Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Bad, choppy, slushy ice. Off-center scoreboard. Obstructed view seats. Not enough Islanders branding around the concourses. The LIRR. John Tavares' contract extension.
We've all heard the many complaints lodged over the course of the two-plus seasons the Islanders have called Barclays Center in Brooklyn home. However, the fact remains that the deal struck between former owner Charles Wang and BSE CEO Brett Yormark saved the team from relocating after the township of Hempstead decided it wasn't worth much of a fight to properly refurbish the Nassau Coliseum and keep the team where it played since their inception in 1972.
The relationship hasn't been perfect -- it's now known to be downright rocky at present -- but both sides have found a way to co-exist until a permanent solution is found. With the Jon Ledecky-Scott Malkin RFP for Belmont submitted last month, it's the Islanders' only known hope for getting a modern building of their own and remaining in the area.
Jordan Eberle, after playing his first game in Brooklyn during the preseason, said the ice was "better than expected, not an issue at all, nothing like what I've heard." And Nick Leddy recently echoed those comments on TSN radio, commenting on the improved surface. Granted, that doesn't fix some of the other issues that still persist, mostly for a frustrated fanbase, but it does show a willingness to provide logical improvements.
Even as attendance continues to suffer, with the team averaging 11,674 fans through 10 home dates so far in 2017-18 -- with opening night being the only 'sellout' -- the Islanders have become quite adept at blocking all that out, hitting the ice and just winning. They're doing so much winning, Brooklyn could be dubbed the new 'Fort Neverlose' as they hold the distinction of being the only team in the league not to have lost at home in regulation (8-0-2).
If you go further back to the Islanders' first regulation game at Barclays Center, way back in October of 2015, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blackhawks, the Islanders have gone a remarkable 55-23-14 for 124 points out of a possible 184 in Brooklyn. If you extrapolate that points percentage over a full 82-game season, that would be a 110-point pace -- elite level performance.
Rhyme or reason? Damned if I know. The players seemingly are struggling to find a cohesive answer to it as well, most simply stating they feel comfortable in their surroundings and with the building itself and all the quirks that go along with it.
We know that the team will be there for the remaining 31 home dates this year and another 41 next year. Beyond that is anyone's guess. The hope is that the road leads to Belmont, closure and a contract extension for the captain. For now, the team is just doing what it needs to do when visiting teams come in. Win. And win soundly, outscoring their opponents on home ice, 46-30, scoring five or more goals seven times.
The Devils plucked defenseman Sami Vatanen from the Anaheim Ducks earlier Thursday, surrendering a meager package of Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi, and a third-round pick. But that doesn't lead anyone closer to landing what could be the prize of the 2018 trade deadline in Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The 26-year old offensive defenseman, who has 266 points in 521 career games into his ninth season in the desert, has one year left after this season at a cap hit of $5.5 million dollars. He has not committed to re-signing with the Coyotes, leading to speculation he could be moved at the deadline to the highest bidder.
Crazy to think what a package from GM Garth Snow would look like, but he does have the pieces should he choose to go big. The bigger issue that clouds the situation even further is what the New York salary cap might look like moving forward.
The Islanders have $41.1 million committed for 2018-19 across 12 roster spots. After Tavares, and only after Tavares, contracts (or futures) have to be decided for Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson (RFA), Shane Prince, Alan Quine, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock (RFA) and Scott Mayfield (RFA).
If you assume that Nikolay Kulemin, Jason Chimera, Dennis Seidenberg, and Jaroslav Halak are not returning, and moving forward with a flat upper limit of $75 million, that leaves Snow with $33.9 million to spend on filling 11 spots. The year after? Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee, in addition to restricted youngsters Josh Ho-Sang and Anthony Beauvillier, come knocking at Snow's door.
Some things are black and white. This one doesn't appear to be, at all. Snow has done a good job managing the organization's finances in the past. Now he gets the chance to do it under more difficult circumstances.