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.
Among the many people and things around Islanders Country I'm thankful for, in November, 2017 and looking way, way back…
For being the most unique fan base in pro sports, Islanders fans. There isn't a community of hockey fans quite like Islanders fans. Only an Islanders fan knows what I mean when I say that. No other fan base can rap out all the incredible and unfathomable moments in Islanders history to fill out at least ten verses to the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire."
On a personal level, while other people hired me - thank you, Islander News founder Jim Johnson - and others compensated me - thank you to the Pickett Family, Ralph Palleschi, Bob Rosenthal, Charles Wang and every Islanders owner who has not been arrested - the residents of Islanders Country gave me a career. My immense gratitude to all of you.
Thank you to Peter Chiarelli, for his graciousness in allowing the Islanders to get out of the hole of drafting Griffin Reinhart fourth overall and Ryan Strome fifth overall. Because if you were to picture the Islanders today without Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle (not to mention the solid potential of Anthony Beauvillier), you would be looking at a .500 team.
It's important to remember the people who went out of their way to be gracious in the first days of your career. For that, I'll never forget Bob Bassen, Steve Konroyd, Pat LaFontaine and William A. Torrey.
They say that you don't want to get to know your heroes because they may let you down. But every time I've called on Bob Nystrom for something professional, personal, or charitable, however big or small, he never lets me down. He is a Long Island treasure. Clark Gillies, John Tonelli, Bryan Trottier, Ken Morrow…I'm sure many of you have met these men, so you know what I mean. The best, right? And to Billy Smith, thank you for being Smitty.
My deepest appreciation goes out to Jiggs McDonald and Howie Rose, amazing home team announcers. It can be a difficult relationship, the one between a team and its play-by-play man, especially during the dark times in an 82-game season. Jiggs and Howie gave us everything they had behind the microphone through all the ups and downs, and were class acts to the franchise.
My thanks go out to every member of the 1992-93 Islanders, and not just because they won a pair of memorable playoff rounds. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more unique cast of characters. Breaking them up was such an awful thing to do.
Three of the best people on the planet happened to spend time as Islanders employees and I'm fortunate to have been enriched by their friendship, then and forever: Jamie Fabos, Cathy Henning and Ginger Killian. It's also highly unlikely I'll ever have a better colleague and teammate than Tim Beach. When the blogosphere, podcasts, social, and the rest of the new media changed the landscape, a young man out of Hofstra named Corey Witt was invaluable and became a little brother.
Thank you to Arthur Staple, Randi Marshall, Jim Baumbach and Newsday for still covering this team, and the big issues surrounding it. Hockey coverage has almost fallen off the cliff in mainstream media in New York, so Newsday's commitment to follow the Islanders and the arena issue should not go unappreciated.
I get that he's a lightning rod in the Country, but Larry Brooks covered the Islanders dynasty, and all these years later writes about the NHL with a passion. Whenever Brooksie retires, who will be left to do what he does? Pretty sure the answer is no one. Little-known fact: Larry fights for that space, fights for more coverage of hockey. A sports editor at a New York City paper will not give anyone that kind of space to write about hockey anymore.
Thank you to Peter Botte, a good friend who gives the Islanders jabs to hold them accountable, and was always smart enough to know not to ask another question when Mike Milbury paused. Because that's when the best quotes usually followed, like about McCabe and the "can opener."
Thank you, SNY, for having a home for Point Blank. Stick-taps to Lighthouse Hockey and every Islanders blog and podcast out there, keeping the Islanders conversation alive. And thank you, #IslesTwitter, especially for driving my pal Brian Compton up the wall.
I'm grateful to Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who don't appear to be shrewd businessmen (meant as a compliment), but a pair of decent fellows who want to have fun playing in the major league sports sandbox, believed in the New York Islanders, and were willing to take the risk to make them better. Ledecky seems to master the beautiful little things: the upgraded practice facility, the Alumni weekend, the parents' road trip, hosting Claire Arbour in Tampa. It all adds up to a lot. Ledecky and Malkin have opened their wallets and their hearts and they are trying.
Now get it right, gentlemen.
And finally, I'm thankful that the 2017-18 Islanders are a good hockey team. There's a lot at stake here with the arena and John Tavares, and boy would it suck if the team wasn't any good.
Tweeted Question of the Day
@2osinodonnel asked, "Why does Garth Snow hate Josh Ho-Sang? I see at least 3 forwards that Ho-Sang is better than."
[Please note: this question was sent just before Ho-Sang returned to the Islanders].
Snow doesn't dislike Ho-Sang at all. Think about all the NHL teams that passed on him. Think about all the times Team Canada cut him. Think about how good Garth would look if Ho-Sang ends up justifying the faith the GM put in him by taking him late in the first round of the draft. In reality, who likes Ho-Sang and wants to see him succeed more than Garth Snow?
Still, I understand the question. Ho-Sang rarely appears to get the benefit of the doubt. His errors seem more unforgivable then others. Some players don't miss a shift after a bad penalty or a few giveaways. Ho-Sang gets sent up I-95.
We wrote at the start of this season that there was little chance Ho-Sang and Barzal and Beauvillier would all flourish in 2017-18 because that's usually not the way sports works. It's interesting that Barzal, who is the finest all-around player of the trio, but came into this season with the least NHL experience, is by far doing the best.
Playoffs? Again and Again, Yes.
It has been said that the first rule for bloggers and Twitterers is to never read the comments, but I often do. The critical feedback can be instructive, any kind words are always appreciated, and I welcome much of the give-and-take.
One theme I've seen raised by a few commenters is the perception that I've flip-flopped already on my outlook for this Islanders season. To recap and clarify from my first column in early October, I have said that this is a playoff team. A follow-up post was devoted entirely to why this is a playoff team.
That does not mean there won't be times during the season that bring criticism and concern. My piece suggesting that Doug Weight should cease the decade-long practice of Islanders coaches blowing sunshine up their players' rears after losses is one example. But this is a very good team, a playoff team in the mediocre East.
So, if they don't make the playoffs, please don't hesitate to tell me how wrong I was. I know Peter Botte will.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.