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Isles’ ownership ‘evaluating all aspects’ as Snow, Weight stick around, for now

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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Underneath the staircase, just outside the New York Islanders practice facility locker room sat a blue and orange team bag with “SNOW” printed on the ID tag. The bag may have been packed but the general manager who it belongs to is apparently not going anywhere.

On Monday, as the Islanders finished up the second day of exit interviews before beginning their off-season, owner Jon Ledecky sat next to GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight and read from a prepared statement that did not definitively say one way or the other that changes were coming in those positions.

“We are committed to long-term success. Any decisions we make are for the long-term success of our hockey club. We win and lose together as an organization, not as individuals,” said Ledecky. “Missing the playoffs is beyond disappointing. At the same time, we believe we have a strong core of players that will be the basis for our success on the ice. Obviously our definition of long-term success is competing every year for the Stanley Cup and eventually winning a fifth ring. 

“Our season has just ended and as an organization we will be evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations and then we will make decisions based on what is best for the future of our club. I’m not here today to talk about any specific individuals including players coaches and the general manager.

“We believe that it is essential to our success to have a thoughtful evaluation to look at the past and more importantly assess the future of our team on and off the ice.

“As for the past season, as owners, we have failed. We sincerely apologize to our fans. We want to express that our ownership group is totally committed to winning and providing the resources to do just that.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

At that point, Ledecky, who spent several nights during the season greeting fans inside Barclays Center and on the Long Island Rail Road, got up and stood in the back of the room and did not take questions as Snow and Weight tried to explain away another disappointing year.

A second straight season without the playoffs, which was derailed by a second half skid and an inability to keep the puck out of their own net, now transitions to a defining summer for the franchise. Captain John Tavares can enter the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, and as of Monday, he hadn’t begun to think about what direction his future will take him.

“This is where I hope to be. I’ve always stated that,” Tavares said. “But obviously I have some time to think about my situation and go from there. I’ve loved it here and people have really embraced me, the team and organization have been first class since I’ve gotten here. Obviously, some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives and I’ll have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there.”

Tavares has consistently expressed his love for the organization and the Long Island area, but after nine years and three playoff appearances, the lure of moving on to an annual contender remains an option. 

The loyalty factor could come into play, as well. Aside from his affection for the team and area, Snow drafted Tavares first overall in 2009 and the captain spent his first two years in the NHL living with Weight and his family. It’s the only organization he’s ever known and it’s clear both sides have told one another about how much they desire to bring a championship back to Long Island.

“I think they know how bad I want to win and I think I know how bad they want to win,” Tavares said. “I don’t think they’re here not trying to win and trying to do the best they can on a daily basis and give it everything they have, and try to get the most out of our group and continue to have success and have an opportunity on a yearly basis to play for the Stanley Cup. I don’t think that’s any question, their commitment to having a winning team.”

During 16 minutes he and Weight spoke, Snow said he wants to see Tavares “retire as an Islander” five times. There were the usual quotes of wanting to be better next season and putting in effort to not be in the same situation a year from now, but the confidence the fan base has in the leadership of the team has diminished over the last few years, which resulted in billboards being put up in Brooklyn calling for the GMs dismissal in February.

It seems pretty clear that Snow and Weight will be back next season. What more do Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin need to evaluate after before deciding to officially retain the pair? The draft and free agency periods are coming up and there’s the Tavares contract situation to sort out. Someone has to be in charge of those things and that’s been Snow’s job for the last 12 years. If you were going to change it, wouldn’t it have happened already?

It’s a crucial off-season for the franchise and with relatively new ownership and a new arena coming, the winning days need to return quickly for the franchise. And for Snow, the work is already underway.

“We’ll go through the process of reviewing the entire organization,” said Snow. “The first part, the exit meeting with the players is step one. Obviously, the draft is the end of June and those meeting will start picking up here in a few weeks to see where we sit with the lottery. It starts again [Tuesday] morning for Doug and myself and that review process.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Guerin, Weight headline 2013 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

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This year’s U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class is a doozy.

Headlining this year’s group to be honored are former NHL stars Bill Guerin and Doug Weight. Both are Stanley Cup winners (Guerin twice, Weight once) and each played in three Olympics for Team USA. Overall, Weight represented America at nine international events while Guerin did so at seven.

Both players were also college hockey stars as well with Guerin playing at Boston College and Weight for Lake Superior State.

This year’s other inductees are nothing to sneeze at either. Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr., legendary college hockey coach Ron Mason, and women’s hockey pioneer Cindy Curley round out the class.

Karmanos’ legacy as an owner isn’t one that’s well-remembered in Hartford after uprooting the Whalers, but after 50+ years of building hockey at all levels in the United States he’s more than earned the honor.

Mason finished his coaching career with 924 wins, a mark that was tops in college hockey until BC’s Jerry York surpassed that mark this past season. His legacy as a coach at Michigan State, Bowling Green, and Lake Superior State makes him a legend amongst coaches.

Curley’s work to establish women’s hockey in the United States cannot be stated enough. She was a member of the first IIHF Women’s World Championship team in 1990 and represented the U.S. in numerous tournaments to follow that. As a pioneer of the game for women in America, it’s about time she was recognized for her work.

PHT Morning Skate: Jagr and Voracek pay tribute to a fallen leader

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek are honoring former Czech president Vaclav Havel with a helmet sticker of their own. (Uni Watch)

Andy McDonald is doing some light skating and trying to get back to action for the Blues soon. (Post-Dispatch)

Dave Tippett is going to shake things up in Phoenix so they can win more at home. Insert an attendance joke at your own peril. (Ice Chips)

Jason Chimera is going to wind up being the Capitals’ goal leader this year, isn’t he? (Caps Insider)

Congrats to Leland Irving for his first NHL win in goal for Calgary over Vancouver. (Calgary Sun)

Someone should’ve told Darryl Sutter that the NHL is a “2-1” league and sometimes the “2” doesn’t come until a lame shootout. (CSNBayArea.com)

Good news Sabres fans, Tyler Myers isn’t too far off from returning from injury. (Buffalo News)

Anton Volchenkov is counting his lucky stars that he’s OK after taking a shot off the visor. Those things are kind of useful. (Star-Ledger)

Finally, if you haven’t had a good coach meltdown in a while, Islanders assistant coach Doug Weight let’s you test your lip reading skills. (Islanders Point Blank)

Islanders make Mark Streit the NHL’s first Swiss-born captain

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Going into the 2010-11 season, Mark Streit ranked as a significantly underrated offensive defensemen and arguably the top reason why the New York Islanders might have been feeling optimistic. His prodigious skills and hockey IQ were on display during the 2010 Olympics, when he stood out alongside goalie Jonas Hiller on an over-matched Swiss squad that gave the U.S. and Canadian teams some serious headaches.

Of course, things fell apart when a preseason shoulder injury ended that 10-11 campaign. Combined with Kyle Okposo being sidelined for a big chunk of the season, it seemed like the Isles were doomed from the start.

Heading into this summer, the Islanders faced a touch decision: who should become the team’s next captain now that Doug Weight retired? Some people argued for 2009 first overall pick John Tavares while others championed Okposo. Yet if the Islanders decided to break with the recent trends of naming a young face of the franchise and instead opt for a veteran, then Streit would be the obvious choice.

Arthur Staples reports that the Islanders decided to go with Streit, which makes him the NHL’s first Swiss-born player to become a captain. The Islanders confirmed the news moments ago.

After scoring a career-high 62 points in his last season with the Montreal Canadiens in 07-08, many believed that the Islanders might get burned by signing Streit after a breakout year. While Streit hasn’t matched that lofty point total in Long Island, he was outstanding in his two seasons with the Islanders, scoring 56 points in 08-09 and 49 in 09-10. The 33-year-old blueliner fought his way to the NHL, premiering with the Habs during the 05-06 season at age 28.

In my opinion, the Islanders really couldn’t go wrong with either Streit, Okposo or Tavares. It might indeed be wiser to go with a veteran presence, especially since the team can transition the “C” to Okposo or Tavares once Streit retires, leaves for a different squad or fades from relevance. Streit only has two years remaining on his current deal, so it’s possible that the team might move on to a new leader after the 2012-13 season.

Either way, it’s a great reward for a player who paid his dues. The Islanders are among a handful of “wildcard” teams who could be playoff contenders as easily as they could have lousy seasons, so the onus will be on Streit & Co. to get the job done.

John Tavares says that he’d love to be the Islanders’ next captain

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There are a handful of NHL teams who are without a captain, including the St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils. To some fans, that might be a cause for concern, while others wonder if the role is actually a little overrated.

Doug Weight’s retirement leaves the New York Islanders without a symbolic leader, which could make sense if the team backs up the hopeful narrative that the franchise will finally turning things around in 2011-12. If the team wants to take the easy way out, they could always play pin the tail on the nearest available valuable veteran and just hand the “C” to Mark Streit. After all, the offensive defenseman was the team’s biggest star before his season-ending injury last summer.

Then again, teams are just as likely to hand the captain’s role to a young face of their franchise. If that trend continues with the Islanders, then they might turn to John Tavares – the first pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and their most recognizable offensive talent.

Tavares expressed a keen interest in that role while making the rounds at today’s Players Media Tour.

“I’d love to be (captain),” Tavares told NHL.com Thursday morning. “I definitely understand maybe I am still too young and just need to worry about the game, but if it was presented to me, it definitely would be something I would talk about and make sure it’s the right decision for the group and for myself as well. I’d love to be a leader of this team.

“Mark Streit and Kyle are great guys and are going to be highly recommended, for sure. But I still feel I’ll be a big leader no matter what, and I’ll still have a lot of responsibility in a lot of ways. Whatever way it goes, it’s going to be a guy that definitely deserves it and will do a great job at it. If I get the opportunity, it would be a huge honor.”

Much like the Devils’ situation with Zach Parise, the Islanders might be a bit apprehensive to hand Tavares the captaincy while he’s in a contract year. Of course, he’ll only be a restricted free agent in 2012 and the team should have more than enough cap space to keep him around for the foreseeable future, so that might be a moot point.

Whether he wears a “C” on his shoulder or not, Tavares will be a leader for the Islanders. Some think he might be among the NHL’s scoring leaders as well, but we’ll have to see if he takes the next step in his development (he went from 24 goals and 54 points in 2009-10 to 29 goals and 67 points in 10-11) in his third season.

For Islanders fans reading this post, would you rather see Tavares, Streit, Kyle Okposo or someone else become the captain next season? Let us know in the comments.