The New York Islanders are my hockey team. I’ve lost my voice during games, had gray hairs, cried tears, and wondered why god has forsaken them (and by extension me) countless times. They have a myriad of problems. Let’s look at them and see if they have a systematic root cause.
The goaltending situation:
As of this writing, we actually have a guy with 9 years remaining on his contract and an .846% save percentage. That’s not good. That contract came at the behest of Charles B. Wang, in case you were wondering. The starter is a 37 year old Evgeni Nabokov, who is CLEARLY rusty, but still the best we’ve got. Nilsson and Poulin are seasoning at the Bridge, which is good. Then there’s Cody Rosen. Who wasn’t even supposed to be drafted by any team ever, and then because he’s the son of a business associate of our owner, was drafted. I’ll get to last week’s acquisition soon.
I hear you Wang apologists whine about his lost revenue. Oh, okay. Let’s see those books then. Do you know, dating back to the dynasty era, this team has one of the best TV contracts in the NHL? 30 million per season. Actual salary payout on average has been 44 million. That means before a fan walks in or buys any merch, he’s at most lost 14 million. So his ‘20 million dollar loss a year‘ figure is crappola. This team has spent the least of any team since 2008. That’s fact.
There may be a correlation between that and not making the playoffs. This season’s two big ‘acquisitions’ were Lubo Visnovsky (a real nhl player!) whose cap hit is roughly 2.5 million over his actual salary. Then there’s Tim Thomas, who is retired. He is currently giving us a 5.3 million dollar cap hit with a outlay of zero dollars for our owner. That’s called cheating the cap floor.
Craig from @Puckbuddys brilliantly dubbed the fiasco ‘The Thomas Clown Affair’. The team operates as frugally as possible. Homegrown pieces are re-signed on the cheap or jettisoned for draft picks to get cheaper labor. Our GM is his master’s voice in that regard. Nobody knows the CBA like Garth Snow. Unfortunately, our owner has him backload contracts and circumvent the cap floor at every opportunity. That’s where our GM’s talent is put to use. The good news here is Garth dominates the waiver wire like no GM I’ve ever seen. The bad news is we are always in position to have a high waiver claim.
Talent Evaluation and Development:
When going with a young unproven GM, the proper thing to do would be to surround him with experienced hockey ops people. Charles Wang has slashed us down to the smallest Hockey Ops staff in the NHL, with the smallest scouting department. This dearth of resources is on call for an employee learning the ropes of being a GM in the NHL. It’s all about eliminating expenditures. How about a President? No? Cool. Can we hire an NHL Coach? No? okay. Cool. Get more AHL level coaches and more AHL level results.
Our radio telecast is run by interns at Hofstra across the street. We have a cupcake vendor and a tattoo floor on our leaky arena concourse. We ostracized Pat LaFontaine and his regional champion world class junior hockey team that plays in our backyard. Pat LaFontaine is an NHL Hall of Famer, US Olympian and genuine Long Island folk hero. Any dissenter, be it former team PR man Chris Botta or former broadcaster Billy Jaffe is dismissed at any criticism.
See that for why Pat LaFontaine is persona non grata. Players routinely express dismay at our rink. Opposing broadcasters lampoon our fans. They claim our fans don’t exist, unaware of evidence to the contrary like 12,000 people at a draft party, or 2002 where we sold out 66% of our home games on a magical run to the playoffs. The fans are just frustrated by this ownership which has many priorities, none of those being winning hockey games. Our owner sits, walled off from humanity, immune to criticism because he has it muzzled. His legacy, aside from relocating the team two counties west, is of arrogance and frugality.