There are plenty of bleak situations in the NHL right now. The Toronto Maple Leafs have the makeup of a team in rebuild mode, if it weren’t for those huge draft picks they traded away and their ill-spent investments in big name letdowns. The Florida Panthers are still mediocre and mostly ignored, but seem like they’ve found direction under new GM Dale Tallon. Even the Edmonton Oilers boast a treasure trove of prospects.
Yet if there is one team mired in almost universal negativity, it might just be the New York Islanders. Yes, they have some bright spots to look on, such as 2009 No.1 pick John Tavares and a few other solid young players.
But the team is mired in wasted space (like Rick DiPietro’s contract, which continues the legacy of thrown away cash started by Alexei Yashin’s buyout) playing in a wasted arena in Long Island. The prospects of their desperate attempts to make the Lighthouse Project a reality seem dim at best now, which might be the most demoralizing bit of news.
(Really, they even lost their right to be scrappy underdogs as an organization with the way they blacklisted beat writer Chris Botta because of some personal vendetta between the reporter and GM Garth Snow.)
There is Broadway, there is off Broadway, there is off-off Broadway and then there is Long Island, where the owner, once perceived as a savior (so originally was Spano, so originally were the Gang of Four) has all but disappeared from public view.
It is impossible to determine what the endgame here is for Wang. It can’t be to simply run out the clock over the next four years while further gutting the franchise’s infrastructure. If that truly is the objective, if the owner simply intends to devalue the franchise to the extent no one else would even consider buying it to keep in this area, then it is time for the commissioner to step in, exert his authority and save the Islanders from the crypt-keeper.
Bettman always talks about the league’s commitment to its current markets except when he talks about the Islanders, and then he talks about the commitment to Wang. It’s troubling there is no sense of NHL commitment to Long Island, no sense of NHL commitment to the fan base Bettman himself was once a part of back in the glory days that have passed the franchise by.
The league props up Phoenix, it’ll prop up Dallas and the league will stand behind franchises in Sunrise, Fla.; Tampa and Atlanta, but in this case the league seems to stand behind Wang and not the Islanders. Memo to Bettman: One should not be confused with the other.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that the Islanders are in a state of dismay right now, especially considering the ugly handling of the Botta situation. What would you do to save the Islanders?