sell the team and this time it wont go to someone who is willing to deal with insane amounts of red tape and political delay after political delay. Every elected official on Long Island is looking to put his personal stamp on the project and use it to get his or her meaningless name in the paper. I am so sick and tired of hearing some elected official from Nassau County who has his job because he managed to hand out more fliers than his or her opponent tell me that they know better than me what is good for the county. The county is bleeding money. The Islanders are bleeding money. The coliseum is a wreck. The surrounding area is a rotting parking lot. Either let the man build his project or just say no and let the team move already because all of this unknown is driving the fan base insane whether they are for or against the project. Mark my words today - If the deal does not get done there is a very good chance the Islanders will move to Kansas City, who has been eyeing the Islanders as a target for years and guess what, they already have a nice new arena for hockey.

Gary Bettman in his usual "well i cant really say whats going to happen" voice is going around telling anyone who cares that the county better get the deal done. Bettman wants the team on Long Island because of the rivalries the Islander shave with some of his favorite franchises.

It is time to open our eyes people. Either get he damn thing built or kiss the Islanders goodbye.

This time the threat is real.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't get to Excited - A Deeper Look at 2 Wins.

I wouldn't be making any plans for the Islanders trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs any time soon people. While the 4-3 victory over the depleted Blue Jackets and the 2-1 victory over the blue shirts are fine and dandy, the circumstances of both victories still paint the same picture.

The Islanders were up 3-0 to Columbus who were playing without a litany of their best players and their top goaltender when they imploded again and allowed 3 goals in the third period blowing a 3 goal lead twice in two games. The only thing that saved them was Chris Campoli's overtime winners.

The Islanders locked in a 0-0 tie at the Garden after two periods has all the indications of a competitive game. The problem is, it wasn't.

The Rangers dominated the Islanders for two periods and the Joey McDonald absolutely stood on his head earning the Islanders the 2-1 victory only because of two Ranger mistakes on the power play resulting in two shorties.

Two victories is a good start but I remain un-impressed at the teams play this season. The Islanders have looked over-matched in almost every game this season despite the 4 victories they have.

What does this mean?

It means that the long term prospects of a team that is 30th in every NHL power rankings of every major web site and hockey publication that cares to write about hockey have not changed much because of a couple of hollow victories.

Like it or not, this is still shaping up to be a long season.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finding Ways to Lose - The Story of the Islanders Young Season

I grew up an Islander fan and have been a fan of the team from the earliest point I can remember which was the 1975-76 season. My father, who became an Islander fan when the team was granted entry into the NHL in 1972, told me all about that season when the Islanders started dominating the NHL in the late 1970's. He tole me the team was so bad that it just found ways to lose. He said one game they would look better, then lose 2-1. Then they would look even better, score a couple of goals and lose 3-2. Sometimes they would get their doors blown off and lose 9-1. Then they would be up 4-1 and blow that lead and lose 5-4. See any parallels here?

Maybe the Islanders picked the wrong season to introduce throwback jerseys to their first season in the NHL. It took the Montreal Canadiens 7:31 to score 4 goals on the Islanders sending the thousands of Montreal fans who were in attendance on their 350 mile trek home extremely happy. I expected the Islanders to at the very least compete on their route to another losing season and this has the makings to get ugly, and ugly very quickly. This team, unless it starts to gel VERY quickly will be out of any possible playoff hunt by Thanksgiving, already last in the NHL with 5 points and a 2-7-1 record.

The Nassau Coliseum isn't the Islander home arena this season. Let me explain this one. Usually, an NHL franchise can count on 41 games per season to have their home faithful, no matter how many actually show up cheer them on. Something disturbing is happening this season. Ranger fans are outnumbering Islander fans in the old barn. Montreal fans numbered probably somewhere near 4,000 tonight. Devils fans, Flyer fans, Penguin fans, Buffalo fans Toronto fans are making the trek to Nassau Coliseum because they cant get tickets in their own home arenas and they KNOW they can get tickets at the Coliseum very easily or cheaper. Think of the message it sends to the players when they hear chants of GO HABS GO, or GO LEAFS GO, or LETS GO RANGERS, or LETS GO FLYERS at every home game. Think of how it feels when the opposition is to far away for their fans to take a bus ride to the Island, there are 8,000 empty seats glaring at them. It has got to wear on a player, on a team, on a coach, and on an owner. I know it has gotten REALLY old for me. The Islanders are playing what amounts to 65 road games per season now and a lot of them in their own arena.

All this being said with all of the negatives around the team right now there are a few glimmers of hope. the younger players save Jeff Tambelini are playing better. Doug Weight is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, and Mark Streit is more than earning his pay check. Most importantly if this trend of futility continues there is John Tavares looming as this years number one overall pick. At the very least we will have a shot at him. THAT is something to look forward to.