Islanders Rebuilding Once Again; Fans Wait for a Winner
For a team that won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships and was perhaps one of the strongest dynasties of the NHL expansion era, the New York Islanders have become a non-entity, even in their own backyard.
Attendance has been an issue in recent seasons and even garnering enough attention for a strong radio signal has been a struggle. Two local stations carry the Islanders' game, but neither 94.3 FM (night games) and 1100 AM (day games) can be heard clearly if you're west of the city border or east of Brentwood. And that's on a clear day. They also have added 90.9 FM in Brooklyn, which is the Kingsborough Community College station and can barely be heard even near the school.
There were only 10,183 people in the seats for Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars as the Islanders' record fell to 2-3 on the young season. Fans entered the season with a guarded attitude as another offseason of instability - which has become a staple of Charles Wang's ownership - greeted them.
Out with Ted Nolan and in with Scott Gordon, who was named head coach in August and signed to a multi-year deal, even though he only had minor league experience. Not to be mistaken with one of the sidekicks on the "Uncle Floyd Show" that has the same name, Gordon is the reigning AHL Coach of the Year, an award he won with the Providence Bruins.
At his introductory press conference, general manager Garth Snow lamented Gordon, 45. "Scott has been one of the top up-and-coming coaches in hockey and with good reason," said Snow. "Through his work in the minor leagues and most recently with Providence over the last eight years, he has gained an impeccable reputation."
Going with a young coach that can be reared may be the best option for a team that is constantly rebuilding. "Garth has given me an unbelievable opportunity to coach in the NHL," Gordon said at the press conference. "From my time coaching in Providence, I've seen first-hand the talented young players in this organization. I look at the direction and the vision for this team and see a bright future."
The future is what has been spoken about for too many seasons, as far as the 'meat and potatoes' Islander fan cares. Two years ago, Nolan led the team to the playoffs and even though they were ousted by the Buffalo Sabres in five games, there was a buzz in the old building. Snow made the biggest splash at the trading deadline of the 2007-08 season by acquiring none other than Ryan "Captain Canada" Smyth, who left as a free agent a few months later to join the Colorado Avalanche. Although he did help lead the team to the postseason for the first time since 2003-04, dealing away top prospects Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson, in addition to a future first-round pick, did set the organization back.
Snow had said when Smyth left that he would make the same trade again. He showed aggressiveness and with a team that was in desperate need of a spark, it was the type of move that needed to be made.
Now the fans sit and wait in the worst facility in the NHL that is hopelessly outdated. How long this low period lasts remains to be seen. The last time the Islanders made it to the second round of the playoffs was 16 years ago. For some fans, that's a lifetime.