2009 NHL Preview: New York Islanders

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the New York Islanders…


* While not on the ice, the Islanders made big news in the game of staying on the Island. Owner Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Project have made significant strides in the push to replace aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with a new, mixed use sporting complex. For the Town of Hempstead, it means much needed development and an infusion of cash. For the Isles Faithful, it means there is still no island in the middle of Kansas City. And let’s keep it that way. The Project next address zoning issues in another important meeting with the Town on September 22nd and fans are asked to continue to lend their support and voices. Get more info at www.lighthouseli.com

* The Islanders also did something related to improving their chances of making the playoffs this season – won the draft lottery and used the pick to snag the OGA-named, Long Island Ice-T, John Tavares. The much sought after Tavares was proud to be drafted by the Islanders (remember when some wondered if he would pull a Lindros?) and he is even more proud to help carry some of the Weight, er, weight of lifting up the franchise. Expectations are high, the pressure is on but one man does not a team make. And he wasn’t the only first round draft pick the Islanders had.

* Defenseman Calvin de Haan was selected just 11 picks after Tavares when Garth Snow and Co. worked some magic to move up in the draft (moving twice from pick 26th to land at 12) for their second pick. While the Long Island Ice-T has garnished tons of press and blatherings during the off-season, de Haan has quietly worked on what he needs to do to make the team this coming season. And things are looking pretty good for him in camp so far. He scored his first goal against Edmonton in the Islander’s second pre-season game (de Haan’s first) and is impressing many in camp with his demeanor as well as play-making abilities. Will he make the cut at the end of camp? Stranger things have happened (see 15-year contracts…)

* Management shocked the NHL when they brought in two more starting-caliber goalies to back up their number one starting goalie who may not be able to start this season. Rick DiPietro played five games last season before succumbing again to injury. Is he ready to start this October? Nobody knows…but Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron were also signed during the off-season so Ricky D does not have to push his recovery schedule. But secretly, Rangers fans are hoping they decide to play each goalie in each game. Each goalie would play one period. It would be like those child-actors who get cast in a TV sitcom but, because they are one of a set of twins/triplets, etc., their siblings get to work, too, alternating episodes. And then we, the viewers, are left wondering, ‘now, which goalie was that? they look so much alike…!’

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Lemieux: Crosby is better than me!

Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux has maintained a low profile all season with the media. He has let other members of the front office speak out on club issues. That was until yesterday.

Lemieux held a 12-minute press conference prior to the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday. Looking tanned and rested, Super Mario offered his opinion on a variety of subjects, including young Penguin superstar Sidney Crosby, the post-lockout game of hockey, and the chances of his team in their return trip to the Stanley Cup finals.

Here are his comments on Crosby:

The Pittsburgh Penguins owner – and one of the greatest NHL players of all-time – indicated that Crosby is much better at age 21 than he was. Lemieux thinks the team’s captain is a lot more mature, too.

“He’s a special kid,” Lemieux said Saturday night. “He’s a better player than I was at the same age, for sure. Some of the things that he does on the ice, his strength, skating ability is incredible. His passion for the game and his will to be the best each and every shift.

“His work ethic, he’s got it all.”

Crosby has lived with Lemieux since entering the league four years ago and has become like another member of the family. The two men speak about hockey “all the time,” according to Lemieux.

He added that the overall play in the league has been great this season, and this is coming from someone who called the NHL a “garbage league” of players clutching and grabbing the elite superstars in the neutral zone. Lemieux hopes his team follows the same path of the 1984 Edmonton Oilers. The previous year, they lost the finals to the New York Islanders before winning the Stanley Cup. He feels both teams were built similarly, with two elite players headlining an up tempo offensive-minded team.

The Islanders’ Dilemma: The Bizarre Ownership History of Charles Wang

In the grand tradition of larger-than-life New York sports impresarios, Charles Wang is running his organization his way. He has never apologized for his approach to building a business. Whether in sports or in the computer world, Wang has gone about it in an unorthodox manner.

Questionable decisions are nothing new for Wang’s Islanders, as the New York press has deemed the team’s front office as “The Long Island Lunacies.” For years, Wang has employed Mike Milbury to run his hockey franchise, once considered the worst general manager in the NHL. He traded away star G Roberto Luongo for basically a bunch of unknowns, and then advised Wang to sign C Alexei Yashin to a 10-year, 87.5 million dollar contract in 2004 and G Rick DiPietro to a 15-year, 67.5 million dollar contract in 2006.

Wang thought he would be praised for his willingness to spend money; instead, these strange contract signings have become an albatross around the franchise’s neck. And questionable decisions are not limited only to the team’s personnel moves.

The Islanders hired Neil Smith last year, only to be fired by Wang after 40 days on the job. In the ensuing press conference, Wang felt he had “philosophical differences” with Smith in running the organization. Smith objected to Wang’s preference to run the organization by committee. He wanted sole authority in decision making, while Wang sought the opinion of his coach and two advisors, Bryan Trottier and Ken Morrow, before making a personnel move. In the end, Wang hired Garth Snow as the GM, after he retired as the team’s back-up goaltender. Coming into this season, the Islanders will have their fourth coach behind the bench during Wang’s ownership reign.

Most hockey writers have described Wang as being “quirky” or “eccentric” during their dealings with him, while the business world has called him a ruthless corporate raider, who devours small companies and spits out their bones. His business career has been marked with controversy.

In building Computer Associates, Wang was engaged in numerous corporate takeovers that were followed by the firings of top management and key employees. His strategy was to force employees of the acquired company to sign an employment agreement on-the-spot at their initial meeting. Employees who refused or asked for a third party to review the agreement were immediately fired. Wang demands blind loyalty from his employees.

Since becoming majority owner, Wang’s number one objective is developing the Lighthouse Project. It is the transformation of the Nassau Coliseum and the 77 surrounding acres into a business community consisting of a five-star hotel, condominiums, conference center, and an athletic complex to serve as the Islanders’ practice facility.

The problem with the Islanders is that there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Charles Wang needs only to look at his own team’s history to find the answer to getting his team back on course to winning a Stanley Cup. The franchise began operation in 1972, and developed into a dynasty in the early eighties by winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983. How did the Islanders become such a juggernaut? Well, they had one architect in Bill Torrey and one taskmaster behind the bench in Al Arbour. Together, they built the franchise from the ground up. Right now, Wang has too many voices in his ear giving him too many solutions for his franchise’s problems. Come up with one plan and one direction, then move forward.

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