It's interesting reading so many in the general hockey media pile on the Islanders, but a common thread for me stood out that makes me dismiss almost all of the coverage.
Whether the news is positive or negative means little. All they do is provide background wallpaper that goes back a decade or longer, and has no value regarding today's club whatsoever. This is a disconnect that can be attributed to not only dwindling coverage, but dwindling quality in terms of reporting. In terms of 2008-09, or Snow-Nolan deciding they did not want to work together any longer—all of that is completely worthless. Some of the articles were so poorly written, they did not even note that Neil Smith was fired, and instead incorrectly reported Smith resigned. If they cannot even get the background correct, obviously they can give us nothing of value in terms of the current club. A good example of this media disconnect was clearly evident during this season, when a lot of West Coast writers finally got to see the club in their markets for the first time since 2002. Some had never even seen Rick DiPietro play a game in those time zones. Had DiPietro even seen Calgary since 1999, when he was drafted? It was the first time a few of these writers could update their files in a decade. But of course, this disconnect goes well beyond the West Coast. What is Wallace Matthews of Newsday going to tell our fans about the New York Islanders, writing one article every few years at best? John Rolfe of SI, Adam Proteau of THN, Scott Burnside of ESPN can tell us nothing that they have not been writing for years. It seems a most of them are trapped in the club's past. You could see it in Scott Burnside's reporting all year. All he could tell us was he did not expect the club to stay in contention ,just as he did the previous year, playing it safe. This year, even confirmed local writers like Larry Brooks—who covered Al Arbour night from an Islander perspective—Dave Caldwell at the Times, and Peter Botte at the News were simply not around nearly enough to provide anything new of value.
Most of these writers told us nothing. Some blamed Nolan based on nothing more than his reputation, others blamed Snow because he came in as a backup goalie.
They threw half-baked theories against the walls hoping they would stick. Many blamed Charles Wang, but had no current news beyond blind speculation. Few blamed him for waiting so long—which is what the legitimate criticism should be. Most of these writers could not name ten players on the current roster—they can only tell us the roster back in the late nineties, or when the Isles signed Yashin, or that Charles Wang fired Neil Smith two summers ago. You can see how they avoided discussing the current roster at all cost, writing that the club does not have great prospects, or telling us Doug Weight is old while ignoring the fact that Bobby Holik of the Devils is older—and has been less productive over several years. It's like me trying blog about the Phoenix Coyotes, and then going back to when they were in Winnipeg to explain why Blake Wheeler would not sign with them. I can do a little filler and provide the downside why they have struggled for a long time—but in terms of current information I would do a very poor job. That's what has happened here. Of course when the games begin and the Islanders are competitive, they have nothing to write about, because there is no comfort for them in current events.
We saw that a lot in the last few years, just as we saw teams copy some of the Isles' ideas. But the media downplayed the long-term contracts or shared management strategy in Dallas to almost silence. Most fans following knew the committee philosophy was a bit overblown and downplayed for most of the last two years. Mr Botta wrote about this a few times during the season. It's kind of like how we see some writers portray the Blackhawks or the Blues as a team on the rise, despite the fact that these two teams that to date have not won anything—and in the Blues' case, finished behind New York. No knock on these clubs, because it could be true that's on the rise—but it could also be true for the Isles. For folks who remember, in press conference a few years ago Charles Wang even said if a committee approach did not work out it would be scrapped, and they would go back to the way it was. Along the way, that is exactly what happened—and for all we know it began shortly after the next season began. A year ago the coach had input into player acquisition, but once the games began the coach had his job and the general manager had his. Both Garth Snow and Ted Nolan confirmed this in their now-infamous WFAN interviews back in March—which everyone seemed to ignore in the media. But hey, Roberto Luongo was traded in 1999, Alexei Yashin was signed to a long-term contract—that must be the reason things are dysfunctional now even though a lot of clubs changed coaches.
Los Angeles hired Dean Lombardi as general manager and just fired his first coaching choice, Marc Crawford—who was hired the same summer Ted Nolan and Garth Snow were hired. Tampa fired its Cup-winning coach for an ESPN commentator and left its acting GM home for the draft and free agency, and the media did not have much, if anything, to say about it. Are the Isles going to be a good or bad team next year? We'll see. Is it going to have anything to do with 1999, Roberto Luongo, or Charles Wang firing Neil Smith two years ago? No. Until those writers get beyond that, there's nothing to read of value from them.
The 2007-08 New York Islanders scored two goals or less fourteen games in a row when healthy. They managed to not only stay in contention with a strategy that did not involve getting to overtime—and, unlike the previous season, produced a team deep in the red in terms of plus/minus—but were close to five games over .500, until the flu and injuries pushed them out of the mix in January.
Nevertheless, they were able to recover and win six straight later on, despite missing some key players. Even with four hundred man-games lost to injury, they still managed to beat the Devils, Rangers, and play competitive hockey with Pittsburgh. The Isles' special teams seemed to beat themselves against Philadelphia a lot more than the Flyers all season. There are a lot of what ifs going into next season for the club. But if Comeau and Bergenheim keep improving, Okposo can replace/improve Satan's nightly impact, Tambellini bringis his AHL production to the NHL level, and the club gets a good bounce-back year from Hunter (in terms of goals), Mike Sillinger, and newly acquired Doug Weight—there is no reason this club will not be in position to compete for a playoff spot, regardless of who is behind the bench. Nielsen, Colliton, and Ben Walter will be pushing for spots, along with Jesse Joensuu‚and perhaps Josh Bailey, if some moves open up a spot. On defense the Isles are going to be counting on Campoli to provide Mark Streit with some power-play production—but overall this defense comes in only better than they were a year ago. Sutton and Meyer have settled into their roles after very strong finishes for both of them.
Witt and Martinek should pick up where they left off when healthy, with Bruno Gervais a possible seventh defender given the depth chart and Jack Hillen behind him. Why would anything think losing Ted Nolan, Josef Vasick, Miroslav Satan or Ruslan Fedotenko cause a free fall? Charles Wang and Garth Snow could leave tomorrow and this could still be a competitive club, depending on how things break. This was a group that cut down its opponents' shots last season by a hundred and ninety eight. Needless to say, this did not make it into those reports about Todd Bertuzzi, Roberto Luongo, or Neil Smith—nor did Greg Logan even note in his constant reports DiPietro had to start less games. Rick DiPietro, aside from his grandmother's passing, gave the club solid goaltending from beginning to end last season—despite a statistical argument put forward by Newsday he was struggling, which ignored a six-game winning streak highlighted by a 1-0 win against Tampa Bay. We'll see what happens when the season begins. The idea it will have anything to do with Mike Milbury, Todd Bertuzzi, Neil Smith, or Alexei Yashin is a result of the media's poor coverage habits that are their problems—not ours. And of course you will see more of the same in preseason predictions. What the heck is John Rolfe of SI going to tell us about the 2008-09 Islanders? We'll get one of those articles from yesterday from Mr. Rolfe, regardless of record‚—and will until the Isles win another Cup.
Rolfe did a good job quoting Rich Pilon on ownership back in the nineties but forgot to include Pilon was grossly out of shape which he cannot blame on Howard Milstein and only dropped some pounds after he was traded and he was playing for his future.
Of course, the day the Islanders bring the Cup back home to New York, you can bet the theme of John Rolfe's article will be all about the dark days—the only place he can go with his reporting now.
They can try and blame Charles Wang for that too. But in the end, many of them have to take a long look in the mirror and ask why are they not watching games to give us a current view on the club. If they do a review of the club and tell us Bergenheim cannot finish, Comeau is not a scorer, and Okposo is too young that's fair enough, that could well be correct. If they want to tell us Campoli cannot stay healthy, or that the defense has too many players prone to injury, that's a fair discussion also. But don't tell us it's because of moves close to a decade old. That's just lazy journalism. Our fans deserve better from you.