In my last post I looked back at the Isles season that was and all the pieces we have in place for a great 2012-2014 season. This time around I look at the castoffs: Mark Streit, Brad Boyes, Keith Aucoin, Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Reasoner and oh yeah, Rick DiPietro…
All of these players (with the exception of 39 and 16) had great moments this year. Thus, it’s actually a decision to jettison them. Keith Aucoin is a diminutive centerman who can go razzle-dazzle in the O zone and get trucked in the D zone. Think a more dedicated but less skilled Robbie Schremp. His spot is going to the Next Big Thing Brock Nelson and or Ryan ‘Rider on the’ Strome, who may actually see time together. That leaves the undersized Aucoin looking for another suitor, but he will catch on with someone. He’s a tough little hockey player. Maybe he goes back to Toronto.
Brad Boyes will buy a house somewhere thanks to what John Tavares did for him. He will have pictures in his mind of his hit that set up 91’s playoff tally or his OT winner against NJ when he signs his fat contract. Hopefully that contract won’t be with us and that house won’t be on Long Island. We can overcome one top liner that backchecks like a hippie (looking at you 26), but not 2. Besides, one of the bridge boys is taking a top 6 role next year, which leaves Brad to play for a team that loves to over pay names on the decline. Broadway or Toronto for Mr. Boyes.
Marty Reasoner, thanks for rallying the troops after game 1. That was the extent of what we got from 16 for 2 years of pay. Starting to think 16 is cursed until we do right by Pat LaFontaine. This is way too much space on Marty Reasoner.
Mr. Nabokov trotted out there 51 of 56 games for us. At his age, that’s absurd. He was a key voice in the room and helped a young team grow, but his 5 on 5 save percentage was the lowest in the league. The Professor may not be done, but he’s certainly declining. I wouldn’t be opposed to having him back on a one year deal as a backup, but we need a proven or ready to take the reins starter. Thank you and good luck, Nabby.
The Captain is being forced out by his insane salary demands and his age coupled with the fact that younger and cheaper options abound, but he was a key cog in this years postseason push. The Isles basically put 15 million on the table over 3 years and Streiter is holding out for another $5m season. Good on you, buddy, but it won’t be here. Mark Streit was a very good Islander and I wish him well in Philadelphia or wherever the hell he signs. PS: Thanks for the 4th Rounder, Oh Captain, My Captain.
Ricky DiPietro was finally cast out of the House of Wang, sent to Ct. to find his form. That form was very, very bad. 39 is done. Rick DiPietro was the first hockey player yours truly ever considered ‘my guy’. Some of us will miss him, but his time here is done. Maybe he catches on somewhere as a backup, but I doubt it.
Thanks for the memories, good and bad, fellas. Godspeed.
IN OR OUT? Matt Moulson - 26 had another good regular season on JT’s wing, but he went through long stretches of ineffectiveness in the O-zone, and for a player with his defensive limitations, that’s deadly. He also had a Rick Nash level disappearance in the Playoffs. He is a few years older than the core of this team and entering a contract year. Does he stick around? Does he want to? Does the team want him to? This will be one of the stories of the coming Isles season.
ONWARD AND UPWARD
This season that ended with dual beats of heartbreak and optimism will be remembered here for a long time. The team on the ice took giant steps forward. Off the ice, despite their ever-present earnest efforts to be as cheap as humanly possible (Tim Thomas… really? REALLY?) the organization decided to act like a professional sports franchise. It was under the most auspicious of beginnings, the midst of another lockout, that the tide changed.
In October, it was up in the autumn air the guy we just traded a 2nd rounder for would ever play a game here. It was undecided where the team would play in 2015. The thoughts of the Islanders having a press release to announce an MVP finalist candidate and an outdoor game were perhaps the most hilarious and psychedelic combination since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Rick DiPietro’s contract was the albatross that was going to continue to hamper this team until we, it’s fans, or the team itself died. The Nassau Coliseum was a decrepit soulless UFO in the middle of an asphalt hellhole that would never teem with life again. The New York Islanders were a laughingstock, again. Every single hockey publication picked us to finish last in the East. Other teams might rise up from mediocrity, but not the Islanders.
And then, the news broke. There was an announcement in Brooklyn. The New York Islanders had a home. The team stealing vultures in Quebec, Seattle and Kansas City could all go to hell. The New York Islanders had a future. And that future would begin now. The long winter would end. The lockout was broken, the ice was painted, the sticks were taped, and Lubomir Visnovsky got his ass on the plane to JFK. He said that he was going to Long Island to make the playoffs. And media, they laughed. The team didn’t. The team responded to 11’s arrival by going on a tear. Then, as things go on Long Island, a move was made that made business sense, but was a hockey betrayal. Tim Thomas’ contract was acquired to insulate against a cap penalty for the sell-off of assets that could now commence if the young team faltered.
The emotionally fragile young team responded… by faltering behind a physically spent Rick DiPietro. Then Doug Weight went into an expletive laden tirade at the rink he once played on for the hated Rival as a rookie and got his young bunch focused. They stormed back (91 got the game winner that night, too). Coach Cap, emboldened by Dougie being the stick, got comfortable. The young team relaxed and went on another tear. DiPietro was jettisoned. The locker room, coincidence or not, was rocking. Soon, the barn was again as well. They came. They chanted ‘we want playoffs’, and by god, they got them. The emotional energy exerted to punch that dance card evaporated the night the deed was done as the team went 0-1-2 in their last 3. A disappointing finish to a tremendous and unexpected regular season by even the most rose-tinted glasses wearing observer (I had them at 10, sue me) left fans worried the young squad was tapped and would have nothing left for the postseason.
These fears were confirmed on the opening night with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the unstoppable Pittsburgh Juggernaut. And then a funny thing happened in-game, Pittsburgh jaunted out to another lead. But the team that spotted Montreal, the Rangers, The Leafs, Philly and a plethora of other teams 2-0 leads sharpened their focus, ramped up their game and drew even and then passed the Penguins squaring the series at 1. Game 3 saw tailgaters get there at 7am. There wasn’t a seat to be found.
The old House on Hempstead was ROCKING. “Aren’t you worried about the asbestos?” the fan next to my party was asked. He responded by punching the ceiling and making a wafting gesture “smells great”. The Barn reached a decibel level Islander fans long remembered and perhaps didn’t know if they’d ever hear again. The familiar thump thump THUM-THUM-THUMP of ‘Let’s Go Islanders’ shook the 4 decade old building as the teams stewed in the locker room. And then the Islanders potted 2 early ones and the building which had been as loud as it had ever been before became appreciably louder. Louder than Tonelli to Nystrom. Louder than 50 in 50. Louder than Cairns pummeling Corson.
The game, and the series didn’t go the way of the Nassaumen. However, as the last of the moral victories, they stood toe to toe with the team that seemed increasingly destined to hoist another Cup (until they came down with a nasty RASK), went 6 games, 2 of which were decided beyond regulation.
The team announced they were back. The league took notice, and determined our star was as valuable as any other, tabbing 91 as a Hart finalist and the league also noticed our team as legitimately exciting as any other, they gave us a game in Yankee Stadium (which a lot of us who cover this team still get giddy thinking about). To top it off, our maligned fan base, this woe begotten and forgotten Island tribe, this FAMILY decided to announce they too were back from the dead, risen like Lazarus after too long a slumber. Guess what? They deserved it and the praise they received for coming back, coming home. They deserved it and more. And they are still hungry for it.
Where we are now; Reasons to Believe -
This is all well and dandy. The true work begins now. The void of a captain, a top line winger as well a starting netminder for now and tomorrow must be found. The young nucleus saw what this team could be. They will be hungrier. The competition will be stiffer and ready for the Islanders. But the team and the fans are ready to take up the flag and let it fly again. The days of being mocked for being a fan of the Orange and Blue are at an end. Now the fun part has begun. For 20 years this team has been everybody’s cheap joke. Now, comes that part of the story known as payback. Now, comes that part of the story where that 35 pounds of Silver begins to bring her beautiful self back down the Jericho Turnpike. Now, the New York Islanders aren’t rebuilding. Now? Now it’s time to kick ass.