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Islanders Puck Talk – I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore

When it comes to the Islanders, this wonderful speech from the movie Network is exactly how most fans feel about the franchise at this point.  After a strange last day of exit meetings where co-owner Jon Ledecky was about as cowardly as an owner can be, I can’t imagine being any more furious than I was during the season.  I was wrong, I was very wrong.

Ledecky went on this long-winded prepared speech about how he and Scott Malkin have “failed the franchise” as owners and are looking at every aspect of hockey operations.  They’re evaluating everyone from ownership down to see what they can do to turn this franchise around.  They’re nice words, but actions speak louder than words and the fact that he sat there at the podium with Doug Weight and Garth Snow shows that they’re very tone deaf when it comes to the fans.  The full quote from Ledecky is below, thanks to Arthur Staple of The Athletic:

“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. 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 for a 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. Then we will make decisions on what is best for the future of our club. I am not here today to talk about any specific individuals, including players, coaches, and the general manager. We believe it is essential to our success to have a thoughtful evaluation process, 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.”

Decipher that whichever way you’d like but at this point they are just words.  Until something is done they mean nothing.  What’s even more confusing is that after the presser Ledecky refused to take questions and actually sat in the back while Weight and Snow answered questions.  Garth Snow went as far as to say that he still deserved to be the GM after a disastrous run.  Excuse me, what?  Of course he’s going to say that but he never really dove into all the mistakes he made.

He didn’t go into the fact that he refused to shore up the defense after Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk went down.  He didn’t delve into his minor moves at the trade deadline that plunged the Islanders deeper down the standings.  He didn’t mention his eight out of twelve seasons where the Isles have missed the playoffs or the inability to sign John Tavares to a long-term contract yet.  He did none of that.  Just more of the same.

This was probably the worst season is Islanders history, not from a statistics standpoint but from the hefty expectations that were thrust upon what looked to be a team destined for the playoffs.  They missed the playoffs by almost ten games and towards the end of the season lost eight in a row.  There are a lot of looming questions around this franchise from the top down.  Here are just a few of the big ones.

What does John Tavares do?

Tavares has stated over and over again that he wants to remain an Islander for life and “hopes” everything works out this offseason.  He’s going to take as much time as he wants, which he “deserves” and make a decision based not off of emotion but some deep thinking.  Tavares does deserve as much time as time as he needs to figure things out, but he’s already taken this franchise hostage and they’ve bent over backwards meeting his demands.

The question is, what now?  What if Tavares leaves?  What if after all the coddling the Islanders have done to appease Tavares means nothing?  Garth Snow didn’t trade Tavares at the trade deadline, and if he walks for nothing it would be Garth Snow’s biggest mistake in his tumultuous tenure as general manager.  We’re all hoping John stays, but at this point it’s a crap shoot.  We’ll see how it plays out as the weeks go by.

Do Garth and Weight stay?

The second biggest question, which isn’t mutually exclusive to the first one asked before, is whether or not Garth Snow and Doug Weight stay as general manager and head coach.  Weight deserved to become full time head coach after turning the Islanders from woeful to missing out on the playoffs by one point last season.  However, this year was a disaster, with the Islanders regressing yet again and finishing with 80 points.  In addition, they had the worst defense maybe in history with 293 goals given up, the most since the 06-07 Flyers.  They were historically bad.

We all know what Garth Snow has done (nothing) and the fact that he even sat down at the presser shows a lot about this franchise as a whole.  They’re tone deaf and afraid to pull the trigger on a new general manager.  It could be the insane buyout clause that Snow allegedly has.  Or it could be another case of the ol’ boys club running this franchise into the ground.  Either way, we need answers soon or many Islander fans will tune out for a few seasons until things turn around.  It seems the only way to affect these guys is by thinning their wallets.

What other moves are to be made?

The problem with this Islanders team is that they have plenty of pieces in place to contend but they’re a directionless franchise.  They have a 40 goal scorer, a rookie who scored 80+ points, two All-Star forwards and a young defenseman who will one day be an offensive force.  Of course, you can’t outscore your problems and that’s the main reason why they missed the playoffs.

The Islanders need to shore up their defense for sure.  For starters, re-signing Calvin de Haan and bringing up Devon Toews would be a great beginning.  The defense was lost without de Haan and he is an important cog of this team.  They need to get rid of some of their dead weight, whether it be cutting loose some of the bottom six (cough Brock Nelson cough) or letting go all of their goaltending and UFA defensemen.  Thomas Hickey and Jaroslav Halak have been good Islanders, but it’s time to move on.  They need a legitimate number one goaltender and at least another defenseman who can play with the big boys.

It’s not perfect, but at least Ledecky didn’t give a ringing endorsement in terms of Snow and Weight.  There is still a possibility that they’ll soon be gone, but as the clock ticks down to John Tavares’ free agency, the last thing that the owners can afford to do is sit on their hands.  If Tavares will re-sign only if Snow is still in power, fine, but the best idea would be re-sign him then start from scratch.  It’s easier said than done, but we’ve already seen what Snow can do.  Why not bring someone else in to reinvigorate this franchise?  We may not find that out until next season unfortunately.

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