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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.

Bettman points finger at Long Island politicos for Islanders move

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There’s been plenty to talk about concerning the sale of the New York Islanders lately. From Charles Wang’s dealings with Andrew Barroway, to the sale of the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky, and the recent revelation there was even a third party involved as well.

Of course, the biggest part of the Islanders’ situation is their impending move to Brooklyn from Long Island.

Wang tried valiantly to refurbish Nassau Coliseum with his own money only to be rebuffed by Nassau County politicians. As Neil Best at Newsday shared, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman puts all the blame for the Islanders’ slight relocation on the government leaders who helped make it all possible.

“This is a situation that is not of the Islanders’ making,” Bettman said. “The responsibility for what’s happened really lies with Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. For the fans in Nassau, not just of the Islanders, but of circuses and rock concerts and the like, it’s a shame.

“The great news is the Islanders have a terrific arena to go to and this is an exciting opportunity for the franchise moving forward.”

Barclay’s Center will make for a fancy new home for the Isles, but the heart of the team is still held on Long Island. Say what you will about Bettman, but he’s 100% on point here.

Never mind the part about how they wouldn’t allow Wang to spend his own money to fix up and improve the Coliseum along with the area around it, but also the County and Town’s workaround by putting a plan based around taxpayer money up for referendum that was then voted down.

It was a political comedy of errors in which the victims were the fans and the businesses around the Coliseum that relied on Islanders attendance to give them a lift. Now the Isles will call Brooklyn home next season and the fans will have to spend plenty of time on the train there and back thinking about how much it stinks to be that much further away from their favorite team.

 

Report: Charles Wang had third party interested in buying Isles

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It’s starting to look like New York Islanders owner Charles Wang had his hands full when looking for someone to buy the team.

According to Dan Primack at Fortune.com, Wang had a third party separate from Jon Ledecky, whom he sold the team to, and Andrew Barroway, who he’s now being sued by, he was negotiating with.

From Fortune:

Apparently unbeknownst to Barroway, Fortune has learned that Wang also was negotiating to sell the team to a Boston-based investment firm called Peak Ridge Capital. Not beginning in March, but several months earlier.

According to Primack, Peak Ridge was aware of Wang’s negotiations with Barroway and they came in with a bid of around $478 million for the team. Peak Ridge also would’ve had a former NHL player involved to help run the operations. Let’s all ponder who that could’ve been had they won out.

Of course, Wang went away from Barroway after he balked at his final asking price of around $548 million. Peak Ridge’s CEO, like Barroway did before Wang upped the ante, thought he had a deal done. According to Fortune, Peak Ridge isn’t interested in suing Wang.

Negotiating with multiple interested parties doesn’t seem uncommon, but it doesn’t do much for having good faith in those talks if you’re playing them all against each other.

Ultimately Wang got what he wanted so he’s satisfied. Of course, if he winds up stuck paying millions to Barroway for legal costs he might think otherwise.

It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.