Thursday, May 12, 2016

N.Y. Islanders: No Rest for the Weary; Complicated Off-Season Ahead

From the desk of:  FIVE FOR FLATBUSH

Hockey Thing One


Hockey Thing Two

Where do we go from here?  
And by we, I do mean Brooklyn and Long Islanders.

I - Brooklyn's Foster Hockey Club

Hello Islanders fans.  Sorry it didn't work out.

If you are a regular rider of this blog I call The Trolley, then you know I've been a Rangers fan since the mid to late 1970s.  In turn, that once made you my enemy.  But I'm much older now, and no longer harbor such anger within me.

Above all, mine is a Brooklyn-centric blog, and so I think I've handled the Islanders very fairly.  I just call it as I see it without dumping a cooler of Rangers Hate-o-Rade all over them.  In fact, I feel I've been quite supportive, and even suggested the Smurfs Rangers could have learned a thing or two from the Isles.

I hope you'll agree.

I still say this team belongs in Long Island - not Brooklyn.  Understandably, they did not necessarily move to Flatbush Avenue by choice.  So when the residents of Nassau County voted down the final arena proposal, I temporarily named the Islanders portion of this Trolley - Brooklyn's Foster Hockey Club.

Once they settled into Barclays Center, I changed over to - Five For Flatbush - because I thought it would acknowledge the team's toughness, pay tribute to their previous history and the pursuit of a fifth Stanley Cup, and incorporate their arrival on Flatbush Avenue, all in one title.

The old Brooklyn Americans only practiced in Brooklyn.  They never played NHL games here.   Therefore, the first NHL regular season and first Stanley Cup playoffs in Brooklyn history are now officially a matter of record.

The Islanders last won a playoff series back in 1993, or 23 years ago - pick your poison.  But with their first round victory over the Florida Panthers, Brooklyn is now vested in this too..

II - Charles Wang isn't leaving the building, but he'll be occupying a much smaller office.

Upon assuming ownership of the Islanders, Charles Wang's first challenge was restoring a demoralized fan base's faith in the aftermath of the Mike Milbury, Stephen Walsh, and the utterly ponderous Jon Spano era.

Wang seemingly tried as best he could keeping them in Long Island, but ultimately lost tens of millions of dollars floating them until faced with no other alternative but to move the team out of Uniondale.  A sadly outdated coliseum, the doomed Lighthouse project, Nassau County bureaucrats, and a justifiably overburdened and fed up tax base, all seemingly conspired against him.


By his own doing, Charles Wang will now take a back seat as a minority owner, while new majority owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin take over the helm.

The $99,000 dollar question is what will their personal ideas be for the Islanders?  Will they decide playing in Barclays Center is an untenable situation, and therefore pursue relocating out of the metropolitan area all together?  Or will they continue tolerating their present condition, and just stay?

Then there's the matter of branding.  Is there such a thing as dual identity?  How long will new ownership continue with this split personality?

After four consecutive Stanley Cup championships, the Islanders traditional jersey is still iconic.   Should they opt to stick with it full time, unchanged, they'd be completely within their right.   Flatbush, after all, is still terra firma of Long Island Proper.  There's no real need to change the name, or re-brand for that matter.

But they did just that ... kinda.

The question, then, is will they take an additional step forward, above and beyond the black/white BKLN alternate uniform, and embrace a larger allegiance to Brooklyn, and market themselves as such?

I noticed no attempt by the Islanders to wear their Brooklyn alternative uniform during the playoffs.

That's fine - correct even.  I'm just saying...

III - Garth Snow

Will Garth Snow move forward with the organization, or will new ownership opt to go in a new direction?

Whoever the general manager is, he or she will have major financial decisions to make with regards to Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin.  Among the Islanders soon-to-be free agents, I consider them indispensable.

Afterward, who knows if new ownership is interested in resetting the team's spending limits.  That remains to be seen.  What the Islanders do have is prospects, which they should consider moving a few for more established players.

The Islanders posted back-to-back 100-point seasons.  There's still time to keep this together and win. But they're two quality players short.  Re-Sign Okposo and find both him and John Tavares a quality line compliment.  Then either bolster the 2nd/3rd line, or add a bruising, reliable stay-home defenseman.

IV - So What Happened?

Hard to say....

By Game Five, the damage had been done.  Through Game Four, the Isles had been outscored by an 11-14 margin.  Here's the best way I can explain the 3 goal differential:
  • Jon Cooper pulled the goalie late in Game Three, and Tampa tied with just 0:38 left in regulation, then won in overtime.
  • In Game Four, Tampa tied the game in the 3rd, and send a second consecutive game into overtime.
  • The rest, as they say is history.

Now for the painfully obvious - despite playing without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the Lightning still won the series by a decisive 4-1 margin.

In hindsight, I'm still not sure where debating Thomas Greiss versus Jaroslav Halak may lead.   Thomas Greiss was screened on far too many shots by Lightning skaters, and that's exactly why I'm not up to having the Jaroslav Halak debate.  Refer instead back to Garth Snow, and on-ice lapses
in effective traffic control.

What I do know is the Islanders continually gave up back breaking goals within the final two minutes of a period.  Two overtime losses in Brooklyn?  Don't know what to say about those either, other than the Isles actually did a lot of things right.  But once you get into overtime ... pffff!  The original misstep occurs in regulation.

Here's another item I refuse to tackle - as John Tavares goes, so go the Isles.  This is no time for finger pointing.  We know who the contributors were, and who the under performers were.  My only answer to that, again, is ... see Garth Snow.

One thing is certain, and they proved it again, the Islanders had the best 4th forward line in all of hockey.  They should look into keeping them together.  They're a tremendous asset most NHL teams can not handle.

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