Chris Botta

Chris Botta is a contributor to SNY

Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 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 NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 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)

[Editor's Note: Islanders fans, we want to hear from you and share some of your viewpoints. Tweet @ChrisBottaNHL before 11:59 pm on Friday, Aug. 3 to share your prediction -- at this moment -- of where the Islanders will finish in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of 2018-19. We need the number (first? 6th? 12th?) and brief thought summarizing why. Your tweet may be used in a future Point Blank piece.]

You are Lou Lamoriello, Hall of Fame architect. You've taken over a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons and won one playoff round since 1993. Then, through no fault of your own, you lose your most celebrated player to free agency.

Suddenly, the new job is eerily familiar to your previous one with the Maple Leafs. There, you started with a thin roster and a top coach, Mike Babcock. But in 2016, you had the first pick in the draft and were gifted Auston Matthews.

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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)

Do you remember where you were seven years ago today?

On Aug. 1, 2011, I went for a run in the village of Rockville Centre, saw the determined looks on the faces of the residents marching into South Side Middle School, and knew it right away.

The public vote to build a new arena on the Coliseum property for the Islanders was going to be a big, fat, no frickin' way.

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To hear his college coach talk about him, the Islanders may be justified in their faith that Devon Toews will be an impact defenseman this season and for many to come.

"Devon's going to be a Corsi king - a top possession defender," said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who took over the program in 1994 and is third among active NCAA Division I men's hockey coaches in victories. "Some people are going to be surprised about him, but not us. We know how good Devon is, and how good he's going to become."

Toews played for the Bobcats for three seasons, from 2013-2016, with an appearance in the Frozen Four in his final season. Pecknold identified Toews as an intriguing prospect and recruited him to attend the university in Connecticut with the guidance of a good connection: Matt Erhart, who played for Pecknold at Quinnipiac in the first four years of this century, was Toews' coach as a teenager with the Surrey (British Columbia) Eagles...

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Sep 17, 2017; Uniondale, NY, USA; General view of NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 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 NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum 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)

If the Islanders' arena project on the Belmont Park property faces obstacles in approvals and construction, team management has wisely negotiated a cushion.

Point Blank has learned that the Islanders' agreement with the operators of the Nassau Coliseum is not just for the next three NHL seasons, but also includes two option years for the club. Two people with knowledge of the agreement shared the information, requesting anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue.

This means that if the Islanders' arena in Belmont is not completed for the start of the 2021-22 season, the team has the option to continue playing at the Coliseum for at least that season and the following one...

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The Islanders' defense will improve in 2018-19 for a simple reason beyond the fact that the team is now coached by the infinitely more accomplished tactician Barry Trotz. It will be better because it could not possibly be worse than it was under Doug Weight and his band of assistants last season, when it was historically very, very bad:

Most goals allowed (293) by an NHL team since 2006-07

Allowed five or more goals in regulation and conceded at least 40 shots on goal 20 times

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The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)
The Front of the Barclays center is shown Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (Frank Franklin II/AP)

We don't know if there are pictures of 10-year-old Anders Lee of Edina, Minn. in the pajamas of the first-year Wild back in the year 2000, but the Islanders might not want to take any chances.

As the Islanders embark on this uncertain three (or more)-year path to Belmont, they must learn from the John Tavares heartache. They need to control what they can control, and make their organization as attractive - or at least as less unattractive - as possible. They need to eliminate the excuses for someone else to walk out the door.

Beginning with the 2019-20 season, all of their home games must be played at the barn in Nassau County. And the plan to move all of the games to Nassau should be announced weeks before the trade deadline in February 2019.

Tags: Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Chris Botta
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Now that "John Tavares" has "written" his farewell to the Islanders for The Players Tribune, here are some final Point Blank thoughts on the whole ordeal:

Tavares' piece was what you'd expect: an attempt to explain himself and thank Islander fans. The timing of its publishing was flawed; the piece posted just as the pain and anger in Islanders Country had subsided. Getting his message across by July 2 would have been more effective and heartfelt. But hey, I know how tough it is to write on deadline.

Still, it's clear from reading the piece that Tavares was very aware of the reaction of his departure, and cares what people think about him. There's nothing bad about that.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to reporters in Toronto, Friday, April 27, 2018. The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP) (COLE BURSTON/AP)

Face it: if Garth Snow had made all of the player personnel moves that Lou Lamoriello has so far as Islanders GM, there would be a march on Eisenhower Park.

In the excitement over the removal of the embarrassing regime of Snow and installation of Lamoriello as leader of hockey operations, somewhere along the line it seems people believe the legendary ex-Devils architect is untouchable.

Since the painful exit of John Tavares, there has been a lot of puffed-out chests and declarations of Hey, Screw Tavares -- We've Got Lou and We Can't Go Wrong...

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Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)
Mar 29, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks to make a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports (Timothy T. Ludwig)

After most of the free agent goaltenders had come off the free agent board (Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier, Petr Mrazek, among others), the name of Robin Lehner stood out as the best available one for the Islanders to sign on a low-risk, one-year deal. On Tuesday, Erik Karlsson was all the rage and then the Islanders traded for prodigal son Matt Martin, so my plans to write about Lehner got put on the back burner.

When the Islanders signed him on Tuesday afternoon, I laughed out loud…and liked the move even more.

With the Islanders having so many tough, fearless, edgy fourth-line forwards in the fold, why not add the equivalent in goal? The Islanders may not be the most skilled team next season, but you can't blame Lou Lamoriello for "making it look mean."

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Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)
Jan 22, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Matt Martin (15) shoots the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre. The Avalanche beat the Maple Leafs 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Szczerbowski)

The acquisition of Matt Martin makes little sense, and -- on the heels of Lou Lamoriello's free agent signings so far -- raises more concerns about the plans of new management. 

I love it.

Welcome back, Matt.

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Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)
Mar 8, 2018; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) skates with the puck in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY (Marc DesRosiers)

After the gut-punch of the loss of John Tavares on Sunday, anyone could understand the desire to rebound. Who among us hasn't been dumped, only to dream of bouncing back with someone just as dazzling?

Otherwise, count me in the minority when it comes to clamoring for the Islanders to make a trade for Erik Karlsson. The Islanders will inquire, and would be right to investigate, but it is not the right move at this time for the club. The reasons...

The Price

Tags: John Tavares, Josh Ho-Sang, Chris Botta
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John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
John Tavares (91) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

On the day after, as the Islanders turn the page after the most soul-sucking moment for the club and Country in this century, some thoughts as we await Lou Lamoriello's next move…

Lamoriello did not agree to run the Islanders because he was convinced Tavares was staying with the team

Take this to the bank: Lamoriello's decision to tackle this major project did not come down to whether one great player was going to re-sign with his team. His life in the game has always been about the image of "team," not "individual" accomplishments. If anything, Tavares' defection should only further energize the new boss. If this is to be Lamoriello's final act in the game, what better way to close a magnificent career than with the complete exorcism of a team haunted by three decades of mismanagement?

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays the puck against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 19, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays the puck against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

On the day after, as the Islanders turn the page after the most soul-sucking moment for the club and Country in this century, some thoughts as we await Lou Lamoriello's next move…

Lamoriello did not agree to run the Islanders because he was convinced Tavares was staying with the team

Take this to the bank: Lamoriello's decision to tackle this major project did not come down to whether one great player was going to re-sign with his team. His life in the game has always been about the image of "team," not "individual" accomplishments. If anything, Tavares' defection should only further energize the new boss. If this is to be Lamoriello's final act in the game, what better way to close a magnificent career than with the complete exorcism of a team haunted by three decades of mismanagement?

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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Tavares not returning to Isles 00:02:46
Chris Botta breaks down what the future holds for the New York Islanders after John Tavares' decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As the confusion, sadness and anger sets in with the news that the days of John Tavares as a New York Islander have come to an end, it is constructive to accept the magnitude of the loss.

While he fulfills what he has described as a "childhood dream" to play for the Maple Leafs, Tavares' departure is the latest (and hopefully final) massive blow to the reputation of the Islanders organization -- as big a blow as any New York sports team has endured since free agency first came to baseball five decades ago.

This absolutely a stain on the franchise -- the final piece of the legacy of former general manager Garth Snow, with blame shared by the refusal of current owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky to do anything for two years to upgrade a miserable organization.

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Feb 5, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) skates to a face off against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Feb 5, 2018; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) skates to a face off against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

"He wants a fair deal, to be happy, and most of all, he wants to win." That is the viewpoint of a former Islanders teammate of John Tavares, the franchise player who will conclude his listening sessions Wednesday and decide very soon if he wants to stay with the Orange and Blue.

While TSN insider Bob McKenzie continues to pound the refrain that Tavares will stay in New York -- "If you ask anyone around the NHL, they'll tell you he's going back to the Islanders," said Bob -- the Tavares camp wants you to know this process has been genuine and his mind is open to a move.

Tavares' pal took exception to the notion, articulated a few times in this space, that the all-star center is "doing his part" for the NHLPA by listening to his agents and visiting with six teams (including the Islanders). He insists that these three days of meetings are about more than negotiating a salary he could proudly put on the board for his fellow stars in the NHL.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

You won't have to wait much longer to learn if the Islanders are still the slight favorites in the hunt for John Tavares. The Steven Stamkos talks of two years ago taught us that.

Although unrestricted free agency begins Sunday, July 1, Tavares will have completed his "listening period" with other teams by Thursday, and possibly Wednesday night. If, when that process is finished, Tavares does not commit to the Islanders soon after - with a press conference by Saturday at the latest - we will know that sincere interest in other teams remains.

Two years ago at this time, Stamkos embarked on his listening period, as overseen by his team at the powerful Newport Sports - the agency led by Don Meehan.

Tags: John Tavares, Chris Botta
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New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)
New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/AP)

The orchestration of the free agency period of John Tavares continues.

As almost everyone has suspected for more than six months, the Islanders were informed today by Pat Brisson that Tavares will participate in meetings with five other teams before the official opening of the unrestricted free agent market on July 1.

The Islanders remain very much in the mix - the slight favorite going into this race, in fact, according to the majority of people around the league I've spoken with over the last two days...

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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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May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
May 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Capitals head coach Berry Trotz talks with media after game seven of the Eastern Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

The first box on Lou Lamoriello's massive to-do list has been checked, and in an extraordinary way.

Barry Trotz, who led the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup earlier this month, has agreed to become the head coach of the Islanders. According to the game's top insiders like Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger, the deal is for five years at around the $4 million-plus annually it was expected would be the minimum Trotz would require.

Adults -- experienced, accomplished, highly-qualified adults -- are in charge of the New York Islanders.

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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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