Chris Botta

Chris Botta is a contributor to SNY

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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