I’ll bet I can tell how old you are just by getting your opinion on Saturday's opponent. My guess is you are around 35 or older if you think of the New York Islanders, shake your head and wonder what has happened to what once was a model NHL franchise, loaded with Hall of Famers. On the other hand if you think the Sabres better not lose to the Islanders because that franchise is a joke, you would be in the sub 35 crowd. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause and yes again Virginia, the Islanders used to be the Kings of the NHL and the shining example of how to build from the ground up.
The Islanders first season in the NHL was 1972-73 and in a mere 3 years, they were already in the playoffs. By year 4 they recorded a 100 point season and by year 8 the franchise had a Stanley Cup, the first of 4 straight. The foundation was built from the top down so to speak with General Manager Bill Torrey who would end up in the Hall of Fame. He hired Al Arbour as the team’s coach and Arbour is also a Hall of Famer as well as the 2nd winningest coach in NHL history. 5 players from those Cup winning teams are in the Hall along with Torrey and Arbour. Mike Bossy was an elite goal scorer, Clark Gillies was 1 of the premier power forwards of his time and Bryan Trottier was one of the game’s top centers. That line created nightmares for opponents. The defense was anchored by Dennis Potvin and the last line of defense was goalie Billy Smith, one of the best and dirtiest in the game.
Starting with their 1st playoff berth in 1975, the Islanders made the post season 14 straight times. In that amazing 4 year run as Cup Champs, the Isles record was a phenomenal 60-18 in the playoffs. Not once were they pushed to a 7th game in 16 playoff series. New York’s dynasty ended at the hands of a franchise beginning their own, the Edmonton Oilers in 1985.
As the saying goes, that was then and this is now. That 85 team is the last one to record a 100 point season. Now the franchise is a mess. Its been a string of bad owners, bad management, a rotating door at the coach’s office, sub par talent, an awful arena and a shrinking fan base. The Islanders have made the playoffs just 7 times in the last 21 seasons. They haven’t won a playoff series since 1993! In those 21 years, they have finished higher than 3rd place only 1 time. Sadly for Islanders fans a turnaround doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon and the franchise may leave the Island if ownership and politicians can’t come to an agreement on a new building.