There is a boisterous debate raging right now on Islandermania (the once official board of the NYI, probably should still be, but I digress).
The title is simply: Are the Islanders the worst team in sports?
Let’s look at the words there and the words not there before we form our opinions.
The word ‘run’ as in “worst run” appears nowhere. There would be several, and I mean several contenders for that crown. The Kansas City Royals haven’t tasted relevance since George Brett stormed out of the dugout in a pinetar induced rage.
The Redskins have been awful through sheer managerial incompetence while far less storied teams such as the Cardinals, Bucs, or Seahawks have managed to go on amazing postseason runs. Certainly the luster has worn off the Redskins as well as the Raiders, through sheer erosion of the managerial structure.
The Redskins have lacked stability at the top and at the QB positon. Along with left tackle, these are the most important positions on a football team. The parrallel to the Raiders though… yeah. The recently departed Al Davis was a football maverick. He set the table for the AFL-NFL merger, built a dynasty, and more importantly an identity.
The Raider BRAND, despite whats ben a poor decade or 2, has never been more universally recognizeable. It’s an identity. A “we do things our own way” calling card. Yes, we will lead the league in penalties, personal fouls, draft picks based solely on 40 times, drunken kickers, and postgame tirades by coaches. And that’s fine. It’s the Raider identity. The Silver and Black. The fact the Black Hole is very likely on gameday the most intimidating place on the planet. The giant freaking banner COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE that evokes memories of ‘The Autumn Wind’, of Tim Brown, of Bo Jackson, of Jack Tatum, of Ken Stabler, of Jim Plunkett. Not of Jamarcus Russell. You see, the Raider brand, no matter how many hits the on field product has taken, is capable of conjouring up more then memories of recent failures.
That brings us back to the Islanders. As I’ve opined here many times, the New York Islanders history takes a BACK SEAT TO NO ONE in the NHL, with the obvious exception of Montreal, who everyone (Yes Toronto and Detroit, even you!) in the NHL does. The New York Islanders alltime roster is littered with hall of fame caliber players. Bossy. Trottier. LaFontaine. Turgeon. Nystrom. The beatdown fanbase remembers these names. The reminders around our broken down rink are endless. But there is no shrine to our IDENTITY. Our brand. Thus, the casual fan associates us with what they’ve seen over the past 2 decades. Which frankly, is a hot mess. This past 2 decades of scandel ridden listless ownership combined with an embittered fanbase has cultivated an environment that has in a word become toxic.
The New York Islanders have become the team perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. The team that’ll find a way to blow a 2 goal lead in Washington with 3:50 to play. The team that’ll blow a lead with 1:40 to go against New Jersey and lose in regulation. The team that IS HANDPICKED as the catholics to be fed to the lions that were the Penguins the night of Crosby’s return.
For all of Charles Wang’s many attempts to engender good will with the fans upon initially becoming owner (which he’s long since abandoned), he never grasped the core problem.
He wants to create a ‘family destination’. He wants a ‘fun’ atmosphere. The score is irrelevant (as such, the Islanders have become irrelevant, odd, that.), so long as the kids have a good time with Sponge Bob or whatever the thing Columbus calls a mascot (not the rather innuendo shaped cannon, the bug thing) . Its why “The Chicken Dance” is persona non grata. It’s why he was repulsed by the Penguins game that I and several others beamed about (and still keep on DVR).
The New York Islanders identity IS intimidation. Or more accurately, it was. Now we have an owner that HATES the physicality of the game who has instilled a puppet of a GM and a coach top play the most spineless style of hockey one can envision.
The New York Islanders identity WAS a nasty old dank rink with ruts in the ice and crazy animals banging on the glass in a hellhole called FORT NEVERLOSE.
They realed off 19 straight playoff series wins carving out an identity of intimidation. Clark Gillies beating the holy hell out of Dave Schultz and Terry O’Reilly. Denis Potvin breaking the record for goals by a defenseman in the same spot where the Garden cretins reviled him for breaking Ulf Nilsson’s leg. Billy Smith slashing Gretzky’s ankle to tatters with almost a gleeful craze on his face.
That’s what we were born out of. We get glimpses now and then.
But it’s not what we’re none for now. That’s the shame of it all.
We’re patsies. The Washington Generals. Also Rans. It’s humiliating.
A fanbase that was integral in building this team and their rink into one of the most feared locales in the history of the NHL has been neutered by a guy who thinks he bought the keys to disney on ice.
For it’s part, the fanbase has turned completely apathetic.
The franchise has become pathetic.
The frustrating thing is we’ve grown to expect nights like last night. Some, for the new shiny prospect toy, have even grown to ACCEPT it.
And with our past, that’s just not right.