Chris Botta

Chris Botta is a contributor to SNY

The Islanders' courtship of John Tavares is now over. It's up to him to decide whether he wants to stay or leave.

While it's possible the current roster will be upgraded by the end of NHL Draft weekend in Dallas, it won't be done for the sake of winning over Tavares.

The inevitable acquisition of a No. 1 goaltender, the possible bold trade to add another star like Erik Karlsson or subtler moves to shore up the defense -- that's simply Lou Lamoriello's job: to make the Islanders better for the near future.

As for Tavares, he's already seen everything he needs to see - commitment, a complete culture change, the extermination of the losing mindset that infested the organization for more than a decade.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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 (Geoff Burke)
(Geoff Burke)

Two months ago, did you envision reading this sentence on June 19?

New Islanders Boss of Hockey Lou Lamoriello is speaking with Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz today about becoming the Islanders' next coach.

Feels good to be back in the major leagues, right?

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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates before a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. (Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates before a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. (Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports)

There has been some cautious rejoicing in Islanders Country over the last 24 hours, in the wake of reports about John Tavares from the very reliable Darren Dreger and Pierre Lebrun, and why not?

Prior to Lou Lamoriello mercifully ridding the Islanders organization of the dark clouds brought by the Garth Snow administration, there was little chance Tavares was staying with the Islanders. Now, there is hope.

NEWS

Dreger and Lebrun have reported that Tavares and agent Pat Brisson have been focused entirely on discussions with the Islanders, and there is a possibility the franchise player could re-sign with the club before the listening period with other teams begins in the last week of June...

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

In anticipation of the arrival of a new Islanders head coach, the organization has started parting ways with coaches from the Doug Weight regime.

Point Blank has learned that among those let go was Greg Cronin, who served as an associate coach under Weight, as an assistant under Jack Capuano, and as head coach in Bridgeport (2003-2005). Cronin, who was a close ally of ousted GM Garth Snow, has been around the Islanders on and off since 1998.

"As everyone expected, it's a blood-letting," said a source close to the team. "The only small surprise is that it's already happening...before the new head coach comes in."

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 (Christopher Katsarov)
(Christopher Katsarov)

While Lou Lamoriello continues to shape the Islanders' hockey operations, adding the highly-respected Steve Pellegrini on Tuesday as another assistant GM, word around team headquarters is that the incumbent members of the scouting staff will remain in place for the NHL Draft next weekend in Dallas.

This is as it should be. After all, they have been scouting the hockey world for the last year. To dismiss their reports and opinions would be foolish. The scouts at the table next Friday and Saturday will learn more about their futures with the Islanders by the end of June, if not by the end of draft weekend.

But this being our Islanders with their dysfunctional history, there was actually one draft where the scene at the draft table was anything but normal.

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Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)
Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)

Lou Lamoriello is moving quickly in his search for the next Islanders head coach. According to a source, the new boss wants to have a head coach in place by the middle of next week - prior to the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22 and 23.

Although Lamoriello is not operating under a hard deadline, his reasoning is obvious:

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Oct 2, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens during a preseason hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Hurricanes 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports (Brace Hemmelgarn)
Oct 2, 2016; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens during a preseason hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Hurricanes 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports (Brace Hemmelgarn)

Scott Stevens is a leading candidate to become an important figure in the revitalization of the Islanders under Lou Lamoriello, a source with knowledge of the situation has told Islanders Point Blank.

Stevens' projected role is uncertain at the moment.

The Hall of Fame defenseman appears best-suited for the position of associate coach, under an experienced NHL head coach such as Dave Tippett. However, it cannot be ruled out that Stevens will become head coach.

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Islanders make changes 00:00:20
The Islanders fired GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight. Lou Lamoriello will become GM and begin the search for the next head coach.

Lou Lamoriello was in charge of the Islanders for less than a week, and he was already beginning to instill the culture that has made him a legendary figure in the NHL.

According to multiple sources, change is afoot in the Islanders' offices at Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park. Lamoriello and whomever ends up in the hockey department, along with a few others, will have the place to themselves. Several of the team's departments -- think along the lines of accounting, marketing, the folks who shoot off the t-shirt guns -- will be relocating elsewhere in Nassau County.

In other words, Garth Snow didn't stand a chance, and Doug Weight - coming off a brutal and at times embarrassing season - was a victim of Snow's malpractice. Lamoriello is performing a complete makeover of the Islanders, and he's going to do it his way.

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 (Christopher Katsarov)
(Christopher Katsarov)

The hiring of Lou Lamoriello to run the hockey operations of the Islanders gives the club and its fans legitimate hope that John Tavares will re-sign. Before co-owner Scott Malkin made the smart move to go rogue, tell nary a soul about it, and lure Lamoriello, Tavares was virtually out the door.

But on the other hand, while the euphoria in the wake of hiring the Hall of Fame franchise builder was justifiable, it's a mistake to make any assumptions.

This hopelessly naïve leap some observers have made that Lamoriello committed to the Islanders because he is convinced Tavares is staying? Nonsense.

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Feb 9, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Former New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello speaks during the number retirement ceremony for former New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)
Feb 9, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Former New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello speaks during the number retirement ceremony for former New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)

There could be a time when we look back and wonder why Islanders ownership declined to perform a complete executive search, why they chose not to interview the many promising candidates available to run the club's hockey operations.

But in the end, when your franchise is rotting at its core - so much so that your franchise player is not even engaging in any discussions of substance with you - what's really needed is a master surgeon. In getting Lou Lamoriello, owner Scott Malkin found the perfect person for the job.

With the arrival of Lamoriello as Islanders President of Hockey Operations, the excuse-making is over.

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 (Charles LeClaire)
(Charles LeClaire)

It remains difficult to comprehend the process and timing of the so-called evaluation period that Islanders ownership claims to be in, and how they failed to reach any conclusions by the end of two sad seasons.

The only thing for certain is that it has now been more than two weeks since Jon Ledecky's public promise of action to the club's fans.

"The season has just ended," Ledecky said in reading a prepared statement on April 9, although the season had really ended months earlier. "As an organization, we will be evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations - and then we will make decisions based on what is best for the future of our club. I am not here today to talk specifically about any individuals - including the players, coaches and the general manager. We believe it is essential to our success to have a thoughtful evaluation process, to look at the past, and more importantly, to assess the future of our team on and off the ice."

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General view of the National Anthem as a flag is unfurled before the game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)
General view of the National Anthem as a flag is unfurled before the game between the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center. (Anthony Gruppuso)

Co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are in the process of identifying a top executive to join the Islanders' hockey operations department, two NHL sources confirmed on Tuesday to SNY's Point Blank.

Since current Islanders President/GM/Alternate Governor Garth Snow has not been relieved of his duties more than a week since the end of another disastrous season, it is believed that the new hire would become Islanders general manager while Snow would remain President (or given a new title).

The process includes asking other NHL teams for permission to speak to some of their executives. Among those expected to be on Malkin and Ledecky's list of highly-regarded hockey people to interview are Julian BriseBois (Lightning), Paul Fenton (Predators), and Tom Fitzgerald (Devils), who are assistant general managers with their respective clubs.

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A general view of the ice surface prior to the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Andy Marlin)
A general view of the ice surface prior to the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Andy Marlin)

When it comes to his career as Islanders general manager, Garth Snow is a blessed man. Despite a twelve-year run of failure, the kindness shown Snow by his employers has been extraordinary. Perhaps one of these years he will pay it back, and pay it forward.

Many people outside Islanders Country, and even some of the residents, do not have a grasp of the lengths two ownership groups have gone to keep Snow in his position. A brief recap is necessary.

Let's start at the beginning, in 2006, when Snow was given his dream job by Charles Wang after the expiration of Neil Smith's 40-day summer internship. At the time, Snow was just a few months removed from his playing career. As a manager of any kind, he did not have a single hour of practical experience.

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Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)
Mar 3, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports (Charles LeClaire)

As is often the case when it comes to this franchise, the Islanders need their fans once again.

Thursday night. For John Tavares.

There should be no mistaking this. If you care about keeping Tavares in orange and blue, this is a code red...

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow speaks at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Stadium Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)
Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow speaks at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. Two outdoor regular-season NHL games will be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Stadium Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports (Ed Mulholland)

Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo famously asked this question of Mike Milbury in 2003, and now it is appropriate to ask of Garth Snow:

How is he still the GM?

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

For the last two years, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin - who ushered in their era of ownership by proclaiming the Islanders franchise would be "world-class" - have stood behind Garth Snow's lack of leadership and accountability, and his ineptitude in the art of roster management and building a winning culture.

After failing to make the playoffs last season, the Islanders are now near the merciful end to one of the most painful in their history. Getting by for two months on an explosive offense and the emergence of Mathew Barzal as a young star, the Islanders never improved on defense and Snow slept and made excuses instead of trying to fix his flawed roster. When all hope was nearly lost, he blamed his team's collapse on the injury in November to the oft-injured Calvin de Haan.

This entire season, the only notable move made by Snow was to banish Joshua Ho-Sang to the minors (just stating a fact: the Islanders' record this season is far worse without Ho-Sang).

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers (Brad Penner)
General view of the ice before a game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers (Brad Penner)

The majority of owners of major league teams prefer not to get too close to the customers, but not Jon Ledecky - the very public face of Islanders ownership.

There he is, riding the LIRR with fans, sometimes with a reporter nearby, and often with a publicist or social media staffer to capture all of the endearing interactions with fans.

There's Ledecky after the win in Las Vegas on Jan. 25, visiting with a passionate pack of die-hards for a few beverages - posted for posterity on the Islanders' Twitter feed.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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When the Islanders announced Josh Bailey's new six-year contract on Friday, Garth Snow was letting you know it was okay to hit the snooze alarm on trade deadline day. His trade for depth defenseman Brandon Davidson on Saturday, and flip of Jason Chimera for fourth-liner Chris Wagner today were "Moves So Snow," he should get the concept trademarked.

Snow has known for three months that his team, talented at the very top, but with significant holes everywhere else, needed improvements. We now know, because Snow told us in a recent interview so loony you'd think it was conducted at BK Sweeney's, that he regarded the season-ending injury suffered by defenseman Calvin de Haan in December as a devastating blow to his club.

Yet Snow did what he's always done best since 2006 - little, while offering excuses.

Tags: Jason Chimera, John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares skates before a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. (Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders center John Tavares skates before a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. (Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports)

The biggest drama surrounding the Islanders' visit to Toronto on Thursday may not be the game itself, but those five minutes when John Tavares faces another round of interrogation from the largest and peskiest press corps in the NHL.

Tavares will handle the Toronto media like the gentleman he was raised to be, but there will be plenty left unsaid. For example...

Tags: John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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If you've ever wondered about the kind of things a general manager might say to his team's owners in the suite during a game, at dinner at a North Shore steakhouse, or on the phone to cover his hide the morning after the latest loss, wonder no more. This week, Garth Snow pulled back the curtain on the wizardry that has enabled him to remain GM of the Islanders for nearly a dozen years, despite any measurable success.

Perhaps emboldened by another "atta way!" from ownership and a strong cup of Starbucks, Snow was at his hypnotic best when speaking with Steven Marcus of Newsday on Wednesday. His team merely in a scramble for eighth place again, Snow has long since given up on trying to win over the fan base.

As he did in the Charles Wang era, Snow's primary focus is on retaining his power with ownership. Think that's being overdramatic? This is a man who failed for years and was given the added title of president and later a golden parachute by Wang. Imagine if his Islanders had ever accomplished anything!

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Garth Snow doesn't often conduct interviews of any real heft, but when he does, they are almost always embarrassing to the franchise and insulting to the fan base. As for Snow, he has no shame. This guy has been trolling the customers and his employers since before Twitter really took off.

Snow did not disappoint on Wednesday, when he launched a dizzying torrent of turds at the dignified Steven Marcus of Newsday. Marcus has been a strong journalist for a long time on the Island. He did his job. He got someone to talk who usually runs away when the going gets tough, and then Marcus reported what his subject said.

There are two themes to any Garth Snow interview. The less important, but more hilarious portion is when Snow tries to send twisted messages to his bosses to illustrate what a brilliant general manager he is. On Wednesday to Marcus, Snow obliterated his own record for unleashing quality bullcrap in brief time, making Calvin de Haan a $10 million-a-year defenseman in the process by citing his injury as a primary "fact" behind his team's mediocrity. It was such an awesome display of desperately pumping himself up through fiction, it warrants its own post tomorrow. (Doug Weight, apparently bummed out over bloggers, deserves a break)...

Tags: Calvin De Haan, John Tavares, Johnny Boychuk, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

John Tonelli is taking part in the ceremonial opening faceoff tonight before his Islanders face Florida in Brooklyn, and what a wonderful sight it will be.

You have to wonder if there is more news to come about the original - and for many, the only - JT.

Tags: Anders Lee, Chris Botta
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Apr 6, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)
Apr 6, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)

Doug Weight is no longer going to serve as the Islanders' spokesman - the messenger to the fans - when it comes to injuries.

Since I'm a former Islanders spokesman who will always believe in professional sports teams doing the best they can to communicate with the public, you may find this surprising, but I completely support the position Weight has taken. Here's hoping he sticks to it.

To set the scene, this is what Doug Weight said Wednesday in Las Vegas when asked for updates on his injured players. The quote comes courtesy of Arthur Staple, soon-to-be formerly of Newsday (but coming soon to another outlet on the WWW…congratulations and thank you for your work thus far for the Country, Arthur).

Tags: Johnny Boychuk, Chris Botta
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A year ago, Garth Snow used the one chip he had - the dismissal of too-longtime head coach Jack Capuano - to save his own job and buy at least another season for himself under the Islanders' new ownership. Today the question is, what will Snow do to save his team's season?

Because this is a season worth saving. Because this is a team with a richly-talented core that deserves to be put in the best position to grab a playoff spot.

John Tavares, possibly in his final months as an Islander, has entered the prime of his career playing the best hockey of his life.

Tags: John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

John Tavares should not, and almost certainly will not, be dealt by the Islanders prior to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26.

The question of whether Tavares should be traded - instead of the Islanders potentially losing him in July as an unrestricted free agent for nothing in return - continues to be raised in league circles and by columnists.

To be clear, the view here is that Tavares should not be traded. The return is unlikely to match the damage done by giving up on trying to re-sign him.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight (Aaron Doster)
New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight (Aaron Doster)

All along, it appeared to just about everyone that the Islanders' problems were goaltending and team defense. But after the words of head coach Doug Weight at practice Wednesday and then after the 6-4 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday, you have to wonder if something else is wrong with the team.

On Wednesday, Weight questioned the psyche of his team.

"We have some young players, but it's time for our group to lose the frailty BS," he said.

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Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The best piece of wisdom I've ever heard about the art of trading hockey players was shared about 15 years ago by a visiting assistant general manager in the Coliseum press box.

"One thing about trades," he said between shovels of popcorn, "nobody knows the players in these deals better than the team trading them."

A few years later, on Feb. 27, 2007, I recalled this insight when Garth Snow called me down to his office. At the time, which was less than an hour before the NHL trade deadline, I was drafting a statement to explain why the Islanders decided not to make a major deal. You know, "We weren't going to mortgage the future for a rental," and, "The other teams really were pushing for our great prospects." That sort of thing. Richard Zednik and Marc-Andre Bergeron, acquired earlier, would have to suffice.

 

Tags: Calvin De Haan, Johnny Boychuk, Chris Botta
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Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Dec 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with New York Islanders left wing Josh Bailey (12) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

"One thing about trades," he said between shovels of popcorn, "nobody knows the players in these deals better than the team trading them."

A few years later, on Feb. 27, 2007, I recalled this insight when Garth Snow called me down to his office. At the time, which was less than an hour before the NHL trade deadline, I was drafting a statement to explain why the Islanders decided not to make a major deal. You know, "We weren't going to mortgage the future for a rental," and, "The other teams really were pushing for our great prospects." That sort of thing. Richard Zednik and Marc-Andre Bergeron, acquired earlier, would have to suffice.

I walked down to Garth's office. Ken Morrow, the pro scouting director then and now, was also there. Kenny was smiling, but Kenny's always smiling, so I wasn't sure what was up until…

 

Tags: Calvin De Haan, Johnny Boychuk, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Is this real life?

The Islanders have an arena deal? On Long Island? The one in New York?

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 (Kim Klement)
(Kim Klement)

There was a time, not very long ago, when Anders Lee - whose 20 goals this season rank third in the NHL - could have chosen to pursue a career in the NFL. The star quarterback at Edina High School in Minnesota, Lee was voted Gatorade Player of the Year in the state and was a finalist for Minnesota's coveted "Mr. Football" award in 2008.

That same year, he and his family visited Notre Dame, which was recruiting Lee to join their hockey program. Over breakfast, Fighting Irish head coach Jeff Jackson threw out a question that gave Lee a lot to think about: To have a long career in one of the major leagues, are your odds more in your favor to become a starting NFL quarterback, or to be one of an NHL team's 12 forwards?

In a decision that changed the young man's life, and the course of the New York Islanders, Lee chose hockey. Still, it was far from easy. He was not picked until the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Draft. While others may have seen him as a long shot because of concerns over his skating, the Notre Dame coaching staff and the Islanders' scouts did not...

Tags: Anders Lee, Chris Botta
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Nov 19, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward John Tavares (91) comes over the boards on a line change against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders 4-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)
Nov 19, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward John Tavares (91) comes over the boards on a line change against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders 4-2. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports (James Guillory)

After losing consecutive games in regulation for the first time all season, and going 2-5-1 to start December, the Islanders are experiencing their first serious bump in the road to qualifying for the playoffs. No one said it would be easy, but with team defense and goaltending like this, it's actually incredible they're currently in a wild card spot. The Islanders have given up more goals this season than every team in the NHL except Arizona.

Will it make you feel any better today if I provide a little perspective? For about half of my time with the Islanders, we were out of the playoff picture before the holiday party.

No? Okay, then let's take a look at the Metropolitan Division and measure up what will be a crazy playoff chase. By decree of the NHL's unique system, at least three Met teams will not make the playoffs this season. The top three teams in the Met get spots, and then there are the two wild cards available. That means, while it's difficult to take the Hurricanes or even the surging Flyers too seriously at this point, one from a group consisting of the three locals, plus the Penguins, Capitals, and Blue Jackets is not going to make it. Here's how I rate the Met Eight, from most likely to qualify to ones in doubt...

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New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang clears a loose puck from in front of his own gaol as Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan tries to score during the overtime period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Don Wright/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang clears a loose puck from in front of his own gaol as Pittsburgh Penguins center Riley Sheahan tries to score during the overtime period at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Don Wright/USA TODAY Sports)

Today's subject is assistant coaches. The premise: it's unfair to make the special teams failings of the Islanders or any other team all about one or two assistant coaches.

But I'd like to start by asking you rabid hockey fans to rack your brains for a moment.

For as long as you have been following the NHL, can you think of ANY assistant coach who was or is regarded as an absolute special teams genius, a maestro of the power play or penalty kill?

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Oct 28, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) (Christopher Hanewinckel)
Oct 28, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) (Christopher Hanewinckel)

Russ Farwell, the longtime general manager of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds, knows how difficult it is to select the best teenage hockey players in the NHL Draft. As a former GM of the Flyers in the early '90s, like his colleagues he had his share of hits and misses.

But even Farwell was surprised to see the uniquely gifted Mathew Barzal, one of the best players in Seattle history, go unselected for 15 picks - including selections 13, 14 and 15 by the Boston Bruins - before Garth Snow and the Islanders snapped him up in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"We were aware of teams across the NHL that had Mathew as high as fourth or fifth overall in their rankings," Farwell said in a phone conversation from Seattle. "I know Carolina liked him a lot, but decided to go with a good defenseman [Noah Hanfin, fifth overall]. And sure, I was bit surprised he went by those picks Boston had."

Tags: John Tavares, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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 (Marc DesRosiers)
(Marc DesRosiers)

Another strong effort, another win at the beloved Barc…fun, right?

Garth Snow and Doug Weight's club has been a blast the first 24 games of the season. To the people who cover the league closely but the Islanders not closely enough, they are one of the surprise early hits of the season.

Like a lot of things when it comes to the Islanders, and this has almost always been the case throughout their history, it's like no one saw this coming.

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Nick Leddy, Chris Botta
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Oct 7, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (66) right wing Josh Bailey (12) and left wing Jason Chimera (25) react after scoring against Buffalo Sabres in the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports (Nicole Sweet)
Oct 7, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (66) right wing Josh Bailey (12) and left wing Jason Chimera (25) react after scoring against Buffalo Sabres in the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports (Nicole Sweet)

One of the laziest and corniest things you can do during Thanksgiving week is write a piece on everything you're thankful for. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Please indulge me, Islanders Country. Fact is, after all these years in this business on one side or the other, I've never taken the opportunity to say thank you. Perhaps I've become a bit sentimental.

Or maybe I'm feeling especially grateful. So here goes. If you give me this one, I'll do my best to write at least one Grinchy rant before the New Year.

Tags: John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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 (Billy Hurst)
(Billy Hurst)

The Islanders' victory in St. Louis on Saturday night showed why Doug Weight is the right coach for this team, and why his club will qualify for this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The win was the second time in the last few weeks that the Islanders rebounded well from flat performances. The first was on Oct. 28, when Weight's team blew out the Cup-finalist Predators in Nashville after a bad game in Minnesota two nights earlier. Beating the Blues the night after the Islanders stunk in Dallas showed something. As lost as they looked against the Stars, they found their game at the start in St. Louis.

That's not easy to do.

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

I wanted to love the Barclays Center when I went to my first Islanders game there two years ago. I grew up in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - twice, actually. The first time was as a child from Hicksville, with the sweetly-gruff security man Mr. Buonagura popping the door open for me and his son Paul on Saturday nights so we could take seats just before the press table in the last row of the old barn. The second time was for the first two decades of adulthood, where I learned a lot about life through some extraordinary times as an Islanders employee.

So when I walked into the Barc for my first game, I didn't want to be that guy who thought everything new was bad.

It didn't last long...

Tags: Anthony Beauvillier, Calvin De Haan, John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal, Nikolay Kulemin, Chris Botta
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Oct 6, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)
Oct 6, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports (Aaron Doster)

Almost a decade ago, Brendan Witt was the veteran in the corner, quietly enjoying a moment of Zen and a cup of locker room Joe while his younger teammates stretched and gabbed about the night before. When the former Islanders defender visited his old team after their game in Los Angeles last month, Witt grinned when he learned the contemplative veteran in the corner with the coffee was now Josh Bailey.

"Bails was such a great kid," Witt recalled of his teammate's rookie season yesterday in a phone conversation from California. "Quiet, reserved…just 18 years old. He had an eagerness to learn what it took to make it in the NHL. Billy Guerin took him under his wing and we all tried to do our best for Josh. It was a tough season, but people should understand that Bails always had the determination. He cared. Stayed after practice, lived in the weight room. Never stopped putting in the time, asking the right questions.

"He's a very good NHL player now. To see him get better every year and really take off lately is gratifying for any of us around back then."

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New York Islanders head coach Al Arbour waves to fans as he leaves the ice with his wife Clarie after returning to the Islanders to coach his 1500th hockey game as Islanders head coach against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) (Ed Betz/AP)
New York Islanders head coach Al Arbour waves to fans as he leaves the ice with his wife Clarie after returning to the Islanders to coach his 1500th hockey game as Islanders head coach against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) (Ed Betz/AP)

Glasses probably attached, Al Arbour came into this world 85 years ago yesterday and remains a warm, stern and wonderful father figure in so many corners of Islanders Country. When Al walked into a room, you knew it. Few people in any walk of life have used their charisma, commanding presence, booming and sometimes soothing voice for more good.

The greatest coach in any sport ever? A few others tend to be in the forefront of the debate, but you can never go wrong by waving the Islanders' nineteen consecutive playoff series victories in your opponent's face. In any friendly arguments at the bar, I prefer to say, Al Arbour was just the greatest, man.

You've heard many of the tales of the Islanders' evolution under Al from 1973 through the four straight Stanley Cups. So let's just take it back a quarter-century to the other time he performed miracles, with the 1992-93 Islanders, for an example of how he pushed the right buttons.

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Five years ago last week, Charles Wang announced that the Islanders would move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season. Although that 25-year lease agreement - erroneously reported to be a windfall of cash that would keep the Islanders flush for a generation - turned out to be toilet paper, it's a good time to consider Wang's legacy as Islanders owner.

The view from here is simple: If you have ever cared about the New York Islanders, then you should know that Wang is the person who kept them here - against all odds, against all reason, possibly at times to the detriment of his sanity. That's his legacy. That's why, for all the times over 16 years when Wang or his hockey team made you hang your head or bang it on the table, this is why he should be remembered fondly.

At the urging of his close friend, former senator Al D'Amato, Wang bought the Islanders in April 2000 to keep the Islanders in New York and -- hopefully someday in the following decade -- build a new arena for Long Island as the centerpiece of development of the Nassau HUB. (All these years later, I instinctively dry-heave whenever I hear that three-letter word)...

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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Five years ago last week, Charles Wang announced that the Islanders would move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season. Although that 25-year lease agreement - erroneously reported to be a windfall of cash that would keep the Islanders flush for a generation - turned out to be toilet paper, it's a good time to consider Wang's legacy as Islanders owner.

The view from here is simple: If you have ever cared about the New York Islanders, then you should know that Wang is the person who kept them here - against all odds, against all reason, possibly at times to the detriment of his sanity. That's his legacy. That's why, for all the times over 16 years when Wang or his hockey team made you hang your head or bang it on the table, this is why he should be remembered fondly.

At the urging of his close friend, former senator Al D'Amato, Wang bought the Islanders in April 2000 to keep the Islanders in New York and -- hopefully someday in the following decade -- build a new arena for Long Island as the centerpiece of development of the Nassau HUB. (All these years later, I instinctively dry-heave whenever I hear that three-letter word)...

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Mar 25, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (66) (Anthony Gruppuso)
Mar 25, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing Joshua Ho-Sang (66) (Anthony Gruppuso)

In ten years as Yankees manager, Joe Girardi led one team to a World Series championship, and another one -- with some incredible young players, but thought to be a little while from contending -- to Game 7 of the ALCS. In that time, he faced the music for his decision-making with a large press corps twice a day for nearly 200 days a year.

In just the latest illustration of the enormous advantage the general manager has of schmoozing the owner in the suite, on the road and over the phone, Garth Snow has out-lasted Joe Girardi in New York.

Josh Ho-Sang is no different than any of the talented and dedicated hockey players before him that have been sent to the minors. His focus should be on putting the work in, being a good teammate, and returning to the Islanders.

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Michael dal Colle, Chris Botta
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 (Andy Marlin)
(Andy Marlin)

Invitations were distributed a few months ago for the latest pre-game gathering of Islanders alumni, but this time would be different.

Second-year Islanders majority co-owner Jon Ledecky didn't just send invitation letters to the usual dozen or so former stars. That's the way it had been done for decades by previous management. The inspiration now was, if you even donned an Islanders sweater for just one game, you deserved to be there.

Literally, if you were even just once an Islander, you are always an Islander.

Tags: Anders Lee, John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin, Ryan Pulock, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow (Ed Mulholland)
New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow (Ed Mulholland)

 The lead today comes from…Today's Tweeted Question:

@SP19hockey asked, "12 years of Snow. Love Game of Thrones but that's TOO much winter for Isles. Any chance at change of season?"

No...

Tags: Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Jaroslav Halak, Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, Thomas Greiss, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

Like every story, there are at least two sides to the drama surrounding John Tavares and his future with the New York Islanders. Let's start with the dark side.

Beyond only certain corners of the New York metropolitan area, the real, hard truth is that it's difficult to find anyone who believes Tavares will sign another long-term contract with the Islanders.

If you were to run into any NHL power broker, influencer, or insider who is unaffiliated with the Islanders and bought them a few shots of Jameson, they might tell you any or all of the following...

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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 (James Guillory)
(James Guillory)

From Scott Gordon to Jack Capuano and now Doug Weight, the legacy continues.

On the MSG postgame show Wednesday night -- almost always the "Happy Recap," win or lose -- Weight talked about how the Islanders "did some great things." Moments after, in speaking with the press, Weight pointed out, "We did a lot of good things on the power play."

The Islanders lost in Anaheim, 3-2. They have won one of their first four games. After going 0-5 last night, Weight's team is now 0-15 on the power play this season...

Tags: Anders Lee, Andrew Ladd, Cal Clutterbuck, Johnny Boychuk, Ryan Pulock, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Picture ARod going on Fox in the middle of this Yankees playoff series, and saying he hears that Joe Girardi will be fired no matter what. Or Ron Duguay going on MSG Network early in this Rangers season, and declaring that Rick Nash will be traded before Christmas.

This just doesn't happen. Usually, former athletes straddle the line in their broadcast jobs when talking about their old teams.

But this is Islanders Country, where…oh, for once, can everybody just leave this franchise alone?

Tags: Josh Ho-Sang, Ryan Pulock, Chris Botta
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 (John Geliebter)
(John Geliebter)

The players are no longer getting coffee in the locker room and whispering to each other, "Cappy still here?"

A third goalie isn't being stashed on the roster, and limiting the reps of the excellent No. 1 and 1As, because of the long-shot notion he's the next Patrick Roy.

As a result, and because of the simple fact that they have the player personnel to get it done in a conference that is not steeped in quality, the Islanders will qualify for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs...

Tags: Anders Lee, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Jaroslav Halak, John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal, Nick Leddy, Thomas Greiss, Chris Botta
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Islanders Point Blank founder and former SNY contributor Chris Botta will be back with us this season, posting multiple columns each week.


When we last left off about five years ago, the New York Islanders were a franchise without a long-term home -- a team entering each season merely yearning to grab one of the final playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.

While many faces - including the latest batch of intriguing young players - have changed, in the big picture, not a lot else has.

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