August 20, 2010
(Ed. Note: Welcome to Puck Daddy's August series, "Mount Puckmore" which will feature fans, bloggers and various media personalities of all 30 teams choosing the four defining faces of their franchise. These four people are who you remember most when you think of these teams -- whether they be players, coaches or executives. We'll be running these daily for the rest of the month. Today, representing the New York Islanders, B.D. Gallof of Hockey Independent.)
By B.D. Gallof
When I first got this from Wysh and Leahy, I wondered who were the faces of our franchise. Who defined it?
Sadly, in the last 20 years, the definition would be a gamut of owners: Pickett, and Milstein and Gluckstern (... two creeps who are simply not vilified enough for enabling the downward slide of the late '90s into cheapskatedness), and Charles Wang -- a mixed bag who, for better or for worse, owns them now and will own them in the immediate future despite the projections, prognostication and errant reporting of Canadian outlets who have pushed rumors about this summer.
Of course, when it comes to the last 15 years, as GM and coach are concerned, you only need one name here that stretches across the din with a giant banner of failure: Mike Milbury.
Enabled by these goofy owners, his mark on the franchise is a blackened charred visage that could be staring at us from Mount Puckmore had this franchise been defined solely by the last 15 years.
Players that defined us then are a mixed bag. The quality and wonderful runs of Pat Flatley, Ray Ferraro, Steve Thomas, Pierre Turgeon and others of the early '90s were wiped away with the late '90s constant trades of a degenerate gambler coined "Mad Mike," who wiped out the Isles farm system and gave away draft picks, prospects and young turks for players; who killed the futures so definitively that it's taking a Garth Snow five-year plan to fix only within the last three years.
Or we could place the face of controversial ex-Senator Alphonse D'Amato, who pushed Pickett, back when, into a horrendous contract with the Coliseum and SMG, then convinced Wang to buy-in later on with promises of development. This shyster is the main friction behind issues with refurbishing the Coliseum and the Lighthouse Project. He symbolizes the small time, petulant, backwards politics that envelopes Long Island and which has the Lighthouse Project caught in limbo.
Ugh, imagine his beady eyes staring back at us from Puckmore.
No. Don't. No need.
Luckily, for the Isles franchise there is far more than the last two decades.
There is a dynasty and icons who shaped the franchise and Long Island long before the abyss from which we are only now stepping out. Faces like Charles Wang, Milbury and others do not belong on Mount Puckmore.
Mount Puckmore for the Islanders only has six or seven serious considerations. Of those, only four will make it. Thus of a true top five to six, one or two must be cut. What does this mean? Not everyone will be happy nor agree ... we've seen this with whinefests by fans of other teams.
So follow along as I put forward my take and rationale on the New York Islanders Mount Puckmore. I look forward to seeing alternative takes from Isles bloggers. (No, you can't put yourself on there, buddy).
Al Arbour, Coach
Honest Arbour: Al Arbour is a no-brainer. If this man is not on your Isles Puckmore list, please seek professional help.
He came on board in 1973, installing (GASP) a system. A year later they were in the playoffs with the miracle comeback versus the Penguins, coming back from 3-0 to take the series. They ruled the mid-to-late ‘70s, always in the mix, but had some playoff disappointments until finally they then took over for a dominating four in a row as Stanley Cup champs. When the Isles faltered without him in the mid-'80s, he came back in 1988, leading the team again with all the dynasty players long gone.
Still, he helped lead the young Isles into the playoffs in 1992-93 with the infamous upsets of the Capitals and then the Penguins. To me, there is no more important fixture to this franchise than coach Al Arbour.
Denis Potvin, D
The Leader, Denis Potvin: The man who crushed a bone who causes New York Ranger fans to still chant "Potvin Sucks" is music to any dynasty fans ears.
Our heel was a prolific point-getter who grew into the role of captain. A man who was compared to Bobby Orr, and under that pressure, still left an indelible mark on the game, was a fixture of leadership and a dynamic point-getter on defense. There are not many defenders better than him. On THN's "Top 100 of All-Time" list, he is with the handful at top with the likes of Orr, Harvey, Shore, Bourque, Coffey, etc.
Bill Torrey, GM
The Architect Torrey: Bill Torrey ranks as the one of the very few non-playing GMs in this league with a banner in the rafters.
His picks and choices were so prolific it created, much to the horror of Canadian press and fans with their noses up in the air, a dynasty that was only unseated thanks to another dynasty, the Edmonton Oilers. These American upstarts never got their fair share of the glory despite ruling the late '70s and early '80s. Torrey was the first New York Islanders employee, and it took him only eight years from expansion to have them gain a Cup. Under Torrey, the Islanders won six division titles, made five trips to the Stanley Cup finals (1980-84), and won four Cups in a row. The Isles had 14 consecutive winning seasons from 1975-1988.
Mike Bossy, RW
The Icon Bossy: In 10 years, Mike Bossy's mark was undeniable. Only Gretzky and Lemieux were able to score more quickly.
A career cut short thanks to back injuries is what keeps him in the area of the NFL's Jim Brown of what-if musings. But even in just 10 years he is still 19th on the all-time regular-season goals-scored list. That is simply stunning how prolific and effective he was. Makes you really wonder how far up he'd be had he had the longevity or just usual average had his career not been cut short?
All-time, in regular-season points per game:
Wayne Gretzky, 1.921
Mario Lemieux, 1.883
Mike Bossy, 1.497
Bobby Orr, 1.393
Alexander Ovechkin, 1.336
But it is this list that simply shows how great he was...
Regular-season goals per game:
Mike Bossy, 0.762
Cy Denneny, 0.756
Mario Lemieux, 0.754
Babe Dye, 0.742
Alexander Ovechkin, 0.679
Pavel Bure, 0.623
Wayne Gretzky, 0.601
Even the great Ovie, who is on his way to a barn-burner HoF career, is not even that close to the gold standard of Mike Bossy's unbelievable 10-year tear through the NHL on goals per game.
Bryan Trottier: Another HoFer who symbolizes Isles greatness. One of the great centermen of the NHL who is vastly underrated. His long career, however, was more due to needing the cash due to bad investments. A year after Bossy retired, he was still able to produce 82 points, but tailed into the 40s thereafter. Still was tough one to leave him off Puckmore, but felt the other four were essential.
Bobby Nystrom: Clutch, hardworking performer who was and will always be "Mr. Islander." The working-class hero who was one of Al Arbour favorites and who will be always attached to what is considered: "The goal."
Billy Smith: The ultimate "money" goaltender who exemplified playoff performance, not to mention the denting of the shins of many an opposing forward. Other teams hated him, and he hated them. That fiery temper and disposition made him a legend. We were just glad he was ours.